Word has been released of the death earlier this month of Alliance native Jim Reinders, the man who designed and built Carhenge just north of Alliance. He was 94 when he died Oct 16 at his home in Houston, Texas.
Reinders, an engineer by trade, came up with the idea of creating a replica of Stonehenge built out of junked cars during a family reunion in Alliance in June 1987.
He later explained that the big American cars of the 1950s and 60s were about the size of the biggest rocks at Stonehenge, so he laid his sculpture out in circle roughly 90-feet in diameter – roughly the size of Stonehenge.
Carhenge emerged in a single weekend on farmland owned by the Reinders family and immediately polarized the community and visitors. People either loved it or hated it.
There were several attempts in the early years to have it condemned as an eyesore and as a breeding ground for vermin. The Nebraska Dept of Roads tried to label it as a junkyard and have it hidden behind a high fence.
The whimsical nature of the sculpture eventually won most people and gained admirers from around the world. Over 100,000 people were visiting each year before the coronavirus pandemic..
The Car-Art Reserve was added, showcasing sculptures created from vehicles or their parts, and a small visitors center was built in 2006.
Reinders eventually donated the 10-acre site to The Friends of Carhenge, which in turn gave it to the City of Alliance in 2013.
There have been a few changes to Carhenge over the years. The cars weren’t painted their iconic gray for the first few years and 3 of the cars were foreign models.
Reinders eventually replaced the foreign cars with American models and buried them on site.
Although once hated by many, Carhenge has gone on to be memorialized in film and tv, popular music, commercials, and many books and publications.
It drew an estimated 4,000 people for the 2017 total solar eclipse, including Reiners and Nebraska Gov Pete Ricketts.