Arsonist torches one of the cars at Cadillac Ranch

An apparent arsonist early Sunday set fire to one of the classic cars that make up the landmark Cadillac Ranch on Amarillo’s west side.

KAMR-TV in Amarillo reported the first fire call came in at 2:12 a.m. The fire was extinguished, and no arrests have been made.

The administrator at the Cadillac Ranch page on Facebook told Route 66 News the car set afire was a 1949 Cadillac Fastback Coupe — the one on the far right. The administrator, Bryan Brumley, stated an accelerant likely was used in the blaze.

“Luckily the old Cadillacs are strong, one of many reasons that they are so iconic. It melted a lot of spray paint off,” Brumley stated in a text.

The Cadillac Ranch page later stated Sunday afternoon on Facebook:

Though we’re heartbroken by this act of vandalism and the layers of history that were so carelessly destroyed, fortunately, the structural integrity of the Cadillac is still sound. When all is said and done, the Cadillac Ranch still stands as a testament to time, beauty, art, and history— despite the callous attempt to erase it. Much like their West Texas home, these Cadillacs are iconic for their strength — through adversity, drought, wind, and fire, they remain standing through the decades.
The authorities are searching for the arsonist(s). If found, we do intend to press charges. If anyone has any information that could lead to the apprehension of the culprit(s), please contact the Potter County Sherrif’s Office at (806) 379-2900.

One would assume the arson was a simple case of criminal mischief. However, one also should remember the longtime owner of Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo millionaire Stanley Marsh 3, was besieged by 14 criminal charges and 10 lawsuits over allegations he engaged in sex acts with teenage boys before his death at age 76 in 2014. He died before he was brought to trial.

So it wouldn’t be surprising if one of Marsh’s victims, a victim’s family member or a Marsh hater set the fire as a form of revenge. Many Amarillo residents barely tolerated Marsh because of his irreverence; he became a virtual pariah after the allegations came to light.

Cadillac Ranch reportedly was transferred out of the Marsh estate to the art collective that created it.

Regardless of his infamy, Marsh will remain best-known for setting aside land near U.S. 66 in 1974 so the Ant Farm of San Francisco could install 10 vintage Cadillacs nose-down into the Texas soil.

CBS News’ Charles Kuralt helped cement Cadillac Ranch’s fame by doing a segment about it shortly after its installation:

Marsh eventually let visitors spraypaint the rusting Cadillacs. When Amarillo’s sprawl began to encroach on the installation, Marsh in 1997 had the entire thing moved two miles west.

Save for the possible exceptions of nearby Palo Duro Canyon and the Big Texan Steak Ranch restaurant, it remains Amarillo’s most popular tourist attraction. It’s become a part of popular culture, including the “Cadillac Ranch” song by Bruce Springsteen; became an inspiration to the Cadillac Range mountains in the Disney-Pixar movie “Cars,” and has been featured in countless videos, photographs and television shows.

With all the visitors continually spraypainting those Cadillacs, the fire probably won’t be noticeable in about a week.

Knowing Marsh’s impish attitude, he probably would have made this remark about the Cadillac after the fire: “It’s never looked better.”

(Hat tip to Bob Lile; an image of the fire-damaged Cadillac at Cadillac Ranch via Facebook)

2 thoughts on “Arsonist torches one of the cars at Cadillac Ranch

  1. What a shame. But the good news is that after all the visitors get a chance at spray painting this Cadillac, you’ll never know some idiot torched it.

  2. Yet another person getting “his kicks on Route 66”. How many Route 66 buildings have ‘caught fire’ over the years?

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