Why did the chicken cross the road?

Portrait+by+Sari+Lesk

Portrait by Sari Lesk

For Patrick Taylor, junior in Business, there is never a dull moment while driving his car. Taylor’s car is not your typical means of transportation. In fact, the only normal feature about the vehicle is that it has four wheels and an engine. 

Designed in Sparta, Wisc., by a fiberglass specialist, the front of the 1993 Ford Mustang is covered with red and white stripes, leading into a design of white feathers with blue trimming and white stars wrapped around the middle of the car. On top sits a huge chicken head with a white feather-printed tail on the hood. 

By looking at the chicken car, the initial question one might ask is, “What is this car and where did it come from?” 

In high school. Patrick worked for “BBY,” a chicken restaurant in his hometown of Dixon, Ill. The owner of the restaurant had the car made so that it could be used for local parades and food deliveries. 

“The owner just got tired of it and was about to send it to the junk yard, and I hadn’t bought a first car yet,” Taylor said. 

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    Without asking his parent’s permission, Patrick impulsively decided to buy the car during spring break of his junior year in 2010. Although Taylor was excited about his purchase, his family was not initially happy about his decision and thought it was a joke.  

    His brothers thought it was a stupid idea but were impressed, his little sister liked it and his dad took a couple of days to realize that Taylor was not going to return the car. Since Taylor has been away at the University, his mother calls to tell him that the driveway just is not the same without the chicken car parked on it. 

    In high school, Taylor didn’t always have positive experiences with being the owner of the car. 

    “I got a lot of crap for the car in high school. People would egg it and stuff, and that was really annoying. It was funny at first, but it started to happen every weekend,” Taylor said. 

    Taylor started to feel that it was not even worth keeping the car because of all the trouble it was putting him through. However, he realized that the positive experiences he had with the car outweighed the negative ones and decided to keep it. 

    “When you hear how you are affecting other people and making their days, it just kind of makes it all worth it,” he said. 

    One of Taylor’s most memorable experiences as a result of keeping the car was when the British band, Mumford and Sons, invited him and the car to go on tour with them. 

    In 2012, the band came to Dixon in late July during a stop over and they heard that there was a chicken car in town. Mumford and Sons reached out to Taylor to inquire about renting the car to take it on tour and decided to ship the car to make sure it could get to Ohio and Oklahoma. To save money, the band’s managers were able to get the TV show “Shipping Wars” to ship it.  

    “They picked up the car in Dixon, and I went home to see the car off. My portion of the show was only a minute long, but I was still able to be on TV which was pretty cool,” Taylor said. 

    After talking to his family, his aunt suggested that he should make and sell chicken car T-shirts to bring on tour. He bought 200 shirts in the same color and sold them for $15 each. 

    He currently sells the shirts in 12 different colors, each for $16.50. 

    Since becoming the owner of the chicken car, Taylor has encountered many strangers who inquire about the unconventional ride. 

    “I have almost witnessed a few accidents with people driving down the interstate trying to take pictures of the car,” Taylor said. 

    There was one time when he found a person standing on his car. 

    “I’ve come out to my car to see people surrounding and taking pictures of it. I fear one day that a drunk person will get on it one day and accidentally break the head off,” he said.  

    Not only does the chicken car visually attract others, it also has made a positive impact on the people who see it. 

    A woman who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer was in the car with her daughter when she saw the car riding past her. Baffled, she asked her daughter if she was crazy or if she really saw a chicken on its hood. The daughter then reached out to Taylor, and he sent the mother a T-shirt to reinforce that she was not going crazy. 

    There was another woman who lived in a nursing home and a friend of hers reached out to Taylor about her riding in a chicken car as part of her “bucket list.” Taylor went to the nursing home and took the woman for a ride in the chicken car. 

    Taylor transferred to the University this past year and did not initially bring the car with him. He brought it down from his home this past November. His experience with the car on campus has been enjoyable so far. 

    “I still don’t think that I’ve gotten that much exposure with it because I mostly walk to class,” he said. “When it gets nicer out and people are walking around, they will see it more.”

    Still, some students have taken notice of the mobile chicken head car cruising the streets of Champaign-Urbana. 

    “I was with a group of friends walking out of my apartment on First and Green when I spotted it,” said Natalie Gannon, senior in AHS. “Our first thought was take a picture of the car. It was the neatest thing to see.” 

    Living in Urbana, Taylor does not think the car gets much attention. Taylor is a member of the Farmhouse International Fraternity and lives in the fraternity’s house. When Taylor drives the car in Champaign, he gets much more attention from students. 

    “We drove around campus turning heads left and right on Green Street,” said Andrew Harmon, Taylor’s fraternity brother and senior in ACES. “The car has a crow horn on it, so we would turn it on while we were at a stop light and make people laugh.”

    Taylor has no current plans to sell the chicken head car, but he said if the price was right, it is a possibility. For now, he jokes with his mom that for when he dies, he would like the chicken head to serve as his tombstone. 

    Teryn can be reached at [email protected].