Wednesday, July 24, 2013 —
Jerry Earnhardt has a perfect way of describing what sits out in front of his business.
“Once you see it, you won’t forget it,” Earnhardt said with a smile.
That’s putting it mildly.
Jerry’s Automotive stands out from the other businesses that sit up and down U.S. 52 in Albemarle for one simple reason. And once one sees it, just like Earnhardt puts it, chances are one won’t forget.
Many years ago he came up with an idea that would certainly give his business curb appeal. He purchased a short van from a guy in Stanfield and painted it with Elvis photos. When that novelty wore off a little over a year later, Earnhardt came up with an even more interesting concept.
He designed a green monster that essentially filled the entire van. He says he made the monster out of chicken wire and expanding foam. He then added some other unique touches such as a tongue, eyeballs that shot out of their sockets, wild hair, a tongue stud and even a medallion that the monster wore around its neck. Earnhardt painted it, and it instantly became an attraction.
“I remember these T-shirts when I was a kid that had monsters driving cars on them. Ed Roth is who came up with all of that. I figured, well, I can make a real one,” Earnhardt said.
“It’s probably been that way for 18 years or longer.”
The monster in the van instantly became a sight to see in Albemarle and Stanly County. Much like the big chicken that sits in front of Quality Pawn down the road on Main Street, the monster in the van was certainly something one couldn’t miss. It also proved to be a great landmark for Earnhardt’s business.
“I just figured he looked good in there,” said Earnhardt, a man of few words who’s essentially let his work of art speak for itself all these years.
“I always figured if you ain’t looking at nothing sitting at the light, you look over there and see that ugly van, you might see something you want to buy.”
Earnhardt said the whole process took 3-4 months to complete. When it was done, the monster was peering its head out of the driver’s window. His tongue was sticking out and saliva was flying off it. He had the wild hair and other amenities. One of the monster’s arms was also reaching onto the top of the van to grab a gear shifter.
Earnhardt even had T-shirts that he made with the monster in the van on the front. But he said he gave all of those away years ago.
“I can have somebody call me about a car and they don’t know much about Albemarle. I can say something about the little monster van. They know right where I’m at,” Earnhardt said.
He’s had people from all over who have passed by and wanted to take a picture of the monster in the van. When people weren’t taking photos with their phones sitting at the light, they’d pull into his business and ask if they could take a picture. Earnhardt has said yes almost every time.
That includes people from Australia going to Morrow Mountain and one person recently from Oklahoma.
“I had a guy this morning who pulled in. He was originally from Oklahoma. He wanted to take some pictures of it. I said ‘Go right ahead,’ ” Earnhardt said.
The only drawback to all this fun is the creature has taken on some slightly different looks over the years, most of them through no fault of Earnhardt’s. People have stolen his tongue and eyeballs and messed with his hair. If one takes a closer look, some of the paint has worn off and it’s definitely showing its age in certain spots.
But it’s still a looker, no doubt about it.
“Somebody has stolen his tongue and eyes. What would someone need with his tongue?” Earnhardt said.
To submit story ideas, contact Jason O. Boyd at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email at jason@stanlynews press.com.