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.
The shot of the Rover from the rear is jarring next to that seemingly fine Mazda 5. Methinks someone diddn’t understand changing oil means add and drain (yes I had an employee back when who destroyed her car in this same way).
That can depend on the paint, surprisingly. And the insurance company, definitely.
My daughter lightly dented the tailgate and scratched the bumper of her perfectly-maintained ’06 Honda Jazz. Because it was pearl (not merely metallic) yellow, a quality matching paint job would mean removing the glass and respraying everything aft of the front fenders and hood (we were told), so the car was written off.
Not happy? You bet. Changed companies, and now she drives an ’09 Honda Jazz – still pearl yellow. She’s an artist, and loves yellow.
Seeing those two early Mavericks in the opening photo breaks my heart….
My first car being a ’71 Vega, I spent many an hour traipsing around in our local junkyards. Broken Vegas were plentiful then, and my car received a GT dashboard from one donor, as well as a Recaro-inspired driver’s seat from a Monza. A few years later when I started daily driving my VW van, I scouted out all the VW yards in the Atlanta area.
One of the best memories I have was going to a really old yard on the south side of Atlanta with my uncle to find a front clip for his wife’s ’72 Torino wagon, which I later installed and painted for him. I spent a good half-hour wandering the ’50s-60s section of the yard, reveling in the abundance of chrome trim and jet-age-inspired cockpits.
I harvested many a Vega myself back in the day. Stay away from the ’73 GT in row 6, the 4 speed and 3.36 rear are mine…….
You are correct in that broken Vegas were everywhere back in the day. They were so plentiful and the demand for parts was so high that the local junkyard chain opened a yard that had Vegas and Pintos exclusively and it was nearly are large as their Ford, or GM stores and bigger than the Chrysler or import stores.
Speaking of which… Here is a shot I took a few months ago of a Vega at a local old style junkyard. It is on a pedestal for the world to see. Back in the day I had a ’73 GT Kammback the same color as this one. When I first saw it from a distance I thought it might be my old car. But it is either a ’71 or ’72, and is not a GT.
Bring back the 2 door wagons!
Wow, that’s a remarkably rust-free Vega!
Yup. Saggy door. That’s what got my ’72-I slammed it so hard so many times I bent the frame where the door post attaches. Traded it for a Rabbit, and a couple weeks later saw back out on the street, blue trail of smoke in tow. Miss that car.
Scouring junkyards ( er..”Auto Recycling Facilities”) was a regular weekend project during my hot rodding days. I always kept an eye out for new arrivals that might contain a treasure, but you had to act fast. I wasn’t the only vulture out there.
After awhile I got to know some of the regular scavengers and what they were looking for and we’d let each other know of potential jackpots, as they long as they weren’t after the same parts I was. Once you got to know the people who operated the yard most would give you free reign to roam, which sure doesn’t happen much now.
Lada Nivas were well represented within a couple years of their introduction, as far as most Canadians were concerned their best feature was the rear window defroster. Kept your hands warm when you had to push it….
This is where all Mavericks belong.
If they’re above capacity, please divert these Mavericks to my garage 🙂
That looks like Buck’s Auto in Winnipeg to me. I’ve spent way too much time at that place but it’s probably the biggest reason I kept many of my old beaters on the road. There’s nothing like spending a day yanking a mystery tranny for $40 only to have it die months later. You know you spend too much time at the junkyard when they know you on a first name basis and let you know when a “new” AMC in in the yard.
That place always had unique and old treasures. I figure it’s cause people tend to hold onto their worthless junk until they die, then their descendants deal with it quickly by selling it the most ready buyer.
I drove my ’70 Hornet right into that yard, pulled my battery and got $100 for it.
Wow, did I ever spend a lot of time in junkyards. My favorites were the little backwater places that turned their cars over slowly.
Even on recent trips I start looking for one thing then start looking at all the cars like mine for anything that might be an upgrade for me. I need to go searching for some alloy EX wheels to replace the 6 lug steelies on my Sedona.
The Rover is a V8 P6 model. Given the bonnet and the side running lights a 1969-71 North American market 3500S. All the external panels are bolt-on over an integral ‘base unit’ so could be replaced. The Mercedes is the famous ‘fintail’ model very comprehensively covered by Don Andreina here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/automotive-history-mercedes-benz-fintail/
Ah the junk yard. I love going to the two u pick it u pull it junk yards around my way.
You know with a $15 socket set and a few pliers and screw drivers, you would be surprised how much work you can do on your own car. There is no need for a truckload of tools and a garage to do a lot of repair work.
My favorite junkyard was G.I. Auto Salvage in Pine Brook, NJ. Alas, it is no more:
Same view in 1965:
Neat old photo. A good variety of foreign as well as domestic nameplates. I see two Hillman Husky’s like my parents had when I was young.
Dad had a Husky when I was little. I’ve been meaning to write it up…
Great old photo from GI’s! I had heard that there was a lake there which they illegally filled in. Have any more pics?
I miss the independent wrecking yards, particularly those out in the woods. When I was going to college and making money fixing cars there was a small independent that got most of my business. I quickly got to know the guy behind the counter so I did business for cash w/o a receipt, though he would still honor a warranty. My other favorite in that area was out in the woods. It was an adventure going there as there were lots of clearings here and there with 10-15 cars in one 40-50 in another and a few big open areas with lots of cars. They had the only Honda 600 in the county so I made a few trips there when I got mine to fix a few things.
However the modern self serve wrecking yards like Pick-n-Pull are nice. They are connected with Row 52 so you can set up alerts when a particular model is set in the yard so hopefully you can be one of the first. Though I do miss the old card file system used back in the day where each vehicle had a card and they marked off what was sold on each, so the counter guy could tell you what of the major pieces were still there. Tell them you needed something that wasn’t obvious and they would pull out the printed Hollander guide and tell you all the cars in the yard with compatible parts.
With the self serve lots they pretty much only tell you the year, make model and what row it is in. Since they don’t have the online Hollander you have to do the leg work yourself. Personally I use Napaonline for most of that. My E-series has a lot of miles and when I got it the turnsignal wouldn’t cancel on right turns. It is still too new to show up in the self serve lots, so I went to Napaonline, looked it up and then clicked on the buyer’s guide. Sure enough it was only on the newer E-series but it was also used in the last few years of the real Taurus, which are old/cheap enough for the self serve yards to deal in them. Under $20 out the door vs the $80+tax for new.
Similar memories here but from the other side of the pond: it was the UK in the early to mid 90s so that the cars were very different. Most of the places I used were relatively small with the owner more or less aware of where the bits were (we never had anything like Hollander in the UK). Usually one wandered around until the right car/bits were found and then it was one’s job to do the dismantling; you’d only get help with the big bits and then a crusty old crane would sputter into life to pull that engine/box out… These days you come to the counter, tell them what you need and get the part if they have it. Walking around the premises is strictly verboten, what with all liability claims etc.
I so wish there was a junkyard near me, but all of them are over an hour away. I’d have to really want something specific that I know they have to make it worthwhile.
While there are closer ones my favorite JY is over an hour away. Unfortunately they are the type that will more or less just tell you they have a certain yr make model and when it was put in the yard. They usually have a picture available but it is still a crap shoot. They are on row 52 so I’ve got saved searches that inform me when a vehicle of interest is set in the yard.
Great finds at the scrapyard!
Those alloy wheels (made by BWA) were often fitted to Lada Nivas by the importer. So more or less stock. They are 15″ and wider than the base narrow 16″ steel wheel and thus much easier to find tires for. They share a bolt pattern with a few other things but the offset is very different so wheel interchange is tough.
Yeah, the little independent junkyards were much more interesting when I was a teenager, there were lots of 1960’s cars and a few 30’s and 40’s as well.
Also junkyards were useful for determining which girl to marry, the lass who tolerated the “wrecking yard date” was the catch!
That explains why I’m still single…
I did witness probably years ago now, in my earliest junkyarding days a guy bring his girlfriend to the muddiest junkyard in the area, and she was struggling her way through the freshly wet mud with high heels!
Before I got married I tried to convince her we should own a junkyard. She said that would be a deal breaker.
Everyone has limits.
I’ll take the two mavericks.
Auto junkyards where you can enter and freely remove parts on your own are rapidly disappearing here in Canada. Pressured by environmental and safety regs, these places are closing down in place of “auto recyclers” where you are not permitted to enter the lot, and all parts are removed by a professional staff and carefully computer catalogued into a database and stored in a warehouse for sale from a front sales counter.
Pretty soon junkyards as we knew them will be gone forever. Part of me understands this, as I have no desire to crawl around abandoned cars anymore anyways, and part of me is sad that the unique car culture spawned by these places will also disappear.
I thought this story was actually going to be more about the 2 Mavericks in the first pic; it would be interesting to know their story and how they met their sad ending.
I try to get to the local u-pull yard a couple times a year whether I need a part or not. On a sunny day I can kill a couple hours walking the rows. My garden shed has Mercedes and BMW cam covers on the walls, they will sell me just the cover, so I buy them. In this yard the cars sit on stands made of steel wheels welded together in rows of about a dozen. After a certain amount of time the entire row is crushed even if the cars are still complete. Something I never gave much thought to while there is that almost none of the cars have accident damage, people just got tired of spending money on them. In my youth, the yards were full of smashed cars with head-punches in the windshields.
At a certain point, most cars are worth way more in pieces than as a whole. I had also noticed what appears to be lots of decent, drivable looking cars in the junkyards.
Its a shift in the types of wrecking yards. Schnitzer Steel bought up a bunch of yards mainly to ensure a supply of steel to meet their contracts of shipments to China. They are all about moving the steel so they want to be in at a price that makes a profit purely on the scrap value. That is why they set a row, leave it for a specific time and then crush pretty much regardless of how much they have sold. So that means they are buying the cars that are dead in someone’s driveway, or tow auctions rather than the insurance auctions where the yards that deal in late model salvage are doing it the old fashioned way of making their money on the parts they sell.
Yup. Schnitzer bought up all of the local Pick-N-Pulls in the Pacific Northwest, and ruined them IMO.
My local pick-n-pulls now pull all of the tires/wheels off the cars before they get put out and (attempts to) sell them for hundreds of dollars a set. Plus some of the prices border Rockauto ones. And they have added core charges on the most ridiculous parts that NAPA would laugh at. And then added the “environmental fee” tax on top of that. And they all but eliminated the half-off holiday sales and other incentives that used to be there. And they raised a lot of the prices on things, somewhat randomly (check how much they charge for a turbocharger vs. a supercharger, for example).
But I still go there; I’ll probably be there either tomorrow or Sunday morning to go Volvo parts-hunting as there are 11 cars at the two nearby yards that are fairly fresh.
Poindexters two pictures of the same junkyard were interesting. They seem to prove a theme that has cropped up recently.
The modern picture, if taken in the last few years shows a lot of vehicles from the eighties and ninties which would make them 15 to 20 years old.
The 1965 picture a lot of the cars seem to be under the 10 year mark.
They are lasting longer before their final destination!
Actually, the photo was taken in 1995, but I think your observation is true.
Occasionally, something older would turn up at G.I., like this ’58 Olds with factory gold colored paint.
Also a migrant, I love to go to the local wreckers. Having old cars and a penchant to peruse the “bomb/POS” end of Gumtree, it is a must. So far I have been to 4 of them: couple of gold coins, some tools, plenty of sunscreen and you’re good to go.
Down here there are usually 3-4 main sections: Holden, Ford, Toyota, Misutbishi (some of them) and the Imports.
When I was a kid, some of our friends ran a big shop that fitted diesel engines into petrol trucks. We all loved to have “drag races” in medium duty trucks, buses and small trucks. Since they were all stationary, there few risks.
The wreckers provide a wonderful learning experience. I always wonder why the car landed there, if it is not smashed and marvel at how the vultures leave some models literally on the bone.
Some wrecking yard memories:
1) A mate & I were after parts for his then girlfriends Fiat 850. I was pulling something off the engine, and he decided to try the key. Damn thing nearly started! Got my attention really quickly. Must have been a new arrival to have a well charged battery.
2) Chasing parts for our Vauxhall Cresta speedway car ( there’s some words that you won’t often see together) We spot a likely donor, on top of four other cars,so up I climb.
Got into the Cresta and it started to sway. At that point I decided to look for lower hanging fruit……..
I love scouring junkyards for goodies. CoPart and other salvage pools were fun when I was an insurance appraiser too.
I was in a junkyard one day, and was SHOCKED when a huge whitetail buck came bounding out of the brush between two cars and ran right past me…had my undivided attention!
This was an enjoyable read. Unfortunately all of the pick-your-part yards are long gone in my area. All of the ” auto recycling” yards are now basically used parts stores. Most rarely even allow customers into the yard. Plus, it’s been years since any of the yards around here kept parts for something much over 10-15 years old. I do remember going out to Manitoba about 15 years ago and there were lots of 70’s cars still kicking around in the yards at that time. I got lots of good parts on that trip.
I have a lot of fond memories of going to the junkyards with my dad. He always went to pick-your part yards for our daily drivers. I’d have fun exploring around the yard while dad worked at getting whatever part he needed that day. I remember one yard we frequented had a ’62 Pontiac Parisienne that was surprisingly intact. To my young eyes it was too good to be in the junk yard. I played in the car many times while dad picked parts. I also ended up taking off several parts as keepsakes, that dad grudgingly paid for. I had those parts for many years afterwards well into adulthood, until they were destroyed in a fire.
Going into junk yards in the early 1960’s was great .
Lots of 30’s cars, usually rusted out .
Foreign cars too from that first wave of popularity before folks discovered that the average Joe Wrench down to the corner Flying A station couldn’t fix it, then plenty got scrapped that needed minor tinkering to be good daily drivers .
I like to buy my vehicles at junkyards because often they’ve never been hacked or bodge repaired .
As soon as I was able to get out of the wheel chair this Winter, I did much of my P.T. in the local pick-a-part yards .