I’d seen photos of Cadillac Ranch [no, not the douchebag bar] before but didn’t realize that it still exists, or that we’d accidentally stumble on it while making our way home to Cincinnati across the Texas panhandle [which doesn’t really look like a panhandle, BTW].
Lo and behold, it indeed still exists on the outskirts of Amarillo, and you can easily find it on Google Maps:
The installation was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, a.k.a. Ant Farm. It’s located on a ranch owned by local eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh 3. Though on private property, there is a gate off a service road next to I-40 that allows public access to the work. I happened to look out the car window at the right moment and insisted that we stop to check it out.
Cadillac Ranch is a series of ten West-facing 1949-1963 Cadillacs, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The cows are obviously used to visitors by now:
The cars are constantly being transformed with spraypaint, which visitors are allowed [and maybe encouraged] to bring onto the property:
This woman grabbed a can of spraypaint off the ground [people shouldn’t litter here but they do] and posed for a photo:
I didn’t feel comfortable taking photos of the crowd that was here at this moment, but I was surprised at how many people seem to know about this place. There were tons of tourists — foreigners with tripods, families whose kids climbed on the cars, and groups of middle-aged men acting out their “bad boy” fantasies with spraypaint. In a very odd way, this may have been the most diverse group of people in which I’ve ever found myself, and everyone was enjoying this installation in some way.
By now, the Cadillacs have been in the ground as art longer than they were on the road as cars. Their once-sleek surfaces are now goopy with layers of paint. The location on old Route 66, the “mother road,” seems perfect as a celebration of and homage to the open road and a nation that was on the move, literally and figuratively. These distinctive tailfinned cars are now American classics, but their surfaces are constantly being modified by throngs of tourists.
Cadillac Ranch seems to be more than just a cheesy roadside attraction; it’s an egalitarian work of art whose significance resonates on multiple levels. This was definitely one of the highlights of the Great American Road Trip.
How will archeologists describe this in 10,000 years? Gas Guzzlers of Giza? Car-henge? When we stopped there in 1990 we met two UFO “researchers.” They suspected the Caddies were placed there by aliens who had abducted the people driving them. My then girlfriend told them she’d heard one of the Caddies once belonged to Elvis, which actually seemed to make these UFO guys feel validated. I still regret not making the side trip to Roswell, NM.
Carhenge exists, out in Nebraska!
There are a bunch of interesting spots out in the Southwest that I’d like to go back to visit, including a few national parks, Roswell, Area 51, and Lightning Field, and installation by Walter De Maria.
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