At the junkyard, all is equal. Whether American, German, Japanese, Korean, or British, at the end of the day its value is measured per pound of steel, no more, no less. Even French stuff is treated the same. Oh, and Italian too, except perhaps there’s a little less of it at the weigh-in due to the trail of iron oxide flakes in its wake. No matter if a car was a loss leader at $5,795 Take It Home Today! and abused like a rented mule for two decades or cost $120,000 and with a seat buffed to a high shine before milady’s posterior sits down on it and never driven in the wet (because, of course, they knew what they had), it all ends up in the same place; sitting in the rain, mud, snow, heat, dust, dirt, and whatever other elements there may be. Poked, prodded, cut apart, disassembled skillfully or more often not so skillfully, occasionally photographed, sometimes wistfully examined, and occasionally even kicked or worse by someone with a reason known only to themselves and their therapist or parole officer, which may or may not be the same person depending on circumstance.
But there are joyous moments too.
When a long elusive part wriggles its way to the surface for someone who’s been scouring the plains, both earthen and digital, for eons without success, sometimes said part is hoisted high with pride and a big sweaty smile. At least as often or certainly even more so, an amateur weekend mechanic births an alternator or starter or some sort of widget out of the engine bay of a battered ’99 Impala in order to keep another battered ’99 or thereabouts Impala on the road for just one more season or a dozen, the money saved by doing so versus a new part perhaps going towards new or likely just as used shoe leather for a child. Those are joyous moments for many, even though under that joy much may be broken and often remains so.
Color though is the one item that can’t be broken at the junkyard. Such as the color of the featured Mercedes-Benz R107, otherwise known to non-anoraks as simply “the SL”. This generation of SL was sold for 18 years from 1971 to 1989, produced just less than a quarter million times over that span, two-thirds of them officially made their way across the pond to the USA (and some quantity more unofficially), but perhaps most remarkably it was available in a total of 97 different colors in that span of time. That’s every color in the rainbow plus another ninety! And this, this bedraggled mess of an R107 appears to me to be wearing Blue Green Metallic, or officially Color Code 877, offered between 1980 and 1989.
For sure this SL is broken, and broken is a simply insufficient word for it. This car was located in that nether region “beyond the fence”, a boundary to be trespassed only under pain of arrest or perhaps even lead. Hence photography is limited to any angle able to be achieved either over or through the links of chain. This car has not been in the general population yet, it may never be, and its curious placement neither amongst the gladiators awaiting their turn to be prepped on the left, here being ably held in check by an unlikely leader known as a Dodge Grand Caravan, nor the fighters staged to go in the ring and do battle to the delight of the populace, on the right, being perhaps led by a questionable duo consisting of a Scion xB and a Lincoln Town Car with a rug on top.
Separated that duo will be, not by color or by size, but in this yard by place of birth, or more precisely, by name. The Dodges and Chryslers and AMCs will hold court together, anything FoMoCo will be in its own section, and the General, well, the General will hold a prime spot near the front gate with all of Sloan’s minions, alive and dead. At the back of the lot as it has been for a long time are the Tired, the Poor, the Huddled Masses, the Wretched Refuse; yes, the Ellis Island of the yard, the Import Section. All together as one mass, nose to tail just as they were on that perilous boat voyage, now perched atop welded steel wheel supports looking toward whatever weather or else approaches from the western front while remaining eerily silent and in a tense harmony while yet possessing numerous different tongues.
But color is joy, and amongst the Whites and Blacks and Grays and different yet so similar shades thereof are resplendent forms draped in character, with depth and gloss and sparkle as well, such as of course this Blue Green Metallic (No. 877). The colors aren’t limited to the imports though, oh no, color is homegrown as well and spread far and wide throughout the yard, and not always just as little bursts of pride kept in check amongst the uniformity of the grayscale. Because the yard has history, it isn’t just composed of the new and the now, in fact what was before will come again, as sure as the sun rises ahead of an Alfa in the Import Section and sets beyond the vast emptiness of a plumber’s former GMC Savana a daytime later.
And that color on the outside isn’t all that should be celebrated but also what’s inside; the character, the rich hues and fine craftsmanship laid bare here for all to see and imagine back when it was new once upon a time, the insides of this mechanical being bringing joy and wonder to whomever may have beheld it at that time while the structure even today still somehow holds true to its original ideals, not wilting, not folding, just peacefully waiting, albeit perhaps in silent agony. Or is the agony more that of the admirer?
This vehicle may one day soon go out into the ring for its final 6-8 weeks upon this patch of oil-soaked earth and when it does it’ll perhaps still be able to give more life to another of its ilk by giving yet more of itself, even after being so defiled and already apparently acting as a very deep well from which continued life could spring forth for others. But that day is not today. Today it just rests in that undefined area of the yard beyond the fence where mere mortal non-employees fear to tread.
But its color shall not be denied, it still shines like a beacon through the links, and serves as inspiration to look for the pretty amongst the not so much, even on the grayest of days, as that joy can and does appear in the most unexpected places. Number 877 Blue Green Metallic, I thank you and salute you, for I simply should not have found such inspiration from Anthracite Grey (Number 172, offered somewhere every year from 1971-1989).