Dinosaurs last roamed the Earth 65 million years ago, but an appearance by ¿Twentieth Century Dinosaurs¿ will transform Lowe¿s Motor Speedway into a dinosaur drive-in during the April 1-4 Food Lion AutoFair.

Created by New Jersey artist and sculptor Jim Gary, "Twentieth Century Dinosaurs" is the ultimate expression of automotive art¿a collection of nearly life-size dinosaur skeletons comprised of used car parts in a rainbow of brilliant colors.

Twelve of Gary's gentle giants, including a 44-foot Brontosaurus, a 27-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex, bright yellow Velociraptors and a Pterodactyl with an eight-foot wingspan, will stalk the speedway grounds throughout the four-day Food Lion AutoFair.

While there is no mistaking the resemblance of these metallic masterpieces to their flesh-and-blood predecessors, closer inspection reveals more bodywork than bone. Gary turns the entrails of old automobiles into art. Oil pans become heads; leaf springs become ribs; drive shafts are used as backbones; and brake shoes become feet. The result is Gary's artistic interpretation of dinosaurs and a welder's nightmare.

The artist freely admits his creatures are not meant to be scientific recreations. "I never went out and started counting vertebrae," said Gary. "I don't work from pictures or models.

"People are so quick to judge a dinosaur as a dinosaur and not look at the sculpture of it. The way I put it together is what's important. I mean, people don't look at a painting for the paint!"

To make a large four-legged dinosaur, Gary uses parts from as many as eight cars, and ironically, the older and bigger the car¿the better. Gary says extinct models, particularly Chryslers with their heavy forged-steel frames, make the best dinosaurs.

The tools Gary uses are nearly as customized as his creations. He designed and built a crane (from a 1967 Pontiac) to hoist and transport the dinosaurs; crafted special tools to handle hot metal; and converted a 250-gallon tank into an oven to burn oil out of old car parts.

Since 1979, "Twentieth Century Dinosaurs" has educated and entertained spectators from Japan to Australia, and across the United States. And while the appeal of the art may be found in the complexity of its creation, Gary said the reason he builds dinosaurs is simple, ¿People like them.¿

"Twentieth Century Dinosaurs" joins a 40th birthday collection of Ford Mustangs and a display of signature race cars from 20 years of Hendrick Motorsports history as featured exhibits at the April 1-4 Food Lion AutoFair.

Food Lion AutoFair is the nation's largest automotive extravaganza. The four-day event includes a car show featuring various makes and models from more than 50 clubs, thousands of parts and memorabilia vendors and a collector car auction conducted by Tom Mack. A car corral, located on the 1.5-mile superspeedway, features nearly 2,000 vehicles of all makes and models that are available for sale or trade.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.

Contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com for information.