Stalactites of Spray Paint at the Cadillac Ranch

In the middle of a Texas field near Amarillo–on Route 66, nonetheless–are 10 Cadillacs planted in the ground and covered with layers-upon-40-years-of-layers of spray paint. THIS is art. THIS is Americana.

Cadillac Ranch

Crops, Cadillacs, Crops

Cadillac Ranch Surroundings

You can’t paint past the fence; but folks paint ON the fence. Semantics or genius?

What? Why? How? REALLY?

The website Roadside America (one of my faves) does an excellent job explaining the history of this, err, masterpiece. (In fact, it really is one). Let’s just read what they have to say.

Cadillac Ranch was invented and built by a group of art-hippies imported from San Francisco. They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3’s fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.

That was in 1974. People would stop along the highway, walk out to view the cars — then deface them or rip off pieces as souvenirs. Stanley Marsh 3 and The Ant Farm were tolerant of this public deconstruction of their art — although it doomed the tail fins — and eventually came to encourage it.

Decades have passed. The Cadillacs have now been in the ground as art longer than they were on the road as cars.

Spraypainted Cadillacs Are Quite Charming

If it were just one, eh–not so much. The multiple factor makes it pleasing. And so does the whimsy of painting every possible surface.

The view at Cadillac Ranch

Painting Every Surface at Cadillac Ranch

Transient Art

Spray paint as a medium tends to mean that the art isn’t going to last very long. But the shelf-life is particularly short at Cadillac Ranch. Wait a few hours and surely the landscape will change. While I was there, two women just finished the only actual designs you’ll see in these pictures. They drove two hours each way becuase they’d heard about it and wanted to leave their mark.

But are you leaving a mark at a fleeting place like this?

Most of the paint is chaos and clutter. Intentional or the overlapping of ideas?

Spray paint at Cadillac Ranch

Stalactites of spray paint

These Babies Aren’t Moving

I was hoping not to be blown over by the gusting wind, but these cars are planted and they’re planted for good.

Cars planted at Cadillac Ranch

There’s Beauty in the Aggregate

Click the pic to advance the slideshow.


Have you ever spray painted anything? A home improvement project doesn’t count.

3 Responses


I had heard about this for years but had only seen a picture or two in magazines and never close-ups like yours. Thanks for the tour.


Cool and colorful. They should dig up the car and switch sides – expose the unpainted one and see what happens.

Maybe Jimmy Hoffa is in one of the trunks

Jef – EXCELLENT idea. As always.

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