‘There are no big stones out there,” Jim Reinders said of the Nebraska Sandhills where he grew up on the family farm. “But automobiles are about the same size as the stones at Stonehenge, and they’re easier to move because they have wheels on them.”
Reinders’ work as an oil exploration and production engineer took him to England for much of the 1970s. While there, he became fascinated with Stonehenge, a circle of intricately positioned slabs of bluestone which ancient people somehow transported and then assembled in what may be an astronomic calendar, a cemetery or some sort of religious site.
“Whenever visitors came to see us, we went to Stonehenge,” Reinders said, who was fascinated to the point that, “When I reached retirement age, I thought it would be nice to duplicate it out of something.”
That something would be automobiles. While we don’t know the reason or purpose Stonehenge was constructed, we do know what Reinders and his friends and relatives were doing, they were creating a memorial to Reinders’ father, who died in 1982.
Five years later, a sort of friends and family reunion was held to create Carhenge in a field at the corner of the Reinders’ farm. Carhenge is made from 38 automobiles positioned to mimic Stonehenge. The circle is nearly 100 feet in diameter.
Since it’s creation, the Carhenge site has expanded to include an automotive art gallery, the Car Art Reserve which includes several other large sculptures made from cars and car parts.
Carhenge is located a few miles north of Alliance, in the Nebraska panhandle that reaches up above Colorado and bumps into Wyoming. Alliance is east of I-25 and north of I-80.
At first, officials in Alliance saw the structures as an eyesore and (even though the farm and structure were outside the city limits and their jurisdiction) they sent the sheriff out to figure out how to tear it down. However, others in town recognized the structure’s potential as a tourist attraction.
Ownership of the site eventually was transferred from Reinders to the Friends of Carhenge, and in the summer of 2013 to the city of Alliance and its visitors bureau.
Admission is free, but donations are accepted to help cover the nearly $40,000 a year in maintenance costs. Even though it’s 80 miles from the nearest Interstate exit ramp, Carhenge annually attracts some 80,000 visitors.