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Krekel's chicken car

The chicken car is a distinctive sight parked outside of the Krekel’s Dairy Maid along route 121 in Decatur.

Editor's note: The Herald & Review each day is listing a reason the Decatur region is loved. We're profiling people, places and history that are special to our region — and that make it a great place to live. See more here

Bill Krekel opened his eponymous restaurant more than 50 years ago -- and the iconic Krekelburger was born.

But it wasn’t until later that the idea for the similarly iconic “chicken car” came. A marketing gem was hatched. 

“Anyone who sees that car going down the road or parked in front of the business would think of Krekel's,” Troy Teel, a Krekel grandson, told the Herald & Review in 2014. “That was the idea, and it worked.”

They’re hard to miss. The patriotic cars are painted red, white and blue, with a fiberglass rooster head, mouth agape, and tail behind. While Krekel's may be more known for burgers and custard than chicken, the cars catch the attention of passersby – especially kids.

Indie folk singer Sufjan Stevens even mentions “Chickenmobile with your rooster tail” in his 2005 song “Decatur or round of applause for your stepmother!”

Krekel, whose chain of burger stands has grown to include multiple locations, was known to loan the cars for parades and weddings. His 2003 funeral procession naturally featured the chicken Cadillacs.

“Everybody smiles when they see those cars,” said Teel. “And really, I think that is what Bill Krekel enjoyed most about them.”


Regional Editor

Regional editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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