Ranger, as he is known, has glued or attached more than 600 toys to the truck he has dubbed TOYNOTA, which will be at the Seattle Art Car Blowout Saturday and Sunday in Fremont.
Ranger Kidwell-Ross’ 1979 Toyota pickup looks like a zany toy store on wheels.
Decorations on the colorful “art truck” include a giant plastic airplane, toy saxophone, hula hoop, Pez dispensers, interactive electronic toys, and a pair of bubble-spewing aquarium tubes resembling the twin stacks on a semi-trailer truck.
Ranger, as he is known, has glued or attached more than 600 toys to the truck he has dubbed TOYNOTA, which will be at the Seattle Art Car Blowout Saturday and Sunday in Fremont. His truck will be among more than 50 art cars at the show, which is part of the Fremont Solstice Fair, a three-day festival that begins today. Other notable cars on display include the Yarn Car, Radio Flyer and ChewBaru.
Kids and adults break into huge grins when TOYNOTA rolls into a festival or car show, Ranger says.
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When he visited a pumpkin toss last year near his home in Skagit County, Ranger made a point to park a good distance away from a popular display of fire trucks.
“Kids were climbing all over the fire engines, but immediately left them behind when I pulled up,” Ranger says with a laugh. “The guys with the fire engines said they’d never seen that happen before.”
The infectiously cheerful Ranger — who sometimes appears in character as the colorful clown Mr. Turquoise — is one of the stars of the Northwest’s art-car community, a creative group of “car-tists.”
“It’s amazing all the different things people have done,” he says. “ChewBaru (a Subaru wagon) is covered with dental artifacts. It’s astonishingly disgusting.”
Ranger, who has a master’s degree in economics and edits an online newsletter for the power sweeping industry, lives in Bow in a forested fantasyland he calls Rangerville. He describes it as an outdoor museum where he hosts art parties for people in his community.
Ranger has always been creative. While growing up in the Grays Harbor area, he attended a one-room schoolhouse.
“We had a wonderful teacher,” he says. “She really would challenge us, especially in the of area of art, to come up with inventive things. I think that was a big factor in my life.”
Ranger believes that art should be accessible to everyone. The idea of creating an art truck, as a kind of rolling version of Rangerville, came at the beginning of the Great Recession.
“I didn’t know much about the art-car world until I decided I wanted to do something when the recession hit,” he says. “I thought, ‘I’m so fortunate, I’ve got a house, I’ve got a job and what can I do to cheer people up and improve their spirits?’ So I went down to the Art Car Blowout and I talked to a bunch of art-car folks.”
Ranger decided to create a toy-themed art truck in eye-popping Easter colors. Kids love to play with the interactive electronic toys.
“People have described the truck as an automatic babysitter,” he quips.
He’s often asked if he worries about toys being stolen.
“Actually, people will leave toys,” he says. “And they’re not attached, so I have to walk around the vehicle every time I display it. Because you don’t want to be driving down the road and have them blow off.”
Since creating TOYNOTA, Ranger says he has fulfilled his goal of lifting people’s spirits. “I’m 64 years old,” he says, “and one of the things I tell people is you’re never too old to have fun.”