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7.18.2021

Schaefer's Auto Art Erie: Awesome Sculptures Made From Scrap Cars

Occasionally I find myself walking through a U-Pull parts yard in search of car parts. It is a depressing experience to see a bunch of cars that have met their fate, never to be driven again, with them often having been involved in an accident or be so far gone that their best days are clearly behind them and long gone. 

Often, the first thing you see before you get to the car yard itself is the giant electromagnetic wrecker machine, picking up a full car by the roof and then putting it into the cruncher, retrieving it, and putting it into a tractor trailer once the vehicle has been completely flattened into a foot tall object that resembles a pancake.  I do not like get sentimental about inanimate objects like this, but cannot help but do so at the same time, thinking about how many memories have been made in those vehicles, or by feeling a sense of regret in seeing a potentially drivable vehicle get crushed and hauled away to be melted down. The thing that reassures me about this process is that the once the vehicle gets melted down, it will get turned into something new and useful again, like a refrigerator, a soda can, air conditioners, or perhaps even a new car. What is discarded eventually becomes new in this process, with people like me coming to the yards to pull off reusable parts before the vehicle gets crushed. It is reassuring to me knowing that I am able to pick off some of these parts when I go because I give them another chance to ride on a vehicle again.

In Erie, one place has come up with a creative way to reuse cars and car parts in their current form and create something new at the same time. Schaefer's Auto Art in Erie is a tremendously awesome and offbeat place to checkout some awesome creativity. 

Rocket, cop car, and bumblebee. The rocket, thanks to info from the family's own website, utilizes truck leaf springs, Oldsmobile Rocket V-8 engines, and you can see the passenger seat on the upper left of this photo, which was salvaged from a Subaru Brat Truck. 

Schaefer's Auto Art is a labor of love that has saved cars that were headed to the scrap yard and turned them and other automotive components into spectacular sculptures. 

Dino sparkplug teeth aka "Two Headed Dinosaur"

Public art is something that can be expensive to make. It is tough to find material that is affordable to use in large quantities let alone the will to be able to display such pieces. Muffler Men, a once common roadside classic, are slowly disappearing because the fiberglass that was used to produce them is deteriorating and it is very difficult and expensive to repair.  Similar to the PennDOT Road Sign Sculpture Garden, just south of here in Crawford County, this place uses vehicles that would otherwise be discarded and transforms them into sculptures of creatures that are larger than life. 

Richard "Dick" Schaefer worked at a scrap yard and felt that same urge to do something cool with cars and parts that would otherwise be crushed and melted. He started making this art in 1988 and this whole thing is a family operation. 

I think the coolest thing about this whole exhibit is that they have created something out of what would otherwise be considered nothing and discarded. Stuff that would literally be considered junk has been turned into fantastic art that attracts visitors from all over in a way that I have always contemplated but never had the wherewithal to execute. It is incredibly impressive. 

"Bumblebee," made from an upcycled old cement mixer from Warren Steel and an old Saab.

With welding skill, they have transformed scrap cars into art, while also preserving vehicles that would otherwise be gone to history. As an aficionado of old cars and hard work ethic and dedication in people, Schaefer's Auto Art is an absolutely must-see place. There is no reason to not stop by this roadside oddity if you are headed to the beautiful beaches of Presque Isle State Park, the rides and world class Ravine Flyer II wooden roller coaster at Waldameer, the Lake Shore Railway Museum and the wineries of North East and the Lake Erie coastline through Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY and the many other awesome attractions the region has to offer. Considering that this is also located along the major east-west corridor of I-90 and I-86, this is an ideal place to pull off for a rest stop for road trippers.

The Schaefer Family's website, https://www.schaefersautoart.com has a better background and rundown on their attraction and more information about visiting. Be sure to check out this awesome place. It is located at 3705 Hershey Road, Erie, PA

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