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International Car Forest of The Last Church, Goldfield, Nevada

Buckaroo, I don't know what to say. Lectroids? Planet 10? Nuclear extortion? A girl named "John"?

- President Widmark, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Goldfield, Nevada is a tiny, seemingly insignificant accumulation of abandoned buildings between Tonopah and Beatty on US 95, roughly halfway between Reno and Las Vegas. It wasn't always so - in 1906, Goldfield, with over 20,000 residents, was the largest city in Nevada, all focused on extracting high grade gold-bearing ore from Columbia Mountain and the surrounding Goldfield Hills or in supporting the miners in their work. It was arguably the last true mining boom town in Nevada history; when Goldfield went bust, the absurdely optimistic dream of building a mining-based metropolis that would stand the test of time - a dream that littered Nevada with well-built ghost or semi-ghost towns like Virginia City, Austin, Ione, Belmont, Rhyolite, Candelaria and the like - died with it. After Goldfield, later mining towns like Klondike and Divide dispensed with fancy, well built brick hotels, bank buildings and railroad depots and instead opted for wood frame construction or tents to better protect scarce capital when the ore inevitably ran out.

IMAG0214Because of Goldfield's brief moment of prosperity, however, it was able to acquire a few trappings that prevented it from being completely abandoned. First, as one of the few inhabited towns in that part of Nevada, it became a critical way station for Nevada State Route 3 and Nevada State Route 5 in the 1920s (later US 95 in the '40s), providing food, water, fuel and repair services for stranded travelers in the days before Interstate highways, pressurized engine cooling systems, or 200+ mile fuel tanks. Second, and much more importantly, it became a county seat for newly formed Esmeralda County in 1907, a position it has never relinquished; consequently, as long as the county offices are still present, Goldfield will always have some residents living there to staff them. In fact, due to the combination of these two factors - namely, the location of the Esmeralda County Sheriff Department's headquarters in downtown Goldfield and Goldfield's location on US 95, along with the attendant drop in speed limit through town - Goldfield is known to seasoned travelers in Nevada as a moderately notorious speed trap.

Off the main highway through town, however, is an odd and curious attraction, one that is barely noticeable out of the corner of one's eye while driving through the southern edge of Goldfield's modest township boundaries. Rising out of the desert, approximately a mile or so from the highway, hidden by a few small rolling hills and some buildings, are various vehicles standing, lengthwise, rising out of the ground like corn.


IMG_20130818_115353_833_1If you're attentive enough to notice this odd sight, you've just discovered the International Car Forest of The Last Church, an eccentric art project adopted by Chad Sorg, which bills itself as the "World's Largest National Junk Car Forest":


There are plenty of aspiring artists and Burning Man enthusiasts out there that have walked through the Car Forest and written about it; since the number of Car Lust visitors seeking transcendental wisdom and reflection on modern art can probably be counted on one finger, however, we're going to focus on the important part - the cars themselves. What former transportation appliances were deemed worthy of becoming industrial-grade canvases for neo-Hippies with backhoes?

First, let's touch on the few examples of pre-Eisenhower motoring that dotted the landscape:

IMG_20130818_112848_019_1IMG_20130818_113103_271_1These shells were invariably the most worn and consequently the least recognizable. Far more common were Malaise Era American cruisers, like this Chevrolet Impala wagon:

IMG_20130818_113152_523_1Or this un-badged A-body:

IMG_20130818_113256_379_1There were quite a few of those, actually:

IMG_20130818_114224_430_1Looking for a front wheel drive GM? Well, there's this Buick Electra:

IMG_20130818_113605_840_1There was also a newer Buick Roadmaster, which hadn't received the full artistic treatment yet:

IMG_20130818_113656_223_1Lest anyone think this Car Forest has a prejudice toward full-sized GMs, there were also several Ford-manufactured example, like this avocado green Country Squire wagon:

IMG_20130818_113918_432_1There was also the obligatory Pinto, which was placed next to an LTD or Mercury equivalent:

IMG_20130818_113944_948_1And a Fox body Mustang:

IMG_20130818_113307_428_1This LTD has an ant problem:

IMG_20130818_114244_257_1Of the American manufacturers, however, Mopar received top billing. The iconic "Dada Da" tower was a Plymouth Fury Custom Suburban wagon:

IMG_20130818_115715_910_1Interestingly, the K-Car with a steering wheel "wheel" was the least interesting Mopar product in the field:

IMG_20130818_114140_475_1Wait, is that a Dodge Coronet limousine?


You can just make out a "Don't Wear Furs" bumper sticker on the back bumper:

IMG_20130818_114037_253_1Then there was the "Windy Weather" Dodge A100:

IMG_20130818_113732_756_186,758 miles, or 386,758 miles? Really, anything was possible with these. Note the 3-speed automatic:

IMG_20130818_113758_879_1Don't feel bad, Kenosha fans. You weren't left out - here's an Eagle SX/4 to help you feel included:

IMG_20130818_113239_525_1Oddly, early model Hyundais were strangely over-represented at the Car Forest, meaning they had more than one:

IMG_20130818_114153_915_1This portrait of Ron Paul(?) truly Excels:

IMG_20130818_113448_170_1The difference between early '90s Hyundai and '60s Mopar craftsmanship? At least 20,000 miles, and not in the way you'd hope:

IMG_20130818_113548_831_1As you would expect in any self-respecting car-based modern art exhibit, there were a couple of Subarus as well, like this late '70s Subaru 1600:

IMG_20130818_113140_150_1Did it have 4 Wheel Drive? Well, of course:

IMG_20130818_113220_351_1The newer early '80s Subaru 1600, however, received the full "art car" treatment:

IMG_20130818_113412_141_1There was only one Honda in the field - naturally, it was an older CVCC:

IMG_20130818_114124_618_1Nissan/Datsun held their own among Japanese automakers, starting with this Maxima:

IMG_20130818_114113_072_1Off to the edge of the exhibit was an amphitheater, featuring a school bus flanked by a couple of small compact cars:

IMG_20130818_114653_870_1The blue car turned out to be a Datsun F10 - luckily, the quirkily styled headlight treatment was exactly where it belonged:

IMG_20130818_115003_605_1I honestly have no idea what this yellow car is, though:

IMG_20130818_115028_861_1On the pick-up truck side of the ledger, there were plenty of samples to browse from in various states of disrepair. The most notable of the bunch was this Mikado(?):

IMG_20130818_114803_774_1Here's the entire yard from the schoolbus amphitheater:

IMG_20130818_115403_991_1Finally, here's a gravity-defying bus because, well, it was there:

IMG_20130818_114828_795_1(Pictures taken by David Colborne.)


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Except for the Mustang and the Eagle, I think they made some superb choices here.

That's a Mustang L with the dubious 2.3l straight four. The four-bolt wheels give it away.

That little yellow wagon is (was) actually an early 70s Toyota Corolla. And what looked like a Dodge Coronet limo was actually a 67-68 Chrysler Newport - it wasn't exactly a limo, back in those days some major airports used those as taxis, shuttles and such before the big shuttle buses became popular (note the roof racks on top). Pontiac also had a 6/8 door version of the Catalina that was used for the same purpose. They weren't sold to the general public but some did end up in the hands of private owners - one of those would be an incredibly rare find today. It's kind of a shame that Newport ended up the way it did... oh well.

And res, all Mustangs from 1974-1993 with the exception of the 1993 Cobra (I think) had the 4-bolt wheels regardless of what engine it had.

Those cars with 6-8 doors are called "airport limousines." I've been working on a post on them for a while.

I believe the yellow car identified as a front wheel drive Electra is actually a 1977-79 rear wheel drive Pontiac.

This looks WAY more interesting than Cadillac Ranch. I say that having seen Cadillac Ranch in person for the first time a few weeks ago. The Cadillac Ranch cars have really been "loved" to death, and the experience of visiting it is bizarre, with dozens of people around all spray-painting at once, enough to give you a contact high on the paint fumes, accompanied by the sound of rattling cans, and parents yelling at their kids, usually too late, not to spray into the wind.

The yellow pickup is a Dodge. Since that type soldiered on from 1972 to 1993 without a major redesign, I can't give an exact year, but 1970s would be a fair guess.

What a waste of good iron.

Plymouth stuck their name on a few of those Dodge trucks:

They can stick nearly every Hyundai and Kia in the ground, for all I care:-)

Chuck, the Plymouth in your link is a Trail Duster, which was a Plymouth-branded Ramcharger. Though they did market the Mitsubishi-built Arrow from 1979 until 1981 or so, the last American-built Plymouth pickup I'm aware of was a 1941 model. The Trail Duster is still an awesome rig, and it would be welcome in my garage!

Terry, I'd like to see every Prius join those Hyundais and Kias in the ground!

I need to go to Nevada......✌

Thanx for the post. See more on my blog.. motivation behind it, etc.
Oh, and CONGRATS... ya made it outta' Goldfield alive!

Milleks selline jama vajalik on, looduse reostamine.

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