Dragon to hit auction block Sunday
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs’ most famous dragon, possibly its only dragon, will be sold to the highest bidder Sunday.
“We are really hoping that somebody local will buy it and keep it in Steamboat,” creator Charlie Holthausen said. “It’s a popular attraction, and it really belongs here.”
The art car — a 35-foot, fire-and-smoke breathing dragon — has become a local legend thanks to its many public appearances at events such as the Fourth of July Parade, Merry Main Street and the Halloween Stroll.
The car’s reputation has also spread across the country thanks to appearances at the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock City in the Nevada desert, and at ArtoCade in Telluride, where Charlie and his wife, Gail, were named the festival’s king and queen.
The car, named the Phoenix 2.0, was born in the Holthausens’ garage in 2014 after nearly a year of collecting various parts to create the car. Gail drew and designed the car, which is actually a 1998 GMC Safari minivan, and Charlie used his mechanical skills and creative mind to build the frame.
Together, the pair used various other items to give the car its unique appearance.
It’s the third art car Charlie and his wife have built. Charlie built his first art car, a bright green iguana, in 2009. He took it to the Burning Man Festival, where he received an offer and sold the car.
Shortly after he parted ways with his iguana, Charlie began working on his first dragon, which was also very popular at local events. Sadly, the car wasn’t holding up to Yampa Valley winters and was too large to put into storage. So when Charlie received an offer from a buyer in California, where he knew the car would fare better, he decided to sell it.
But Charlie wasn’t ready to leave the art car world behind. The former auto mechanic, who formerly owned Black Diamond Automotive, took about a year off, but he never stopped planning and collecting for his next big art car venture. That car began to take shape in his garage in 2014.
“Three months,” Charlie responded when asked how many hours he has wrapped up in creating Phoenix, the dragon that breaths fire and smoke.
He used tubing from old trampoline frames to form the dragon’s skelton and the mats from the trampoline, along with foam insulation, to give the dragon its shape. PVC piping helped form the car’s removable wings, and metal scraps, metal netting and old CDs provided the details for its shiny exterior.
In addition, Charlie wanted to be able to see the crowds as he drove down the parade routes, so he move the controls to the roof of the car. This makes it seem like the driver is actually riding the beast.
It’s a creation Charlie is proud of, but he knows the time has come to part ways. On Sunday, the Holthausens will hold an auction at 11 a.m. at their Elk River Estates home at 29775 Elk View Drive. The auction will include inventory from two estates, as well as tools and other items Charlie still has from his days as owner of Black Diamond. Among the items will be Charlie’s beloved dragon.
But just because Charlie plans to sell the car doesn’t mean he will be getting out of the art car scene. He already has ideas for his next car, which he hopes to start building once the auction comes to an end, and he has a little more room in his garage.
He isn’t exactly sure what form this car will take, but he hopes to include hydraulics that will allow the car to “fold up,” so it can be transported across the nation more easily than the dragon he is selling.
“Right now, we can’t take this car through the Eisenhower Tunnel,” Gail said. “We are hoping to make the next one so that it can fold up and get even more compact for travel.”
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