Standing along Route 66 west of Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch was invented and built by a group of art-hippies imported from San Francisco. They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3's fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.
The cars were actually moved two miles further out in 1997 to avoid the expanding city. Visitors are strongly encouraged and Cadillac Ranch is open to the public at all hours. Graffiti on the cars is also encouraged and the cars undergo ever-mutating layers of paint. In 2005, the cars were given an all-pink makeover in tribute to breast cancer victims and later painted black and yellow to honor the passing of one of Marsh's longtime friends.
Public Art Installation:
Several myths have been perpetuated about the origin of the Cadillac Ranch, the most popular of which is the one I heard growing up in the Texas Panhandle. As the story went, an eccentric Amarillo, Texas millionaire would buy one Cadillac after another and when it was time to buy a new one, he would have the old one buried nose first on his land. However, the truth is, the Cadillac Ranch was a planned artistic endeavor.
Appeared as an appendage on cars shortly after the end of World War II. Streamlined aircraft were the source that inspired the fad (quite a long fad indeed; it lasted for almost 20 years).
The first model to carry a tailfin was the 1948 Cadillac. Harley Earl, a GM designer was inspired by a US fighter plane, the P-38 "Lightning". It had two rounded rudders which caught Earl's eye at the Selfridge Airfield in the late 1930s.
After the war, Earl incorporated them as two bulbous fins; actually they were very discreet upward humps on the tail panel. But they were a success.
One of the few images that remain of Cadillac Ranch in its original condition, taken in 1976. Once the graffiti mobs got started there was no stopping them.