David Fambrough’s 1928 Dodge Tarantula
David Fambrough is looking for an exterminator of sorts—not to kill a bug but to remove one. You see, he has a rather large spider in his front yard, and it must be moved before Feb. 17, when he skips town for good and heads to Mexico to begin life as a snowbird.
If you’ve ever driven over the Wells overpass, you’ve likely seen Fambrough’s work. That hulking Volkswagen “Bug Spider” sculpture crouching atop a building on Morrill and Fifth Streets was born of Fambrough’s mind back at the Double Diamond Ranch in the 1970s. Its obvious marker has helped lead many a homeless person to the former shelter (or “bug house,” as some called it), which recently relocated to Record Street.
Fambrough, 56, says he got the idea for “bug cars” from Egyptian art. He looked at a winged scarab and thought, “Gee, that looks like a Volkswagen.”
The Volkswagen Spider’s brother, the Tarantula, is the one in Fambrough’s yard. Its body is a 1928 Dodge coup with Ford fenders and Chevrolet headlights. Its eight legs are sprawling intersections of irrigation pipes. The piece is rusty, but it has a great personality. It was built at the ranch in 1977, one year after he moved to Nevada from San Francisco.
Fambrough says the 1928 Dodge Tarantula was stolen about 25 years ago and was only returned this past summer after he gave a televised interview about his work, mentioning the sculpture had been taken.
At one point, Fambrough wanted to build a whole team of bug cars that he was going to stick huge pins in, 8th-grade-science-project style. He’d already made a “Motorcycle Mosquito” and had ideas for a Hudson Hornet and a Fiat Spider. But then his lease at the ranch ran out, and he moved to his home in downtown Reno, which didn’t have the space for an army of automobugs.
Fambrough, in jeans accented by a western, gold-buckled belt, flannel navy shirt and wearing a gold earring, says that, with moving day so quickly approaching, he’s happy to give the Tarantula away. “It needs a good home,” he says. “Someplace where it will be somewhat protected somewhere and won’t be a problem to the community. Wherever these things go, they do attract a lot of attention.”
Whoever takes the Tarantula will need about 20-by-20 feet of space and, in some cases, city or county approval. Plans to mount it on top of the new homeless shelter and, alternatively, Abby’s Highway 40 bar on Fourth Street, were stymied in part by the city’s aesthetic/architectural concerns—what some view as art, others see as blight.
Children especially “really dig this,” he says of the bug cars. No wonder—the giant metal insects make even adults want to crawl on them and imagine they’re tiny creatures in a magnified world. But Fambrough says climbing on them could damage both the sculpture and the climber.
He thinks the best candidate would be someone with plenty of open land. He’d like to see the Tarantula lurking in an open field along the highway between Reno and Carson City, where people could see it as they drive by.
“I’ve had fun with this stuff,” he says. “To me, this isn’t fine art; it’s fun art.”