A collective of artists called Ant Farm decided to place 10 Cadillacs, ranging from a 1949 Club Coupe to a 1963 Sedan, in a wheat field located west of Amarillo, Texas. Mr. Stanley Marsh 3, a local helium tycoon, provided some place for the cars to rest. Ten big holes were dug and the cars were driven with their front end into them. Some people may think of this as sacrilege, as many of these cars are now much sought after collector's items. However, in the seventies, when this piece of art was constructed, a 1959 Cadillac was not as hot as it is today. Had the cars not be used for the Ranch, they would most likely have ended up in an obscure junk yard. So, I think they serve a better purpose today by reminding of this great automotive heritage.
In August 1997 Cadillac Ranch was moved 2 miles to west in order to escape from the expanding Amarillo city limits.
Be sure to take your paint spray cans with you, as the purpose of this monument is to let the audience participate in it. You can simply write down your name, or if you have an inspiring message, leave it on one of the cars for the other visitors to read (or to erase). While Ant Farm created Cadillac Ranch as a public sculpture, they protect their legal copyright ownership of the image. You may take photographs there, but any commercial exploitation in advertising or product promotion is expressly prohibited without written permission from the artists.
The following text is contributed by Chip Lord, and is an exclusive first hand description on how Cadillac Ranch came to be. One warning before you start reading. This story is not for the faint of hearted. It contains graphic descriptions of violence and cruelty towards Cadillacs. The points of view stated hereafter are not necessarily shared by me.
Cadillac really was the "Standard of the World", in engineering, "ride", safety, and dependability. It was also a status symbol, something to aspire to own, a symbol that a person had arrived at a comfortable level of accomplishment in life. But as the decade of the 1950's proceeded, something strange and wonderful happened to this "Standard" - it sprouted tail fins, and they grew each year, until by 1959 they stood forty two inches off the ground.
The following excerpt is from the book, Automerica, written in 1976 by Chip Lord:
Stanley is a fat-cat Texan with a big ranch in Amarillo, an office on the top floor of the tallest building in the Texas Panhandle, and propensity for pranks and mysterious acts. Stanley has a giant soft pool table, inspired by Claes Oldenburg, which he hides at various secret locations on his ranch. When Stanley met us he said, "I like Ant Farm. It is a wholesome group. If you would like to do something here on my ranch, well, just make me a proposal. If I like it, we will do it!".
So the latent tailfin image became a roadside attraction, a monument to the rise and fall of the tailfin. It would be, we decided, ten Cadillacs planted alongside Route 66 on Stanley's ranch. We drew up an artist's conception of how it would look, and a budget. Stanley liked the idea.
In May 1974 we went to Amarillo and began buying Cadillacs. It was a white-trash dream come true, buying and driving old Cadillacs on the windswept plains of theTexas Panhandle. In our search we visited every used-car lot in Amarillo and most of the junkyards. We bought a '59 Coupe de Ville at a junkyard for $100 because "it had no papers," as the guy said. "Don't make a shit to us," we said, "if you'll deliver it." He did. We bough a creampuff '62 Sedan de Ville from Guy Mullins Motors. It was a pastel yellow four-door hardtop and it ran so well that it was painful to bury. We found a silver '49 fastback but the guy was asking $700 for a it, a price we considered exhorbirant (the cars averaged $200 a piece). Stanley suggested we buy it and the smash up the front end with sledgehammers in front of the proud previous owner. So we did in fact smash it, with the cameras rolling as the bewildered owner winced in agony. Our search for Cadillacs took us into people's backyards and private junkyards. At the end of two weeks we had the necessary ten cars and a spare.
On Monday, May 28, we went out to the middle of Stanley's wheatfield about six miles west of Amarillo. The hired backhoe operator was a bit perplexed by the task at hand but he dug, whe we told him, a hole eight feet deep. Then we showed him to use the bucket of his tractor to lift up the car until it slid into the hole. The first car was buried. Stanley arrived with fried chicken, beer and instructions not to talk to the local press. Work went pretty fast, despite curious motorists who would stop and walk out to the job site with increasing regularity.
When the work was finished Stanley threw an opening party for Cadillac Ranch and invited two hundred of Amarillo's finest citizens. The catered bar served gin and tonics and guacamole dip. The dust was thick. The artists wore rented western tuxedos and got very drunk. A lady whose father had owned the local Cadillac dealership brought a bouquet of plastic flowers and we placed them next to the buried cars. A bottle of champagne christened the lead car, the '49, and the Cadillac Ranch was open for business.