'Highway of Dreams' 1932 Studebaker - Atlas Obscura

'Highway of Dreams' 1932 Studebaker

This rusted car found in Petrified Forest National Park's Route 66 exhibit may be the most photographed abandoned car in the country. 

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Route 66, in its heyday, stretched for over 2,200 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. But sometimes, the road grew desolate, and maybe no stretch was more isolated than the section found in northeastern Arizona within Petrified Forest National Park. At the site, a small pullout with a rusted 1932 Studebaker recognizes Petrified Forest as the only national park to contain a stretch of Route 66.

Route 66, including this stretch, was commissioned in 1926, and formed from the National Old Trails Road. It connected the U.S. midwest and southwest, and helped make the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert more accessible. Already a national monument as of 1906, much of the forest’s infrastructure was built during the New Deal era through the Civilian Conservation Corps. By 1962, the site was named a national park, but by that point, drivers had already left Route 66 behind. The route had been rendered obsolete by the U.S. Interstate system, including I-40, which runs through the park today. 

This section of Route 66 was closed in 1958, and the highway was decommissioned in 1985. However, the thrill of the drive, with its many neon signs, motels, and muffler men, remained on the minds of many, and a new era of nostalgic tourism dawned. Realizing the draw, Petrified Forest National Park officials established a pullout view in 2006. A row of historic telephone poles marks the bed where the road once stood.

To complete the exhibit, a 1932 Studebaker was placed along the pullout along the former route. No, the car has not rusted in the Arizona desert for decades. It’s an unnatural art piece, donated to the National Park Service by Frank and Rhonda Dobell of the Arizona Automotive Service of Holbrook, Arizona, to symbolize the allure of travel during that era.

Despite its intentional abandonment, the classic car has spent an impressive amount of time exposed to the elements and remains a popular attraction within the park. An abandoned car enthusiast notes that the Petrified Forest’s Studebaker is “probably the most photographed abandoned car in the country.”

Know Before You Go

The Route 66 pullout is marked on official maps of Petrified Forest National Park. It's located next to the southbound lane of Petrified Forest Road, near I-40.

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