Some of the best art is unexpected. Cadillac Ranch (I-40 Frontage Rd. near Exit 60, dawn-dusk daily, free) on Route 66 is an awe-inspiring public art installation by the Ant Farm art collective. In a Texas wheat field 10 miles west of Amarillo stand 10 tail-finned and graffiti-soaked Cadillacs, manufactured between 1948 and 1964, planted nose deep in perfect succession facing west.
However, this wasn’t the original site of the installation. As the suburbs of Amarillo encroached on the area near Cadillac Ranch, the land suddenly became valuable and in 1997 Cadillac Ranch was moved 2 miles west. The new location remains sparse and uncluttered, a Zen backdrop with a horizon line so straight the cars look like they are sprouting from a blank canvas framed by the sky.
The Cadillac was the ultimate symbol and celebration of the American Dream.Walking forward, the angled and abstract shapes slowly take form as you approach. These aren’t Fords, Chevys, or Buicks—these are Cadillacs for a reason. The Cadillac was the ultimate symbol and celebration of the American Dream. The artwork could be a metaphor for burying commerce and materialism; or it could be viewed as a monument to commercialism and American excess. You decide.
Over the past several decades, the cars have become defaced with layers of Day-Glo spray paint and have been battered to the point that they barely resemble Cadillacs anymore. Hudson Marquez, one of the Ant Farm artists who designed and built Cadillac Ranch, said he wishes the site was more protected and that people wouldn’t litter and spray paint the cars. Though other Route 66 guides may encourage folks to continue this tradition, it’s best to leave the spray paint at home.
Getting to Cadillac Ranch
Cadillac Ranch is west of Amarillo near I-40 (Exit 60) on the South Frontage Road. As Amarillo Boulevard (Route 66) curves south, it turns into Bus-40. Turn left (south) on Hope Road, cross I-40, then turn right (west) on the South Frontage Road. Drive east 1 mile and Cadillac Ranch will be on the right (south) side. Park along the shoulder and enter the pasture through the unlocked gate. Pets are welcome.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Route 66 Road Trip.