Spray Painting 10 Cadillacs Half-Buried Nose First Into the Ground

I live in Texas but up until this summer the last time I was in the panhandle was September 1996. I drove across country from Fresno, California to Fairfax, Virginia after college. I made the drive in a little under four days.

  • I left in the afternoon from Fresno and stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona
  • The next day’s drive was Flagstaff to Shamrock, Texas
  • And then Shamrock to Heth, Arkansas
  • I made it from Heth to somewhere in Southern Virginia, spent the night and arrived before noon in Northern Virginia.

I’ve shared the story of the drive before. I had packed up and shipped much of my stuff, including all of my CDs except for the one in the dash. And for a good portion of the drive across the United States, mostly along I-40, there was no radio reception to be had. So I listened to the Soundtrack from Reservoir Dogs over and over. It never occurred to me to stop at one of the nearly 3000 Walmarts I passed along the way and pick up something else. I still remember every movie clip word for word even though I haven’t listened to that soundtrack in 22 years.

Shamrock, Texas is in the Northeastern part of the panhandle. About 100 miles to the West is Amarillo, where I found myself recently.

Now I didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing but I do like taking in some local attractions. Amarillo is home to the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum so I gave that a go for $7. I’ve never seen so many photos of old white men in my life.

I also got to see Cadillac Ranch which I’ve heard about but wasn’t ever even quite sure where in the world it was.

cadillac ranch

In 1974 ten Cadillacs (models from 1949 through 1963) were buried nose first half way into the ground. The artists sought funding from several ‘eccentric millionaires’ and the man who agreed was Stanley Marsh 3 of Amarillo.

The cars were placed in a wheat field Marsh owned, and then in 1997 moved two miles west to a pasture belonging to Marsh along side Interstate 40. You drive along a frontage road and enter through an unlocked gate.

Here’s the kicker: spray painting the cars is encouraged so be sure to bring along paint.

cadillac ranch spray painting

The place was commemorated by a Bruce Springsteen song of the same name, and there’s a King of the Hill episode where Hank has his father’s Cadillac pushed into a hole alongside other Cadillacs.

The movie Cars has Cadillacs as a mountain formation, an homage to Cadillac Ranch, and that mountain range has been constructed at Cars Land inside Disney California Adventure — which has been called “art imitating art imitating art.”

Unquestionably Cadillac Ranch is one of the better stops along one of the world’s great drives (“Or perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth who’s only four short hours away?”).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] I’ve avoided car trips, preferring to fly, dating back to the summer after I graduated college. I moved cross country from California to DC for work and made the drive in three and a half days. And I did it in a Geo Storm. It so traumatized me that I didn’t return to the Texas Panhandle for over 20 years, which I covered in a review of Cadillac Ranch. […]


  1. I grew up in the Houston area and worked as an adult both in Odessa and Dallas. had heard about Cadillac Ranch many, many times and thought I would really like to see it. (I now live close to Denver). Last December I found myself West of Amarillo and thought “Great! – At last I get to see it! BOOOOO!!!
    What a letdown!! Don’t bother!! I haven’t been so disappointed since the Colorado Rockies didn’t win even ONE game in the 2007 World Searies. If you ever do find yourself close to AMA, go instead to Umbarger, Texas and get some of the best all-you-can-eat BBQ in Texas and forget the Cadillacs !!!!

  2. When I had visitors while living in Amarillo, they were always pleasantly surprised and truly enjoyed the following attractions:
    1. Cadillac Ranch: an interactive experience with spray painting
    2. The Big Texan Steak Ranch: watch people trying to gobble down a 72 oz steak, along with all the sides, in 60 minutes
    3, Palo Duro Canyon State Park: easy access to the US 2nd largest canyon
    4. Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum: beautifully organized and so rich in the exhibit materials

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