With no art background, Anders starting creating his whimsical sculptures from car parts back in the late 70s. He first created “Dino”—a 30-foot long, 8-foot tall Brontosaurus, inspired by the large automobiles of the day—the Pontiacs and Buicks that were called dinosaurs because of their size and fuel consumption. The sculpture is mostly made out of control arms, rocker arms, leaf springs and a piece pipe for the spine.
The Dino sculpture is located in the city park with two other of his projects, a millipede made out of car wheels and a 40-foot-long praying mantis. Two of his sculptures are located alongside the highway, beckoning passersby to stop awhile and visit Anders’ small town, population 3,400, located in northern Jones County in West Texas.
His favorite and “most fun” piece, he says, is his ‘97 Chevrolet pickup. Street legal, the vehicle has two front ends. Anders enjoys driving it around town and it’s been dubbed with a couple of names: “Coming And Going” and “Push Me Pull Me.”
Anders’ largest metal sculpture is his calling card—a 25-foot tall T-Rex that guards the front of his shop and makes his business easy to spot. It took Anders two years to build it during his spare time. The T-Rex is made out of leaf springs, oil pans, rocker arms and control arms out of various pickups and cars.
Over the years, Anders has created six metal sculptures, including a giant spider, 60 feet across and 25 feet high, that sits alongside U.S. 277, looking spooky at night with glowing red LED lights for eyes. A 1957 or 1958 Isetta car serves as spider body and the legs are drill pipe.
His latest piece of artwork is called “Bedlam” and is his version of Stonehenge. Made out of damaged and discarded pick up truck beds, he and his friends lined up 12 truck beds in a circle, trying to make it look like face of a clock. The truck beds were buried upright 18 inches into the ground and poured in concrete. The sculpture has become a place for the kids to graffiti, which is OK with him because it allows young people to come out and spray paint without harming anything. A tall cross made of chrome wheels stands in the middle of the pickup beds.
For his next project, Anders is planning to create a huge Texas black beetle, also known as the stink bug. He will use an older Volkswagen and build legs from drive shafts and feet from brake shoes.
As mayor of his town and a business owner, Anders doesn’t have much free time.
“Operating a business and taking care of stuff, you don’t have a whole lot of time for it. I just do it in my spare time,” he says. “My dad was a city council member here for 12 years and he passed away in 1994. In 1996, I got talked into running for a spot on the council and I’ve been the major for the last eight years.” As mayor, part of Anders’ job has been to clean up and beautify the city.
Anders has lived in Stamford his whole life. In fact, he lives 100 yards from where he was born. “I wouldn’t live anywhere else. You know everyone by first name and they know you. It’s a good feeling.”
Anders’ paternal grandfather, Fay Anders, arrived in Stamford in a covered wagon in 1923 and opened his first business, called “Limp In, Leap Out,” making minor repairs and fixing flat tires. From the late 1930s to the mid 1950s, Fay’s Wrecking was one of the largest wrecking yards in the entire Southwest. His granddad’s shop burned in the 1950s and his father opened another one down the street. His granddad had six boys, all who were in the body shop business, two now retired and the others have passed on. When Johnny Anders graduated from high school, his father tried to get him to go to college, but Anders just wanted to work on cars. Anders took over the business after the death of his father in 1994, and now he’s the only one left keeping the family business alive. Anders has a son and two daughters, all who have followed different career paths.