An iconic roadside stop just outside of Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch is worth the stop. More or less a car Stonehenge (Stonehenge: Not Just a Pile of Rocks.), it’s located in a large, flat, cow pasture, and can be seen from the interstate. However, the cars are actually located quite a ways into the field and appear rather small from I-40. Officially located at 13651 I-40 Frontage Rd, Amarillo, TX, it could be easily missed if you weren’t paying attention, and especially if you didn’t know it was there. It’s hours are listed as simply “daylight hours“.
The ranch is the creation of Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels, who were all part of an art group called Ant Farm. It was created in 1974 and consists of 10 Cadillacs (all made between 1949 and 1963) buried nose-first deep into the ground. If you’ve ever watched the children’s movie Cars, or ridden the Cars ride at Disneyland California Adventure, you’ve seen an artist’s rendition of these very Caddies. The cars were originally located elsewhere, in a wheat field, but were quietly moved in 1997 to their current location. The city of Amarillo was growing and requiring more space, so it was thought best to move the cars outside of city limits. Both the original site and the new site were owned by local millionaire, Stanley Marsh III, who funded the project.
They routinely make the list of many “America’s most famous roadside attractions” and have been painted over so many times that there is probably a 10-inch-thick coat of paint on every car. However, they are routinely repainted to give passing motorists a clean canvas or to represent a special event, like when they were painted black when Doug Michels passed, painted in rainbow colors to commemorate gay pride day, and painted black again in June 2020 with the words “Black Lives Matter”. They were once painted their original colors by the motel chain Hampton Inn, for a public Route 66 landmark restoration project, but the cars didn’t last even 24 hours before being branded with graffiti once again.
While there is no sign explicitly allowing people to paint the cars, it’s not exactly forbidden, and even appears encouraged. You can either bring your own can of spray paint or you can find discarded spray cans that are littered everywhere. Many still have plenty of paint left in them. We found multiple spray cans that were still somewhat full and used those to brand our initials and leave our mark on the cars. We then walked around admiring the assortment of messages and “well-crafted” designs left by those before us.
Speaking of discarded spray cans… the trash around Cadillac Ranch is horrendous. There is a large graffitied dumpster located right outside the gate, yet there was an incredible amount of trash strewn about. It was not only near the dumpster and road, but also around the actual Cadillacs. It’s very disappointing, but sadly, unsurprising. Please, if you stop here, take your trash with you or throw it away. I don’t typically mention things like this, but the trash truly was overwhelming at Cadillac Ranch.
(Large dumpster 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼)
Overall, Cadillac Ranch is well worth the stop and a must-see staple on any good road trip. It’s free and a famous roadside landmark that I promise will make any “I-40 road trip must do” list you can find. I strongly suggest getting there as early as possible, as we arrived around 7:30am and were only two of a few. But as we were leaving people were certainly beginning to arrive. Also, the sunrise was absolutely beautiful and made for some pretty pictures. It’s a quick and fun stop – don’t pass it up!