Auto graveyards are sad

I guess every town has a wrecking yard filled with rusting hulks of vehicles. And I guess most people think of them as blights on the scenery. But I find them rather poignant.

Think of those cars. Once upon a time, they were new. They rolled off the assembly line in their shiny paint and sparkling chrome. Or maybe they were from an era where chrome was not used. But they were ‘hopeful things’. The factory’s hopes were pinned on selling a lot of them. The dealers’ hopes were also to sell a lot of them. The buyer hoped to get a new car. Some of these cars were magnificent. Others were boring in the extreme. But they all had something in common: Someone went to a dealership, and out of all of the available cars, they bought that one.

Why did they buy them? When my dad bought a new 1985 Chevy Sprint, it was because it got 50 mpg. It was a logical choice in a time when gas prices were rising quickly. When he bought his new 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 (‘7 Litre’, as it proudly proclaimed on its front fenders) with the Police Interceptor package, fuel economy was the farthest thing from his mind. He wanted a muscle car. My mom chose her 1966 MGB roadster because she liked British sports cars. She was going to get an E-Type Jag, but she had two kids and needed a back seat. (Yes, there was a time when I would fit in the back seat of an MGB!) My first new car was my 1999 Jeep Cherokee. The 911SC was fun, but I needed something that could haul my stuff.

Did people buy that car because it was efficient? Or did they buy that car because of its power? Its comfort? Its handling? Because ‘Aw, it’s so cute!’? Did they buy them because their old cars were worn out? Were their decisions pragmatic? Or did they ‘fall in love’ with that car and just had to have it? Or was it a combination of many factors such as price, economy, styling, etc.? For whatever reason, people bought these cars. They went into a dealership and in many cases made an emotional attachment to that car.

And they drove it. They smelled the new-car smells. They proudly showed it to their friends. They went on adventures. Maybe this car took them to Yosemite, or maybe they made love in it. Mostly, it got them from Point A to Point B.

And then things started to happen. They had a collision. The water pump went out. This went wrong, or that went wrong. Maybe it was just that another car caught their eyes and they wanted it. The car gets listed in The Recycler, The Pennysaver, the local paper, or it gets traded in on the new car. And someone else buys it. They don’t care about the problems. Or if they do, they figure they can live with them. Maybe they can’t afford a new car, or maybe this one is ‘special’ to them. There are as many reasons people buy used cars as there are that they buy new ones.

And so it goes. And so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, goes, goes, goes, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock… [sub]Whoops. There I go, quoting short stories! :wink: [/sub] Older and older the car gets. A lucky few – very few – will be restored to their former glory; but most will continue to deteriorate. Through one owner or many, through collisions or malfunctions, they’ll eventually wind up rusting in a field or at the dismantler. Dismantler. The Wrecking Yard. Here they will be torn apart without pity, their usable components stripped for resale, and their metal shells crushed to be melted down for other uses.

This car was ‘loved’ once. Now it’s a hulk waiting to be turned into a cube of metal that will be thrown with other cubes of metal into a furnace. There’s something sad about that.

I think the same thing. I wonder what could have happened to the car that made the owner just want to throw it out, instead of trying to fix it.

It’s also sad to realize that most of the cars aren’t even that old. I remember reading an article (maybe in National Geographic or something, I can’t quite remember) talking about junkyards. The article went on to say that in many other countries a person would never get rid of a car that was so new, and then it reminds me of how wasteful a society we live in.

I’ll have to ask a friend in the automotive salvage industry what she thinks of it. AFAIK, to her, it’s just “parts is parts” to steal a line from an old auto-parts company ad.

As for “wasteful” - that’s a tough question on so many levels.

Last year, our Jeep was T-boned by a Volvo. Both vehicles were “totalled” - I don’t know about the Volvo, but once the repair writeup got beyond the loan payoff value of our vehicle, the insurance company pulled the plug on any thoughts of repair, paid off the loan, scrapped the car and that was the end of it. I should have asked my friend if any green Jeep parts appeared on her parts locator the next day.

Was the Jeep repairable? Certainly. Economically so? Hardly. The fender and driver’s door were smashed. The A-pillar was bent. The B-pillar was bent. The frame rail under the door was bent. The rear door was dented. Perhaps someone in one of those “other” countries would be willing to whack at the frame to make it roughly Jeep-shaped again, find a replacement door and whack at it all with a mallet so the door fits into the opening. Of course, by the time they get the body back together, they’ll still have a vehicle with 98,000 miles on it, faded paint, and a transfer case that whines like a small child as well as the collection of little this and thats that eventually make you decide it’s time for a new car.

I’ve never had any sad thoughts whenever I’ve been at a pick-your-part lot. You certainly can tell a bit about the people that owned the cars - clean interiors vs utterly thrashed and trashed, or the stray cassette under a seat, or the engines that are coated in gunk vs fairly clean and looking like they’ve been maintained well.

Read and enjoyed.

But sometimes, auto graveyards rawk!

No kidding - that entire OP entirely summarized my obsession with junk. Some say its a madness, others say it’s unhealthy, but I say it’s innocent curiousity. If I see something small and utilitarian on the ground, say whenever I am out walking, I always have to pick it up or take it. Although the street is a fitting end by most peoples standards, more often then not I see fit to reintroduce it to the world.

Oh, and isn’t it interesting that humans can only increase their longivity through the manufacturing and distributing of inanimate objects? After all, humans have such a small time to die, where as the things some create last indefinitely. I have always found that fascinating.

Ok… I can’t be the only one who read this and thought of the scene in the animated movie “The Brave Little Toaster”. It was the musical scene in a junkyard where various cars sing about the lives they led before they became junk, my daughter loves that movie. I agree it is sad… I feel the same way about old houses and antique shops too.

Collectible Automobile magazine has a “Car Spotter” picture column in each issue (bi-monthly) and junkyards are often the subject.

You’re kidding! I thought of that too! (And well before I read your post… in fact, I was thinking of posting it myself!) It is very sad… but amazing. I’ve thought on the same lines about money (paper and coins). Especially, old coins, from the 60s and older. Those coins were actually USED back then by someone, most likely many people, to buy all kinds of things. It blows my mind.

But back to my point: Brave little Toaster ROCKS.

This ties in to your other post Johnny, regarding five dream cars. I mentioned I would like to own a Fuego again after having owned two.
The first was totaled in an accident. I loved that car, unique styling, nice handling. A couple of years after that I bought another. It was never quite the same, needed a lot of work. One day I made a trip out to the salvage yard with my 6 year old son to scrounge for spare parts. I’d called ahead and they happened to have a Fuego on the lot. They weren’t very common cars so I was surprised to hear they had one.

Coming around the fence at the lot it was a bit shocking for both of us. Yep, you guessed it, there she was, that first Fuego. Sitting like an abandoned, broken friend. Even as young as my son was, he was a bit stunned and stood quietly as I did. That accident was disturbing for everyone. I was alone in the car at the time when I was T-boned by an LTD almost double the size of the Renault.
The right side of the car was crushed, the impact so powerful that the passenger seat came over and clobbered me, bruising my ribs. The scariest part actually was the condition of the child seat in the back seat. The impact had driven it to the center of the car. Had my daughter been with me that day…

We eventually got around to pulling off some parts. I pulled off a “Fuego” emblem that was still intact, as a momento. Jay found some small toys of his and his sister’s that had been left behind.

Quite a somber day. A lot of history in that yard.

Check out this site. About 20 years ago I attempted to buy a what was then a decent 69 Chevelle to fix up. The owner told me that it was his high school car and he was going to restore it soon. Today that car is still sitting in the exact same spot and is basically a pile of rust.

I’ve never seen The Brave Little Toaster. What’s it about? (And don’t say, ‘It’s about a brave little toaster.’!)

Classic Motorsports has a section called ‘Ran When Parked’. This month, photo # 4 shows a pair of Jensen-Healeys (a '73 and a '74) in Scottsbor, Alabama. The '73 had bushes growing through it, but the '74 gets started every couple of months.

jimpatro: ‘RWP’ has a phot of a Reliant Scimitar in Calgary. I thought it was a Renault, but a google search indicates Reliant was the maker. (I was thinking of the Renault Reliant.) The guy who snapped the pic is also planning to snap up the car.

There’s also a photo of a Triumph Herald hardtop in Jefferson, TX. (The sender is debating whether he should buy it.)

Yes, cars get old and die. But unlike humans, they can ‘live’ indefinitely if they are maintained and repaired – and if they are not ‘killed’. Isn’t it interesting how we anthropomorphise inanimate objects?

I do the same thing, especially if I see a coin from like the '40s. That coin may have gone to war and back! But then, in restaurants I often wonder how many mouths the flatware has been in.

It’s amazing it was still there. I saw a documentary that said auto wrecking yards tend only to keep their inventory for a limited time before they scrap it – usable parts or no.

I wonder who made the decision to junk the cars, too. Cars that are ‘totalled’ in collisions are obvious. But what about the more or less complete ones? I think it happens like this: The proud owner buys the new car off the lot. Then, longing for another car, he sells it. This person drives the car until he replaces it. And so it goes, hand to hand, until it gets to the fFnal Owner. Maybe the car isn’t running, but he thinks he can fix it. Or maybe it does run, but it falls into disuse. The car sits on the FO’s property, waiting. Maybe it’s kept in a barn, where it will be discovered years later and lovingly restored. But in most cases, not. Like the batch of '70s Mustangs a mile or so away from me, or the '76 MGB just up the block, it will sit in the open. Maybe it will get a tarpaulin, but tarps are little protection in many parts of the country. Like the Mustangs and the MGB, rain and moss will lead to rust. Plants will grow where they can, finding rust-holes and growing through the car – like the '73 Jensen-Healey whose floorboards are now completely gone. And then one day, the owner will die or he’ll sell his property. In the latter case, there’s no reason to take a rusting hulk to his new property. In the former, his heirs probably wonder why the pile of junk is there in the first place. And so a call is made, and the car – once new and loved, once older and enjoyed – is taken to the wrecker.

Or the newer junkers simply might not be economically worth restoring, and bypass the sitting-in-the-field phase to be taken directly to the junkyard. In the '70s, who would have thought a ten- or 15-year-old Impala would be worth anything? Who would think twice about consigning a ten- or 15-year-old Crown Vic to the junkheap today?

And yet, they don’t go entirely to waste. Even with the short time that many cars spend in the yards before they meet Mr. Crusher, many or most of their parts are recycled for use in other cars of the same make – cars that are still on the road and need doners to stay there. Plastic components are recycled (especially in newer cars that wind up in ‘greener’ wrecking yards), and the metal is melted down and re-used.

There’s something about a ‘living’ car, though. Chevy Sprints from the '80s remind me of dad. His spun out on a rainy freeway and hit an abutment – killing his passenger and causing brain damage to him that eventually lead to his demise. Not a happy memory, but it’s there. But mostly I look at an old Sprint and I remember stripping dad’s wreck. It was so easy! It came right apart! And underneath the carpet was shiny new paint, a contrast to the faded exterior that was scorched by the desert sun. I think of how easy the Sprints were to drive, and their excellent fuel mileage. I think of how simple it would be to restore one to showroom condition.

But Sprints aren’t desirable cars. People buy them because they’re cheap (I’ve seen them go for $500 around here) and disposable. The people who buy mid-'80s Sprints nowadays probably don’t have the resources to make them new again. For what they’d spend, they can just buy another well-used car. And so these nifty little econo-boxes will be driven into the ground and then junked. Pick just about any mass-market car, and its life will probably be the same.

Are you my brother? :eek: That’s exactly what he does. He saves everything, and he loves junkyards. I think his True Calling is to run a junkyard. He doesn’t see the past as much as he sees the potential of all those old cars. I think if he could, he’d open a home for Wayward and Abandoned Cars and try to fix them all up. My brothers are doing their share to solve the problem of unloved, homeless cars–they both have at least four old cars apiece, probably more before it’s all over.

I feel sad when I see old houses that are abandoned and falling apart. I love old houses, and I hate when they’re torn down or just slowly decaying. I know sometimes it just costs too much to fix them, but I still wish they could all be homes again.

Maybe I am…

And Johnny, the Brave Little Toaster is an awesome movie, or atleast the original one was. To this day, that is the only movie I have ever cried over, except for a certain scene in the Land Before Time.

With the original, what happened was this family was moving out of their house or going on vacation or something like that. Anyway, the appliances get together and determine to set off and find their owners, hell or high water. They encounter both, actually, before… well, you should see it.

I cried when

Blanky’s photo of the boy got attacked by the ants. Bastards.

Was going to reply, but stopped at “cars in barns” and now need to lay down, with a very large beer.

I would go into business with him!!

Near Fremont, NC there’s a fenced-in lot by the side of the road that contains an abandoned AMC dealership building (complete with sign), and a bunch of abandoned AMC cars. Only a few look wrecked; I’m assuming they all have mechanical problems, or maybe just got too expensive to maintain. In any case, they certainly aren’t the worst looking abandoned cars I’ve seen. Strange that they would all end up back on that dealership lot though. I don’t know when it closed; I’ve always wondered how many of those cars were purchased at that dealer.

I’m a little better now, but not much.

I love the junk yard. I often think like Johnny. I’m even worse in the bike graveyards. I think about what happened to cause this machine, that was once the pride and joy of someone, that made it end up in the junk yard.

That, and I like to steal parts.

About that link to “cars in barns”: :eek:

If this was the Pit, I could really tell you how I feel, and was nearly physically ill after looking at the site. Then I realized that MY YARD LOOKS JUST LIKE THIS PLACE!!

Oh, the horror!

Actually, I have a rotting Ford in the garage, had at one time a rotting Mustang (storing it for a friend) and helped to part out a collection of classic American Iron for my sister (before I knew better) when her husband snuffed it.

Looking at that site made me recognize the repressed memories that just might be the reason I drink so much. I very well could have be responsible for breaking up a Torino GT with a Super CobraJet, 2 Boss Mustangs, a couple Cougars and a Ranchero. :eek: :frowning:

I did manage to salvage a 65 F250 and a 69 Torino GT (which now rots in the garage, to my shame)

Damn right…God, there have been “dead” family cars that I would have buried if I could have.

God, I was just about to bring up that scene, too. I first saw that movie as a kid, and that scene always tugged at the heartstrings.

Still does. :frowning:


Og no! Have you checked with any of the AMC clubs to see if they know about the place? They might not know anything about it and be inspired to rescue some of those cars.

I’m not so broken up about “common” cars like Chevettes or Pintos and the like being crushed, it’s not like they were very good cars to begin with. What tears me up, however, are the rare cars, or perfomance cars getting crushed, or being allowed to rot away. :frowning:

I’ve sent three cars to their graves: 1981 Dodge Omni, 1980 Jeep Cherokee, and a 1988 Lincoln Continental. The only one that bothered me was the Jeep, if I’d have had the money to get the engine rebuilt, I would have. The Omni was destroyed in a wreck two weeks after I got it, and the Lincoln was still drivable, but the electrical system was rapidly going out on the car, and given that any time something went wrong on the car, it was a royal PITA to fix (I had mechanics refuse to work on the thing), I figured that it deserved to go to the crusher. When I dropped it off at the junkyard, the guy told me that steel prices were so low, it didn’t pay for them to crush cars any more, so they just sat around, rusting away. He also said, “You know, we get a lot of those things in [meaning my Lincoln], you got any idea why that is?” I proceeded to fill him in on what I thought of the car, in the most explicative filled manner possible.