Junk Yard Reflections

Even during my early years as a kid, my father always tried to include me in all of his “automotive related” adventures. From fixing cars to motorcycle rides, he would take me with him, as much as possible and two of my favorite destinations were racetracks and junkyards.

While racetracks were a place of speed and fury, junkyards were a peaceful playground.  There I could go exploring on my own, as long as I remain in sight of my dad’s eyes. I could go inside of any car I wanted and try furiously to turn the steering wheels and no one would bother me; or investigate trunks and engine bays to collect souvenirs like bolts and nuts. I had more fun in junkyards than in an amusement park.

As a teenager, I started to develop more deep thoughts during my junkyard visits, I would choose an interesting model and try to imagine the moment that car rolled off the assembly line or the day the first owner walked in the dealership and happily chose it to take home.

As soon as life in Brazil started to get back on tracks during the 1990s, the middle class was again able to afford newer cars and the junkyards business begun to slowly fade away. Unfortunately, another kind of junkyard started to flourish, the “desmanches” .

Desmanches are nothing more than dismantling facilities for stolen cars, where anybody can buy dirt cheap “slightly used” auto parts.

From time to time the authorities decide to crack down this criminal activity but we will never know how deep the corrupted police is involved in all of this.

When my wife and I moved to Canada in 2015, we had once again to start our lives almost from the scratch and that means if we wanted to have a car, it had to be a well-used one.


We bought a 2002 Nissan Altima 3.5 V6. The car is in a fairly good shape and that is how I intend to keep it. Since I have neither a garage nor tools, I had to find someone else to perform its maintenance and I was fortunate enough to become a friend of a very cool guy, another immigrant like me (but he is from Jamaica), his name is Sasha and he happens to be a Nissan certified technician.

Last winter the door latch on the driver side of my car gave up and Sasha thought we could try to find a good one at his favorite junkyard. Wow, what a nice opportunity to visit a real Canadian junkyard!

The place is really well organized, it is divided into two lots, one for “domestic” and the other for “import”. The cars are sitting on top of metallic tubes, a few inches from the ground. It didn’t take too long to find a perfect donor for the part we needed and since Sasha was in charge of removing the latch from the car, I had some time to explore the place. First thing I noticed the lots are not connected and I had no access to the “domestic” side. What a shame because I saw a 4 doors 57 Chevy there but it was too far for a good shot.

The lot was packed with Toyotas, Hondas and Nissan and obviously, I was looking for something different, my first discovery was this Lada Niva, still holding its aftermarket  (I think) set of wheels. The bolt pattern for those rims must be quite odd and that must be the reason nobody bought them.

Lada was quite popular in Brazil back in the early 1990s; it was, like Hyundai and Kia, one of the affordable import brands back then.  Thanks to its off-road capabilities, Niva was Lada’s best seller in the country.

Some people say Lada received help from FIAT to develop its cars and I believe that is true because I can see some details like door handles, pedals and dashboard commands that are exactly the same ones I had on my 1980 FIAT 147.

The next one was a car that I couldn’t recognize until I found the label on top of the valve cover: Rover.

The only thing I know about the car is: It is a British brand. But I bet in no time you guys will figure everything about of this car.

The last interesting find was this Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes were back in the 60s and 70s the luxury brand of choice for the rich guys in Brazil and those cars never lost much of their appeal. That means even if a vintage Mercedes have changed owners during its lifetime, those guys tried as hard as they could to keep the car in good condition.

I believe most of the Mercedes sold during that time are still well kept with lots of love by the owners and the result of this is: in every major classic car meeting in Brazil, one can find truckloads of them  (literally).

Again, I think my fellow CC readers can tell me the year and the model of this one.

Our visit to that junkyard was a nice experience, we found the part we needed, it was cheap and I am pretty sure it didn’t come from a stolen vehicle. But the best part was to remember my early explorations as a kid.

The only difference is now I collect photos instead bolts and nuts.