Charlie Holthausen stands next to his iguana car, a vehicle he has created using a minivan, trailer and items he's found in his home and in other places. He plans to unveil the car as a float Saturday in the Fourth of July Parade downtown.

Photo by John F. Russell

Charlie Holthausen stands next to his iguana car, a vehicle he has created using a minivan, trailer and items he's found in his home and in other places. He plans to unveil the car as a float Saturday in the Fourth of July Parade downtown.

Parade to feature iguana car float

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If you go

What: Steamboat Springs Fourth of July Parade

When: 10 a.m. Saturday; Charlie and Gail Holthausen's iguana car will be parked at Howelsen Hill after the parade

Where: Lincoln Avenue, downtown Steamboat Springs

Cost: Free

Call: 871-7079

— Under a couple of garage-sale car coverings in an Elk River Estates driveway, a 40-foot-long reptile is waiting to be unleashed.

On Saturday, Charlie and Gail Holthausen's iguana car will slither down Lincoln Avenue as part of Steamboat Springs' Fourth of July Parade.

At its core, the iguana car is a once-totaled Dodge Caravan and a boat trailer. From the outside, it's the elaborately decorated answer to a problem the Holthausens wanted solved: How do we make this thing look like a lizard?

"We enjoy the process of it. How are we going to make the arms, how are we going to make the head - how are we going to make an iguana?" Gail Holthausen said, standing on a mid-June morning in the couple's driveway, which in the past two months has become iguana central.

There are Internet photos of iguana heads, with key features circled and a model iguana car made out of a plastic Volkswagen Beetle. Extra paints and supplies litter tables in the garage, and the iguana's tarp-covered house takes up much of the long driveway.

For about six weeks, Charlie Holthausen devoted a couple of hours a day to the car. He got the idea after attending a class on how to build dragons out of clay at The Potter's Wheel - which Gail Holthausen owned until recently - a few years ago.

A car mechanic by trade and former owner of Black Diamond Automotive, Charlie Holthausen often has projects - his most recent was converting a Steamboat Springs School District bus into a livable travel van, an electric-powered machine that has taken his family to the Burning Man arts festival for the past several years. What he hasn't had is something quite like this.

"This is my first big art project. I'm a car mechanic, not an artist," he said. "When it comes to the artistic part, I kind of locked up. : If I can see it in my head, then I can do it, but I could not figure out the eyes - I just couldn't see it. So I petitioned my wife to help with the eyes."

Painted basketballs serve as the iguana's eyes, and foam swim noodle toys frame the facial features. Curved plywood is attached to the spine to add spikes. A snowmobile hood adds lift to the faux reptile's nose, and spray foam insulation adds bumps to the tail.

The arms are ventilation tubing, bolted to the van doors by up-turned plastic buckets. Metal piping holds up the tail, and papier-mÕche makes the whole thing look like a lizard.

The couple found almost everything they needed for the project secondhand, salvaging a garage sale trampoline to connect the lizard's front and back sections, buying drastically price-reduced copper-colored paint for decoration and scoring a roll of scale-patterned wall vinyl to add texture to the face.

"I have less than $1,000 in the entire project," Charlie Holthausen said. About 10 people came by the house consistently to help with papier-mÕche and painting, he said. The iguana car will ride with the Steamboat Car Club during Saturday's parade, which begins at 10 a.m. on Lincoln Avenue.

The car will be on display at Howelsen Hill after the festivities.

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