Aug 1, 2009
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A quick glance at the silhouette of this place, and you might think it was some kind of druidic destination. You wouldn’t be far wrong either – if your idea of a deity is Henry Ford, and your idea of a shrine a ‘62 Cadillac. Carhenge, Nebraska is pretty darn distant from Stonehenge, Wiltshire – 4,442 miles to be precise – but the American Midwest’s answer to England’s ancient monument is close to the heart of many an auto-loving yeehaw type.
While the world famous English megalithic site was erected as early as 5,000 years ago, Carhenge has been standing since the slightly less prehistoric 1980s. Carhenge is just what it says on the tin: a replica of Stonehenge, built using scrapped cars from the ’50s and ’60s instead of slabs of rock. Its cars are arranged to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge, and they’ve even got the whole solar orientation thing going on. Carhenge is slightly smaller than its ancient predecessor, but with a circle measuring roughly 96 feet in diameter, this ain’t no undersized old banger of a monument. No sir.
The 38 autos used were salvaged from nearby farms and dumps, and all were spray-painted grey to make them look more like the stones they were inspired by. Buried trunk-first in pits five feet deep, the bodies of the cars rise up to 18 feet in the air, either upright or at an angle true to the Stonehenge design, with some cars welded in place to form the arches. Says Roadside America: “two foreign vehicles were originally part of Carhenge, but they were subsequently dragged away and buried, replaced by models from Detroit.” That’s a relief. Wouldn’t want Japanese or German manufacturing messing with the mystical vibes.
Carhenge was envisaged by a man named Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father, who lived on the farm where the mecha-lithic marvel now stands. In 1987, Reinders and his “clan, about 35 strong” got to work, and the site was dedicated on the summer solstice of that year, with drink, song, and a play written by the family. The only thing missing was a good ol’ barn dance.
Image: Mr. Kimberly
Carhenge was originally rubbished as a junkyard by the authorities, and residents wanted it torn down. Their tune soon changed, though, as pilgrims began to pour in to see the inspired installation. Today, the site has state-of-the-art facilities like a paved parking lot, picnic tables and a visitor centre, not to mention an adjacent car-art sculpture park featuring the work of local artists. It boasts 80,000 visitors from all over the world, has appeared in TV commercials and offers merchandise like mugs and t-shirts, plus a paid membership scheme.
Has Carhenge sold out? Well, with free entry, it’s got to pay for its ongoing maintenance somehow. A horn-honking salute to this uniquely American car-crazy creation.
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