Old fire-breathing dragon returns home | SteamboatToday.com

Old fire-breathing dragon returns home

Gail and Charlie Holthausen said goodbye to Phoenix, the fire-breathing Dragon, this winter.  They’re hoping the return of an old friend; however, will make the absence of the popular, one-of-a-kind art car a little less noticeable during this year’s Fourth of July celebration.

"It's great when you sell a piece of art — and this is art. Maybe not a standard piece of art, but it is art," Gail said Thursday while working on the couple’s latest project. "When you sell something like that (the dragon), sometimes you go, 'Oh wow, I still kind of want it.'"

The Holthausens’ latest dragon was purchased by the same person who bought the couple’s first dragon, which was created by the couple at their home in Elk River Estates in 2014. The owner had painted the dragon purple, added state-of-the-art, weather-proof speakers to the outside and switched the older model Nissan pickup truck that powered the creation to an automatic transmission instead of a manual transmission.

But when the man saw the Holthausens’ latest dragon he made an offer, and the dealing began. The man didn't want to pay the asking price, so Charlie came up with a compromise that worked for both parties. The man could buy the new dragon at a reduced price, but the Holthausens’ original dragon would come back home.

"Who needs two dragons anyway?" Gail said. "The person that wanted the second dragon didn't want to have two dragons, so we were like, ‘let’s take the dragon.’ It's not rational, but it’s all about the emotions."

Charlie admits that the second dragon was a little bit bigger than the first, and he just didn't have the space to store it. He also couldn't resist a second chance at the first dragon he had built.

Recommended Stories For You

Charlie said the car will be restored to its original red color, and the original paper mache covering will be replaced with fabric from a trampoline, which is much more durable. Gail worked with a company called Gothic Arch Greenhouses, Inc. in Alabama, which donated the material for the wings, and the refurbished dragon will have smoke coming from the nostrils, and a head that tilts back when the dragon spits fire.

"We have learned a lot since we created that dragon," Charlie said.

This year, the Holthausens aren’t planning on making their traditional stop at "Burning Man" event in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, but instead, are working to restore the car they built in 2011, so it will be ready for its regular appearance in the Fourth of July Parade. It will also make an appearance at the Artocade Art Car Festival in Trinidad, where the car will become part of the Bizarre Car Garage — a museum showcasing art cars and mutant cars.

The couple has invested about 360 hours into the project during the past month and will be putting in some late nights the next few days to make sure the car in ready for the parade.

Charlie, who retired after selling Black Diamond Automotive more than 14 years ago, said creating the cars is a joint effort he enjoys taking on with his wife.

"She's the artist, and I’m the mechanic," Charlie said. "We've have had a lot of fun with it over the years. We are 'mini' heroes at Burning Man, and we love downtown Steamboat — holy smokes. We get a special reception here."

Charlie admits that it's a lot of work, but he is hoping that the couple’s latest creations, or at least the latest update, is greeted with cheers as they make their way down Lincoln Avenue next Tuesday.

"I love that moment when you turn the corner, and all of a sudden all those people go, 'Wow,’" Gail said. "It's a lot of fun."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966