Roadside America: Ready For Takeoff

Montalbetti + Campbell

Those who drive into New York's Catskill Mountains on Route 28 and have a keen eye for old cars may notice a few odd things: a 1950s De Soto tail fin as part of a giant weather vane, say, or a '40s sedan that has morphed into a rocket ship. This is Fabulous Furniture, where car parts can find a new and wildly different context. Here, junk man/welder/woodworker/custom car builder/artist Steve Heller creates furniture, sculpture, and, well, stuff. He has bought more than 300 junk cars to strip for their sheetmetal, dashboards, bumpers, grilles, and "all the chrome doodads." High-finned vintage cars are his particular muse. "It was just so wild then -- the late '50s, early '60s," he says. "They came up with whatever they could imagine." Heller's own fertile imagination has created entire custom cars -- most recently a Dodge Magnum as it might have been envisioned by Chrysler's fin maestro, Virgil Exner -- but his specialty is putting old car parts to new use. Speaking with obvious admiration for the heyday of outrageous car design, he says, "It was really, really nuts." Out here on Route 28, it still is.

To see more of Heller's work, check out

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