WHAT IS CADILLAC RANCH? A DESERT CAR PLANTATION
Getting on the road and driving along historic Route 66 is a great way to discover some of America’s hidden secrets. One of the most memorable places is the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, where an open-air museum of flipped cars in the middle of a vast rural landscape is sure to have you grabbing your camera!
What is Cadillac ranch?
With rows of classic cars peeking out between Amarillo’s flat Amarillo skyline, the Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation, best known as “the hood ornament of Route 66” and is a must-see when driving along this famous highway.
Founded in 1974, the origins of Cadillac Ranch are often the subject of debate among locals and travelers. However, the real story is as strange as any fiction. Millionaire Stanley Marsh, a patron of the arts and famous for his love of the absurd, commissioned Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective, to create a tribute to the golden age of the American automobile.
Three architecture students worked together to create the outline of the project, which famously received the green light on April Fool’s Day. Thanks to funding from Stanley Marsh, the Cadillac Ranch became a reality.
For starters, the trio assembled old, barely usable models to stick their noses in the Texas dirt. The first was a 1949 Cadillac and the installation continues chronologically, with the latest model from 1964. Walking along the row, visitors can trace the varied design and classic tail fins of an American icon.
The original installation was first placed in a wheat field and drew instant attention. The row of 10 upright cars was easy to see for passing motorists on the highway and quickly became a local hit. Subsequently, Cadillac Ranch was moved to private land farther away from the city limits, but visitors can stop by at any time.
A fresh coat of paint
Although the chrome and other removable parts, such as the doors, have since been removed, the facility continues to undergo renovations from time to time. At one point, the cars were painted white for an advertisement, while on another occasion they were painted pink to celebrate Stanley Marsh’s wife’s birthday.
No matter how much they are painted, new layers of graffiti regularly appear on the cars. The cars remain a living, interactive installation, constantly changing from year to year. Although the initial cost of the salvaged cars was about $200 each, the artistic value of each unique sculpture is priceless!
Stranger than fiction
With such unusual origins and such a mysterious location, there are many rumors and myths surrounding Cadillac Ranch. One of the most popular claims is that it isn’t an art installation at all, but simply the result of a millionaire leaving his old Cadillacs face down on the ground when he set out to buy a new one.
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An even stranger myth attributes the angles at which the cars are positioned to the great pyramids of Giza, with each car supposedly mirroring the lines of the ancient Egyptian structures.
As you drive along Route 66, you can cross a few must-see places off your list, but make sure visiting Cadillac Ranch is a priority. This incredible art installation is both surreal and American, and unique!