If, while driving along I-40, about 11 miles west of Amarillo, Texas you begin to doubt your mind’s grip on reality, fear not: it’s probably just Cadillac Ranch.
Cadillac Ranch, which sprouted from the hard baked soil of a Texas panhandle field in 1974, was the unlikely child of two forces: a group of hippie artists from San Francisco called The Ant Farm and an Amarillo billionaire by the name of Stanley Marsh 3.
Now, Marsh is not your typical Texas billionaire (if there is such a thing). Outside the expected petroleum pedigree, he’s also known as a philanthropist, artist, and more than a bit of a prankster. When he decided he wanted an art installation that would confuse locals and passersby alike, The Ant Farm, an existing group of underground architectural artists, fit the bill nicely.
What they proposed – and delivered – was a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin: Ten classic Cadillacs, from a 1949 Club Sedan to a 1963 Sedan de Ville, half-buried, nose-first in one of Marsh’s fields along the original Route 66.
If the perpetrators were looking for attention, they certainly got it. Drawn by the sight, people would pull off to take a longer look or a picture of the installation … or maybe a lot more. It wasn’t long until the installation started to be defaced. Whether motivated by the desire for a souvenir or an urge to add their own contribution to the landmark, people began to remove bits of the cars, smash them, or add grafitti.Counterintuitively, Stanley Marsh 3 and The Ant Farm were not only tolerant of the vandalism but eventually encouraged it, seeing it as a natural evolution of the piece.
Now, all but 40 years later, the installation is barely recognizable as a tribute to anything Cadillac. Nearly all the features that marked them as said – most particularly the signature tail fins – have been torn off, dented in, or so heavily coated in multiple layers of different colored paint as to be all but invisible.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Cadillac Ranch maintains a steady draw of visitors and remains worthy of a visit. Feel free to take along your favorite color of spray paint if you go but don’t expect your mark to last any longer than the classic collect-ability of these Caddies did …
Perusing the Panhandle
What better way to enjoy your trip to the Texas Panhandle than to stay at one of our warm and welcoming Texas bed and breakfasts? None, of course. Our member innkeepers are just raring to show you what true Southern hospitality is really all about!