SAN FRANCISCO: Not much got in the way of Elon Musk fans determined to win bragging rights for picking up one of the first 1,000 flamethrowers sold by the billionaire’s Boring Co.
Dennis Dohrman hopped in his truck and drove 2,620 miles from North Carolina to Boring headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Dan Thorman cut short a business trip to Singapore and came straight to Saturday’s event from Los Angeles International Airport. George Matus brought along his parents and younger brother on a 10-hour road trip.
“Imagine if you had the opportunity to get a kite and a key from Benjamin Franklin,” said Dohrman, 45, an environmental scientist who drove 39 hours from Hampstead, North Carolina, referencing the Revolutionary War-era inventor and statesman.
Dohrman snagged the first spot in line on Saturday to collect one of the flamethrowers sold to raise $10 million for Boring, a tunnel-digging company that’s working on a futuristic type of train-like transportation known as Hyperloop.
The company is working on a test tunnel in Hawthorne, has permission to work on another tunnel in Maryland, and is bidding on a project in Chicago. A usable tunnel that connects transportation hubs is probably years away.
Held in a parking lot adjacent to Musk’s rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the event was a festival of all things Musk, set to the sounds of a mariachi band as customers snacked on complimentary churros from a food truck.
Volunteers from SpaceX and Boring showed off a Falcon 9 rocket and a prototype Hyperloop tunnel nearby to customers like Matus, 20, an entrepreneur from Salt Lake City who persuaded his parents and 12-year-old brother to join him on the 700-mile drive.
When entrepreneur Thorman lamented that he couldn’t drive to the event in his car made by Musk’s Tesla Inc., a fellow customer a couple of spots ahead of him in line turned and volunteered to drive Thorman home in his Tesla.
At the front of the line, customers wielding demonstration flamethrowers roasted marshmallows as staff showed them how to power the flames.
“I’m pretty disappointed it’s short bursts,” said Thorman, who toted his wheelie suitcase around the proceedings. The demonstration flamethrowers were modified and purchasers will be able to draw out sustained flames once they get the devices home, a spokesman said.
Boring sold 20,000 flamethrowers in January and plans to distribute them over the summer. Hosting parties where customers can collect the devices costs considerably less than trucking them to customers’ homes, the spokesman said, although Boring hasn’t yet decided on the next location for one. Saturday’s event in Hawthorne– in a parking lot just a few feet away from the trailers that comprise the Boring Co’s offices– was limited to the first 1,000 guests who responded to invitations.
While a few in line said they planned to resell the limited-edition $500 flamethrowers online, where they already fetch a premium, most said they plan to keep them.
William Brice, 26, of Long Beach, California, said he can write his off as a tax deduction, since he can use it to seal adhesive in his car-wrapping business, Wrap Legends. He pulled out a phone and showed off photos of his own Tesla Model X, which he’s wrapping to look like a SpaceX rocket. First step: Replacing the tires with custom wheels to resemble grid fins, a mechanism that stabilizes the rocket.
Dohrman plans to use his for lighting tiki torches and “household protection.”
Fan girls as well as boys lingered among the crowd. Jessica and Tyrone Tomke said they were there to support Musk’s goals, particularly easing LA’s infamous gridlock.
“He’s my celebrity billionaire crush,” said Jessica Tomke, 33, who sported a red tank top that read “Hot.”
Her husband, 40, shot back, “I’ll trade you for a new Tesla.”
Musk offered suggestions for those wondering how to use their new flamethrowers, such as lighting fireplaces and barbecues. “No more need to use a dainty ‘match’ to ignite!” he wrote on Twitter.
He also indicated the flamethrower wouldn’t be the last piece of merchandise peddled by the Boring Co., which also raised $1 million last year selling hats. “Will offer a TBC ice blaster before the dry season starts in winter,” he tweeted.