There's a bizarre new sight on Route 3 in Middletown, south of Route 372, that looks like the aftermath of an improbable car accident. Three rusted, dented old Yugos — one red, one white and one blue — stand nose-down on big circus balls.
The three old cars aren't an accident; they're found-object sculptures. They're just the latest bit of fun brought to you by Bill Ziegler, owner of Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center, the wildly colorful pop-culture store-amusement park that sits in the parking lot behind the Yugos.
Ziegler owned the old rattletraps and let artists Joseph McCarthy of Higganum and Peter Albano of Middletown do what they wanted with them. McCarthy and Albano decided to take out the motors, flip the cars on their noses and stand them on the balls like performing elephants.
They actually aren't balancing on the balls. Each car is held tight by a steel beam running through the car, through the Fiberglas balls, into a concrete base and into the ground.
Their three-part sculpture, which is 18 feet wide and 14 feet tall, is called "I'd Go Where Yugo, Stanley Marsh 3," an homage to the mischevious artist who buried 10 Cadillacs nose-down in the dirt in Amarillo, Texas. "He's a multimillionaire and he funds ridiculous art projects, like a spaceship crashed in the middle of the desert," Albano said.
The crazy idea is fitting for a crazy car, which has been the object of ridicule since it was introduced to the American market in the '80s. "They were probably the most unsafe cars ever," Ziegler said. "If you had a pen you could jam it through the steel." McCarthy added "There was almost nothing to weld through except the motor mount. ... But they weigh almost nothing. That made them easy to do this with."
At first, Ziegler thought the cars should be painted. McCarthy and Albano chose to leave them looking old and rusty. Now Ziegler loves it. "I can't see things as clearly as the artists do until it's finished, even if they try to explain it," Ziegler said.
Ziegler said he wants to buy more old Yugos, possibly to make a Yugo carousel on his 45-acre property. The jam-packed nostalgia store is the anchor of the property, which also boasts a fun-house, a stage and movie theater, the world's largest jack-in-the-box and a dark ride which is currently under construction.
McCarthy said he loves to see reactions of passers-by. "It's the greatest part of my day, seeing people stop and park and take pictures of the cars," he said. "The joy of the piece is that it seems to have popped out from nowhere, and that there's no high-art element to it. It's just fun."