Curbside Attractions: Henry’s Rabbit Ranch – The Mother Lode on the Mother Road

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I’ve been making the run between Central and Southern Illinois a lot lately – Son Number One is hot and heavy in the middle of remuddling their rent-free* trailer/house and I’ve been spending a weekend here and there helping out. From I-74, I have the option of taking either I-57 past Champaign, or I-55 almost to St. Louis, where I pick up I-64 – it was this route I chose on my last trip, and I had time in the schedule for a brief stop by Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, a genuine Roadside Attraction located on Historic Route 66.

*in return for keeping the farm property mowed and buildings repaired, etc.

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Established around 1999/2000 (according to what info I could find online – the Ranch was closed by the time I arrived in the late afternoon), the attraction was originally named for the furry, four-legged rabbits that the proprietor’s daughter had started raising until the maths caught up with her (60+ at the peak) and her father offered to take over. The four-wheeled Rabbits were added as an Installation sometime later, and are of course a nod to the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. I won’t even attempt to guess each car’s vintage…

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In case a curious visitor is not intimately familiar with the Mk1 Rabbit (Golf for you non-Yanks), one is conveniently parked near the road on ramps – sans engine. The metal bumper places this in the 1974-80 model year timeframe, but I am not familiar enough with lessor details to pin it down to a specific year. Have at it in the comments, though.

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A few more Rabbits are tucked away on the backside of the installation, perhaps awaiting interment.

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You of course noticed the Squareback, which apparently belonged to Bob Waldmire, who elsewhere has been described as “Route 66′s roving ambassador and resident hippie.” Waldmire apparently spent over three decades wandering Route 66 in a 1972 VW van (microbus), which, incidentally, was the inspiration for the character Fillmore in the movie Cars.

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There’s more to see at the Rabbit Ranch than the Rabbits (or rabbits), but I was unfortunately only able to grab a few photos of the reproduction filling station (with a deliciously patinaed Chevy pickup parked behind the pumps), and some old roadside motel signs.

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Perhaps of more interest to some of our readers is this mid-1970s GMC Astro cab-over-engine (COE) road tractor hitched up to a Campbell 66 Express “Humpin’ to Please” trailer (I remember seeing these occasionally when I was young).

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Given that the Rabbit Ranch is only ten minutes off I-55, I’ll probably try to stop again sometime when they’re open. The owner is supposed to be friendly and an expert on Route 66 history, which would make for a pleasant diversion on my way down.

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There’s one more reason to make the stop, and it’s right across the highway from the RR: Country Classic Cars. They, too, were closed, so all I got was one long-range shot from the gate: many more unrestored cars are parked along the fence bordering I-57 awaiting some CC love!

Related reading: Curbside Classic: 1975 VW Golf Mk1/Rabbit – The Most Influential Modern Global Compact Car