Car art of the US landscape: Weird, wacky and wonderful

It seems fitting that car art has taken its place in the landscape of the United States. When Henry Ford was crafting his Model T, he probably didn’t foresee that his innovation would lead to another type of car creativity. Yesterday for Gadling’s day of Weird America, Jeremy posted about Detroit’s gigantic Uniroyal tire that was once used as a ferris wheel at the World’s Fair, and Sean posted about Mystery Hill, America’s Stonehenge. Car art brings these two together in a weird and wacky kind of way.

Drive along I-40 in Texas heading west from Amarillo (or east if you’re driving from the New Mexico border) and you’ll come across Cadillac Ranch. The first time I saw these 10 Cadillacs sticking up in the air in the middle of a field, their noses buried far enough down so that they’d stay in their upright angle, I was relieved. Actually, I think I felt ecstatic. If you’ve ever driven through this part of Texas, you know just how monotonous the landscape can seem. Flat, flat and more flat. Those cars have been a weird but wonderful visual treat for people traveling that highway ever since Stanley Marsh 3 put them there years ago.

Awhile back, I seem to recall, these cars changed colors with various paint jobs. These days, though, anyone can paint on them. Graffiti is the most common approach. Here is a blog by Alan Mizel who spent time basking in the wackiness of Cadillac Ranch as part of his current trip around the world. There are several photos that pay tribute to this creation.

Next up: Carhenge is more than just Carhenge. There’s the Car Art Reserve

We drove to Carhenge as part of our great American road trip from Ohio to Montana and back four summers ago. When we pulled up, our mouths open like a cliche, we came across a friend of Jim Reinders, the man who conceptualized the project. The friend was collecting the trash and was happy to give us background information about the place.

It was a surprise to see her since Carhenge is a bit outside of Alliance, the closest town. I was impressed to see that this attraction is one that has a method to what some might call madness. Next to this wonderfully weird car creation that was conceived of as a tribute to the artist’s father is a picnic area with tables and a parking lot. This is a regular must-see attraction surrounded by flat land. This outdoor sculpture park seems to say, “What’s your hurry? You might as well stay awhile because, heaven knows, the world is a mysterious place. Take a breather.”

Carhenge, a collection of 38 cars arranged in the manner of Great Britain’s Stonehenge, is only part of the 3-D exhibit set out in the middle of nowhere. The Car Art Reserve is included on the property where the creative spirit runs strong in other car artists’ work as well. One that I remember is “The Fourd Seasons.” Made of Ford cars painted different colors, this sculpture represents wheat growing during the four seasons of Nebraska. Part of the fun of looking at the art is to see what each installation is named.

Artists can still submit sculptures. There’s plenty of room. Carhenge’s Web site contains project history and how to become a part of it.

Here are two other examples of weird car art (of sorts) that I have yet to see.

  • At Wilkin’s Oklahoma Truck Supply south of Tonkawa, there’s an 18-wheeler that is perched on its cab with the truck bed straight up in the air. The truck boasts an advertisement for the business.
  • In Oregon Curiosities, the book’s author describes Yard-0-Fun near Fort Hill, Oregon. Located on Twarp Farm, the yard has a red, white and blue pick-up truck up in a tree. The truck is only one of the weird items on display. Supposedly, you can see the car from the highway between Portland and the coast.

And here’s a car art sculpture that no longer exists but may rise again if someone gets a hankering to reconstruct it.

Near Chicago in Berwyn, Illinois there was a car art shish kabob called “Spindle.” Created by Dustin Shuler, this artwork was made from eight cars skewered onto a pole. If you saw the movie, “Wayne’s World,” you saw this sculpture. Unfortunately, the town voted to get rid of the sculpture a few years ago. The top two cars were saved and stored, however, so someone looking to make Spindle 2 has a head start.

And finally, look for car art moving along U.S. roads and highways. In Columbus, Ohio, for example, several car art artists live here. Greg Phelp’s car with a “That Car” license plate is the one with all the doll parts. Here’s what it looks like in snow.

If you have any car art to share, let Kevin Mc at HubPages know. He’s interested. Thanks to his post on car art, I found out about the car kabob. A commenter of the post clued me into the pick-up truck in the tree.

Add a propeller to your car if gas prices start to rise

Okay. First of all, I really don’t know if a propeller on your car will help with fuel economy–actually, it might make fuel economy worse, but you have to admit it’s a funky idea. My buddy, Greg Phelps, one of the art car gurus in Columbus, sent along this link to Dark Roasted Blend, a website devoted to “weird and wonderful things.” In December there was a post on cars with propellers.

As it turns out, the idea goes way back. In the 1900s, the military designed cars with propellers on them. One of them, the Sizaire-Berwick Wind Wagon was an armored vehicle. It looks like it would do some real damage to a chicken that happened to get in its way.

According to the post, propeller driven cars start out slow, but can get up to 170 mph. One of the drawbacks, besides the fact that the propellers look like an accident waiting to happen, a shredder on wheels, is that cars with propellers are a bit loud. Just what neighbors would like to hear early in the morning, I’m sure.

If you’re looking for a way to finance a trip, I wonder if some company would be interested in a bit of advertising. You could get one of those magnetic car signs, slap it on the side of the car and hit the road. Might be fun.

The Dark Roasted Blend post is filled with photographs and descriptions. I loved the vintage ones the best. With the snow still falling across much of the U.S., here’s a post I wrote last March about Greg’s art car. It fits the occassion. You’ll see what I mean.

Be in a parade to add to summer fun: It’s free

Back in high school I played the flute badly, but good enough to put me in my town’s parades in the marching band. Deciding that the flute was too prissy for some reason, my junior year, I took up baritone saxophone. I thought it would be swell to carry that in the St. Patrick’s Day parade one year. Not a chance. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Happily, I gave up the baritone saxophone as well, but have found myself jumping into a few parades in less taxing capacities. If you have never been in a parade, it’s not hard. Seriously, this can be a no skills endeavor and one the whole family can enjoy doing. Plus, it’s FREE.

Whenever we are in Philipsburg, Montana we are in the kid’s parade as part of Flint Creek Valley Days. My son wears the same Spider-man hat each year.

On the 4th of July, my son and I were in an art car truck in the Doo Dah Parade. I received an email from Greg Phelps who helps organize the art car movement in Columbus and beyond. He wanted people to be in the guitar truck playing toy guitars. My son has a toy guitar so what could be easier than that?

This picture was taken by Greg Phelps who was driving the truck as we were on High Street going through the Short North section of Columbus.

Since it was raining, I suggested we set up the patio umbrella in the truck bed. I kept my foot on the base to keep it from tipping. The only other people in the back of the truck with me were my son and a third grade boy. The two of them flashed peace signs and yelled, “Peace out!” in between fake guitar playing.

The fun thing about being in a parade is the view of the crowds. I saw several friends who I hadn’t seen otherwise. Greg also took this picture. That’s his art car in the front that someone else was driving. You can see downtown Columbus in the distance.

If you have a hankering to be in a parade yourself, think about a cause you believe in and see if that organization has a group who is walking in the parade. Join up with them. I’ve walked with the Human Rights Campaign in the Gay Pride Parade three different years.

You could also put on a pair of roller blades and put on a funny hat and large sunglasses. People will think you’re swell. How about putting an outfit on your pet and pulling your pet in a decorated kid’s wagon?

Of course you could become a celebrity like Kent Couch who just traveled in his balloon lawn chair 200 miles. He was in a parade in Eugene, Oregon.

My suggestion to jazz up the fun. Buy a big bag of candy to throw some out. That gives people a thrill. We didn’t have candy, but next year, I’m planning on throwing out small plastic toys to fit the art car theme.

Gadling Delivers an Ohioan a Dutch Delight

I ran into Greg Phelps last night. He’s the art car friend of mine based in Columbus, Ohio who gave me the heads up about the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and the art car event weekend in Louisville that took place there the beginning of August. He just got back from traveling in the Netherlands.

“Thanks for pointing me towards that Web site,” he said. (Enthusiastically, I might add.) “When I went to the Netherlands, I read all the posts. That crane hotel was the best place I have ever stayed.” The Web site, of course, is Gadling.

Turns out, Greg read Justin’s post “Get High in the Netherlands” about the luxury hotel inside a crane that is just big enough for two people. When he got to the Netherlands he followed through on the travel tip about this unique place to bed down for the night. Greg loved the hotel and mentioned making the crane move just the way it’s described in the post..

It was neat to find out that talk around a punch bowl pays off. I mentioned Gadling to Greg when I ran into him at an art exhibit, poetry reading for mutal friends of ours. He said he was going to the Netherlands to visit his girlfriend’s family. I said, “Hey, you ought to check out Gadling’s Netherland’s posts.” We also made the car art connection since I had just written an art car post thanks to a tip from Marilyn Terrell who often passes on to Gadling gems of interest. As I wrote before, Greg’s art car ended up last year in the event Marilyn tossed to us in an email. Small world.

*This photo is one of Greg’s from his trip. I chose this one since it sure looks like Holland to me. Look for a later post on his art bike which was part of his Netherlands experience.