Launched to great expectations, Fin-Land theme park falls on hard times.
What a theme park about America’s fascination with big-ass Fins teaches us about today's economy
By Monte Cordoba, March 2015.
Along an elegant walkway lie row after row of once famous Fins, placed for the observant visitor to appreciate all the subtle details of master automotive designers from a time now well past.
How many people once drove these bastions of the space age? How many people could you fit inside these behemoths? Often, 20 or more! What is that odor, stinking up the cramped interior? The smell of high octane pure gasoline and the lack of any emissions! Where did all these people used to cruise? With gasoline at .30 a gallon, anywhere they damn well pleased!
Finhead4ever is guiding the group through Fin-Land, a theme park that aimed to bring to life the Fins of Yesteryear…particularly those from the Chrysler and Dodge factories. Tucked into a small site just outside the town of Cedar Flats, a half hour outside of Eugene, this 5 acre attraction features actual Fins of automobiles from the 50’s and 60’s — animatronics, sound effects and flickering lights included.
Woes of the past and today
The theme park was the brainchild of designer/owner Finhead4ever, who, according to the Oregonian, conceived the idea of Fin-Land in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that he was able to cobble together enough money from hard work and private investors to turn the art of removing the rear half of salvaged automobiles into reality, according to Grandpa Bennett, an automotive expert and consultant for the park.
Lenny Overdrive, a former sales consultant who served as director in 2012, argues that 1950’s Fins — and the park’s orderly presentations of them — have particular salience in today’s world of growing economic inequity. “They don’t age … They’re still true to this day,” he said. “The problem is that now there’s so many of us, original design is sort of hidden away. In the 50’s and 60’s times, great automotive design was so blatantly clear, you just walked the streets and could see Fins everywhere.”
The theme park consists of three areas. There’s the Walk of Fins, a long winding pathway with the rear end of hundreds of famous Fins on display on either side. There’s a typical Service and Repair facility, similarly overcrowded and full of parts, trim, moldings and script; a model of the past times; and an austere classroom where scale models of these wonderful cars of our past line shelf after shelf along with literature and posters from those fine times of the past. The entire tour takes about 4 hours or more depending on your interest in the various models on display.
But as fate would have it, Fin-Land has fallen on hard times. Few people, it seems, want to experience Fins through a theme park. Built on a budget of many dollars, a lot of sweat equity and envisioned by its founder as a rival to attractions like Disneyland and yes, even the LeMay Car Museum, Fin-Land has not lived up to financial expectations and has always just barely eked out enough to get by, according to Finhead4ever.
Since the park opened its doors in 2007, the operators have had to shut down several parts of the attraction. A half buried car had to painted…several times. Several classic creations were put to rest, including a life-size model of a 1930’s Ambulance. Many of the shining chrome displays and bumpers now sit in the dark, dusty and unloved. And then there was the dreaded summer where crazed squirrels tormented visitors ruthlessly. To attract more people, the park even lowered its admissions prices.
“We were at a point where we would just go for volumes [of visitors] in numbers rather than profits,” said Finhead4ever. “So the more people we brought through the doors, the more chance we would have at succeeding and fulfilling another year.”
Ideally, Finhead4ever would like for Fin-Land to find a wealthy benefactor to help fund the attraction’s operating costs, allowing him to open the doors of Fin-Land to the public at no cost.
“I think we must never forget that there are Finned Cars all over the world,” he said. “And to come into Fin-Land actually would show you in a very short period of time how many Cool Fins there were and how many Fins there still are.”
Editor’s note: Shortly following publication of this story, Finhead4ever reported that the Park had been officially closed 4ever and most of the display sold off to a variety of investors with some items going to a collector in Bellingham, and many of the rear ends being sent to California where they will be transformed into classic couches for Man Caves around the USA. Fin-Land is officially closed. It will be missed.