On October 17, 1989 at 5:04 PM, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area and a brick wall collapsed on the rear half of an Olds Cutlass parked by Clayton and Page streets. Michael Mikel saw it there and the creative wheels began to turn. “I bet that will still run”, he mused, and he placed a note on the car offering to buy it.
Within a few days, the car had changed hands, and with the addition of a new paint job and a license plate bearing the exact time of the earthquake, it became a conceptional art piece and a testament to the powerful forces of nature. According to Tales of the Cacophony Society, the car was the last private vehicle on the Embarcadero Freeway, and was involved in a high speed chase in the process:
The Embarcadero Freeway was a massive double deck freeway built in … and basically abandoned after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. This colossal abandoned structure became a playground for Cacophony for two years prior to the State of California razing it in 1991. [In 1991, before the freeway was demolished] Cacophony gathered at the Washington Street off-ramp… [Mikel] arrived right on time at 5:04 pm and sped through the concrete barricades, past the cheering clowns and up onto the freeway. By dumb luck, a SFPD motorcycle cop spotted the hurtling sedan… A second motor cycle cop had jumped on the freeway at the Broadway ramp and sped along not far behind his fellow [cop], trailing less than a half mile behind the virtually flying 5:04. [Mikel] dropped off the freeway at the Folsom St. ramp, just shy of the Bay Bride, hung a hard left burning rubber.. The cops, just far enough behind to not see which turn he took, shot off in the wrong direction. Drinks and back slapping transpired, not long after, at the Edinburgh Castle Pub.
Mikel had the car repainted at Earl Scheib, and in 1991, 5:04 was the first “art car” to make an appearance at Burning Man. Mikel and the car are briefly featured in Oh My God! It’s Harrod Blank.
Read more of the story here on Mikel’s personal blog.