cadillac ranch
credit: Richie Diesterheft

There are several myths concerning the origins of Caddilac Ranch. One such myth is that an eccentric millionaire from Texas loved his caddys and would buy a new one every few years. But what to do with the old one? Clearly he couldn’t just sell it. That would be too logical. Instead, he would bury it nose first on his sprawling ranch. As enlightening as the tale seems to be, it’s not entirely true. Granted Cadillac Ranch was created by an eccentric millionaire – it was actually a planned artistic creation instead.

In 1973, Millionaire Stanley Marsh III invited a San Francisco artists’ group called the Ant Farm to help him create of a unique work of art for his sprawling ranch just west of Amarillo, near Route 66.

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!”

General Motors used Cadillac to introduce the tail fin because they believed the prestige of Cadillac would make the radical styling idea, the tail fin, acceptable to all consumers. This consciousness was something shared by the members of Ant Farm, so when Stanley Marsh 3 invited us to make a proposal for a site specific art work in 1973, it was logical that we focus on the Cadillac tail fin.

Automerica, written in 1976 by Chip Lord.

cadillac_ranch-Construction
credit: Ant Farm (Lord, Marquez, Michels)

The group chose 10 Cadillacs ranging from the 1949 Club Coupe to a 1963 Sedan. The cars took about 4 weeks to find, but only about 5 days to bury. At first, the cars displayed their original paint jobs – turquoise, sky blue, gold and banana yellow. It wasn’t long before people heard of this interesting art work and began to come from all over the world, leaving their mark on the cars with graffiti or by scratching messages into the paint jobs.

AntFarm_Cadillac
photo credit: Bud Lee, all rights reserved, 1974

While Stanley Marsh III, has no problem with it and claims “We think it looks better every year”, the Cadillac Ranch has been repainted many times. In May, 2002, the cars were restored to their original colors. In June, 2003 the cars were painted in flat black due to the passing of the founding member of the Ant Farm.

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In 1997, the Cadillac Ranch was replanted two miles to the west in order to escape ever growing city of Amarillo. Even the old site’s trash and clutter was gathered from the old location and spread around the new location, as per Marsh’s orders.

Built along the sad remains of Route 66, the cars were meant to represent the “Golden Age” of American automobiles and it’s only fitting that Cars Land drew it’s inspiration for Ornament Valley from Cadillac Ranch.

To be authentic, I asked the Imagineers to get out and travel Route 66. It’s feeling it, seeing the light and hearing the stories of the people on the road.
– John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios

If you stare out at the horizon at Radiator Springs you will see the peaks of the mountain range, from left to right, represent Cadillac tail fins from 1957, 1958, 1959 (the Pinnacle), 1960, 1961 and 1962.

Disney cars land Ornament Valley
credit: Disney

The impressive Cadillac Mountain Range in Cars Land called Ornament Valley stands approximately 125 feet tall at its highest peak, the Pinnacle, and is nearly 300,000 square feet of hand sculpted rock. More than 4,000 tons of steel were used to erect the mountain range and it’s the largest rock work construction in any domestic Disney theme park.

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Thank you to Disneyland for making it possible for me to experience this wonderful new addition to the California Adventure Park. All opinions are mine.

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