- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) - On a vacant lot in downtown Franklin, a children’s classic film has come to life.

Where once only ruined cars sat, kids can now spot their favorite characters from the Disney movie “Cars.”

A sporty Nissan sedan has become Lightning McQueen, the cocky but likeable star of the film. A rusty tow-truck transformed into the goofy Tow Mater. Sagging grills and cloudy windshields are given eyes, mouths, mustaches and teeth.

Dan Paris, owner of Recovery One of Indiana, has turned the lot beside his tire store into “Paris Gulch,” a take on the “Cars” hometown of Radiator Gulch. What started as a fun way to decorate a lot full of junked cars has become an attraction for enthusiastic fans of the movies.

“I just couldn’t believe the number of kids who come to see it,” Paris told the Daily Journal (https://bit.ly/1w5JZF6 ). “We’ll be down there at the shop, and there are so many people that come by to take pictures in front of it.”

Franklin resident Debbie Pinnick has heard the stories from her 4-year-old grandson, Mason Werner. Any time Mason is in the car driving through downtown Franklin, he knows the way to go.

Mason has to see his favorite characters from “Cars” in real life, just in case something at the Recovery One lot has changed.

“My daughter, Aly, has to drive him by there. He notices when something changes, like when they put new lights on Tow Mater,” Pinnick said. “You are in ‘Cars’ heaven if you are little when you drive by and see it.”

The cars that Paris has used share a unique back story. Each one had been at his main wrecker lot on South Jackson Street when Franklin was flooded in 2008.

Water ruined each one, and Paris wasn’t sure what to do with them. As a solution, he moved them to the side lot on Jefferson Street, pushed up in a row along the back fence.

“I thought it would be neat to make it look like an old junkyard,” Paris said.

The idea to create a Radiator Gulch came from his nephew, who suggested that the lot looked like a scene from the popular animated movies.

“He said, ‘You need to make those old cars look like the characters from the ‘Cars’ movies,’” Paris said. “I thought that was a neat idea.”

The first car to make an appearance was a beat-up tow truck underneath the front of the building. Paris and his cohorts made it look just like Tow Mater on “Cars.”

“We decorated it up and couldn’t believe how many kids come by to see it,” Paris said. “Whenever we move him inside to put new lights on him, people will start emailing and asking what happened to Mater.”

Some of his employees offered to help create eyes, mouths and expressions for the characters. They were just goofing around and having fun with it.

One car is smiling and sticking its tongue out. An old taxi looks quizzically over its rusted hood. Even the end section of a semitrailer looks out of squinted eyes toward traffic on Jefferson Street.

Paris hopes to have the lot fully set up in time for community events and festivals this coming summer. He’s going to put a few picnic tables in the lot so families can come and sit while the kids gawk at the “Cars” characters.

People can take photos or peek through a chain-link fence around the lot. If they stop into the tire shop next door, they’ll open the gate.

“We’re getting ready to hang a sign out there saying, ‘Welcome to Paris Gulch,’ a play on the town in the movie,” Paris said. “It’s just something to have fun with.”


Information from: Daily Journal, https://www.dailyjournal.net

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