Upside Down Classics: Curious Circumstances


After seeing the Curtis Perry Photos from Hackberry, AZ this week, I was inspired to go through old photo albums and dig up some pictures from a road trip to the Grand Canyon. This was a rather spontaneous adventure my fantastic hippie mother and I took in the spring of 2001. It was before September 11th, before I moved out of the house (I was just 17), and I don’t recall either one of us using a cell phone or computer for the whole trip. We had a map of Arizona, were technically there to look at Prescott College but otherwise had no plan in particular. It felt like more innocent times- the last vacation growing up that I fondly remember. We rented a generic looking Malibu, and put several hundred miles on the odometer taking side roads through the countryside, beginning in Prescott.

After making numerous stops along the way, listening to her tell stories of when she traveled Route 66 back in its heyday, visiting the revived town of Jerome and spending time at the Watchtower on the rim of the Grand Canyon, we made our way towards Flagstaff. Much to my elation, we found these artifacts on the prairie above the Little Colorado River, somewhere off Highway 64.

First up was this very attractive 1969 Dodge Monaco station wagon. Amazingly well preserved, even in this state. I was especially happy with this discovery. . .Until now, I had always thought it was a Plymouth Fury. But thanks to Curbside, curiosity got the best of me and last night I began looking closer at these pictures. Under more scrutiny, it seems the wood paneling wraps all the way around the back quarter across the rear with no brake between fender and tailgate. The grille was gone, but that paneling matches Dodge for that year.


One has to wonder about the sequence of events that led to this juxtaposition of Varsity Cruiser (knockoff ?) and Dodge. Perhaps the bike was ridden to the location by a prankster; it was dark, things got a little rowdy, and in a drunken stupor,  a car tipping took place. It would have taken a lot of hands to tip a vehicle of this size. Maybe the bike was in the car and the owner’s wife complained about both taking up space in the already cluttered driveway. “For Heaven’s sake, just send them out to pasture and let them be one with the flora and fauna, Jim.”


This 1973 Impala’s well aged patina mirrored the colors of the stormy weather, and contrasted so vividly with the vegetation. Made me think of Bad Company: “Give me silver, blue and gold. . .”


We spent a half hour exploring- beyond the cars, there was a trail above the steep canyon overlooking the river that was worthy of a scenic hike. But, with several hours to go (into the late night) we decided to make use of the remaining daylight and get back on the road. I turned around to get one last shot of this area. An old homestead, perhaps? Or abandoned brothel? Kind of small to be the latter. There’s another possibility. Maybe, just maybe the two feature cars were resting atop grave sites, like a shrine of sorts. I would certainly prefer an upside down car as a headstone, in a tranquil setting such as this, to a conventional marker in a cemetery. A couple of soul mates who loved their vehicles and wanted something unique to mark the place they called home together. Not likely, but it would be very sentimental.

It  looks like there was one more car lurking off in the distance by the building to the left. From here it bore an uncanny resemblance to a mid 60’s Toronado. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a closer picture. This one seemed less interesting to me at the time, as it remained right side up.

Looking at these again makes me want to take a drive in search of what Paul has referred to as vehicles enjoying their retirement. . .Or in this particular case, their post mortem resting place. Such forgotten derelicts remain as sculptures of the real world, once in motion, part of the game and now embedded in the landscape. They lay silently as markers between the present and our not so distant past.  At any rate, springtime is around the corner, and the road is calling yet again.