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Post photographer Michael Williamson is traveling across the country covering the economic situation.

Where the Clunker Stands Tall


In a Nebraskan field sits Carhenge, a structure of American cars positioned to look like England's Stonehenge . Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

Just outside Alliance, Neb.--Michael and I did the math: Thirty-eight clunkers at $4,500 a piece comes to a total of $171,000.

That’s what the vehicles that make up Carhenge – stacked to resemble England’s Stonehenge – would be worth under the Cash for Clunkers program that ends today. As a goodbye to the program that has stimulated so much debate along our travels – we met a convenience store clerk who bragged about a new car he bought under the program on the same week a waitress lamented how it did her no good without decent credit – Michael and I decided to stop at the Nebraskan monument of broken-down gas guzzlers. So what if the vehicles hadn't run in years (and wouldn't really be eligible for the program), if ever there was an ode to the clunker, this was it.

Once rejected by locals as more junk than art, the site has now become a part of the American road trip, drawing travelers from 50 states and 24 countries last year. On the day we stopped there, so did a Virginia family. They wore t-shirts and sweatshirts from places they had just driven through: Michigan, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


Carhenge, once rejected by locals, now draws tourist from across the country and world. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

“Sometimes I think the tendency is to go toward the major tourist attractions, but we try to seek out the unique,” David Salerno, of Suffolk, said.

“That’s the sort of the stuff I love to learn about, the weird stuff that no one knows about,” his 11-year-old daughter, Ariel, said. “Did you know there was a hall of records behind Lincoln’s head on Mt. Rushmore?”

She and her 8-year-old brother Benji played on one of the slate-colored cars for about half an hour before their parents told them it was time to get in the minivan

Next on the family's list of sites to see was the ball of twine in Kansas.


Ariel Salerno, 11, gives her 8-year-old brother "rabbit ears" as their parents, Angie and David Salerno take photos. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

By Theresa Vargas  |  August 24, 2009; 6:28 AM ET
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Not to be an annoying nitpick, but just one look at the first photo of 'Carhenge' tells me the majority of those 'clunkers' don't even qualify for the Cash-for-Clunkers program. So it's not really a sacrifice of approx. $171,000 in trade-in value... though it looks like an unfortunate lost opportunity to restore a few nice classics!

Neat piece of art though, I should go see that.

Posted by: Comunista | August 24, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

We can put clunkers all over DC. Just drive down and abandon them in front of the White House. I'll pay a dollar a clunker or DC.

Posted by: Dermitt | August 24, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

The British Prime-Minister has stolen this scheme and is claiming it his own. The difference is we only get $1640 per vehicle.
Love the art though.

Posted by: AnthonyS1 | August 24, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 24, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

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