Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo marking its 50th anniversary this month

The landmark Cadillac Ranch on Amarillo’s west side is celebrating its 50th year this month, with a show at the Amarillo Museum of Art through Aug. 15.

Texas Highways published a terrific article about the Cadillac Ranch art installation off Route 66, including its genesis back in 1974 and photos from that time.

I commend it your attention, but here are a few highlights:

— Chip Lord and Hudson Marquez, members of the Ant Farm collective that conceived of Cadillac Ranch, spoke to the magazine. Amarillo tycoon Stanley Marsh 3 accepted its proposal, and the Ant Farm had a budget of $250 for the backhoe to dig the holes and $300 for each of the 10 vintage Cadillacs that would be placed nose-down into the ground.

— Marsh long has said the cars were planted at a similar angle as the Great Pyramids. However, Marquez said they didn’t have an angle in mind; they dug the holes for each car and hoped for the best. “We hadn’t dug holes to put cars in before … we were just flying by the seat of our pants,” he said.

— The whole operation took less than a week. A party was held on June 21, 1974, celebrating Cadillac Ranch’s completion with a big tent and an open bar.

— About a year later, CBS-TV correspondent Charles Kuralt shot a segment for his “On the Road” series about Cadillac Ranch, giving it national attention.

— The spraypainting of Cadillac Ranch began early. Tom Livesay, director of the Amarillo Art Center then, didn’t like it and asked Marsh about it. “He said, ‘I don’t give a damn.’ It showed ownership. People had to care enough about it, or hated it enough, to come see it. And they did.”

— Because of Amarillo’s sprawl, Cadillac Ranch was moved two miles west in 1997. Wyatt McSpadden, a photographer who has documented the site from the start, said moving the installation was more difficult than creating it.

— An estimated 1.4 million people visit Cadillac Ranch annually, making it Amarillo’s most popular tourist destination.

— Marsh’s son, Stan Marsh 4, came up with the idea to add a merchandise truck and other improvements to the site several years ago.

— Marquez said Ant Farm was smart enough to copyright Cadillac Ranch. Because of that, the collective continues to make money annually from billboards, commercials, clothing, etc. Stanley Marsh 3’s heirs own the site in a family trust.

— Stanley Marsh 3 died in 2014 after a series of strokes. He also was under criminal indictment on charges of sexual abuse to minors. 

— Preservation of Cadillac Ranch is on Stan Marsh 4’s mind: “We’re looking at options to preserve and protect the Cadillacs for future generations.” Because of its late-1990s move, Cadillac Ranch probably won’t be eligible for the Nationa Register of Historic Places for a while.

(Image of Cadillac Ranch by David via Flickr)

One thought on “Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo marking its 50th anniversary this month

  1. I can’t believe that’s it’s been 50 years all ready for Cadillac Ranch. This is so AMAZING!

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