Junkyard Outtake: The Name Says It All – Part 1


For this week’s Junkyard Outtake, there’s something special on tap. It’s a junkyard intro, a COAL continuation, and an ongoing adventure – all under a heading that just couldn’t be better.


If you’ve been reading CC for a while, you probably recall this post from several months ago which briefly introduced my perpetual work-in-progress, this 1971 Pontiac Grand Prix. These cars aren’t exactly common, so any chance to find parts is a golden opportunity.


This particular example needed more than a few things upon arrival (and still does, for what it’s worth). Fortunately I have lots of body and interior parts stockpiled, but all its mechanical needs would remain to be found. Chief among them was a motor.

I did have a few around, including a Pontiac 400 from a ’73 Grand Prix which wouldn’t have been terribly out of place under its hood. But this is an SJ, goshdarnit, and it deserves to have all the displacement it was born with.

So it was that I found myself in a small garage in suburban Minneapolis one cold Saturday morning a few years ago, laying down a stack of greenbacks in exchange for several boxes of parts and a hunk of iron wrapped in clear plastic. Once assembled, this collection of parts would be a complete Pontiac 455.

The seller informed me that he’d pulled it from a rather unforgettable car – a ’72 GP that was Sundance Orange with tuxedo interior. It was an SJ, no less; and he suspected it might still be sitting in the same private junkyard where he’d last seen it. I gladly took down all the clues to its whereabouts that I could gather, and went home determined to track it down.

The place was said to be near Brainerd – about 70 miles from me, or 150 miles from Minneapolis. Though I had little to go on, finding it only took me one afternoon.


After getting briefly acquainted with the yard’s owner, I wasted no time finding the car in question. It was an amazing find indeed.


Sadly, many things were missing, and many more were damaged. Rust was minimal (this is perhaps the cleanest non-restored one I’ve seen), but every panel was dinged, dented, or tweaked in some not-easily-undone way.


On the whole, most of what I needed was already gone. But there was still plenty here to add to my attic stash.


Indeed, there was no shortage of odds and ends to be had. But what I really wanted was to take the whole thing – if the price was right. (I did have the motor with this car’s numbers, after all.)


Unfortunately, the owner couldn’t be pinned down on a price. I’d try and try, but he kept on saying that he didn’t know where he’d put the title, and wasn’t sure where to begin looking. I left him my card, and told him to call me (emphasis intentional) once he got his ducks in a row.

Still, I was worried. According to the guy who’d sold me that 455, it seemed the yard owner had a habit of collecting (or perhaps hoarding) old iron around his property. There was said to have been some truly unbelievable things on his lot in the past. But when things got too tight – either in terms of space or cash – in came the crusher, or so the story went. The last reduction in inventory was said to have been an unspeakable tragedy. How long could it be before he’d bring in the crusher again?

After checking back several times over the next few months and being likewise stumped, I decided to lay off for a while. Eventually my checkbacks became a twice-yearly ritual. I’d show up, verify that the car was as I left it, and ask if he’d found its paper; he’d say he hadn’t, I’d insist that he search some more, and leave him with my card.

And so it has been for the past few years. 12 months ago I paid the Prix a visit while on my way north to check out an Avion truck camper (which turned out to be a total basket case). 6 months ago, I swung by after attending a conference at Grand View Lodge, relieved to be in the company of people and cars I could relate to after three straight days of the opposite. And most recently, I dropped in after delivering some non-automotive equipment to a nearby location. Through it all, this tired Pontiac has been patiently waiting.


Fortunately, the yard owner has refrained from crushing thus far. And, with a camera on hand for the first time (half-dead batteries and all), I decided to take some long overdue pictures of the yard and its contents.

But why rush things? Savor this preview now… and be sure to tune in again next week, when we’ll take a peek at all the rusty highlights.


A brief note: Normally, I try not to give away the location of any off-the-map junkyards I visit. Owners are often concerned about drawing the wrong kinds of attention, and customers – myself included – worry about our favorite spots getting picked over… or worse, finding one day that the owner has simply locked the gates out of frustration. (I’ve seen it happen!)

If you’re ever in town and decide to visit this yard, that’s great – but please be respectful. I don’t want to have any awkward conversations similar to “you showed up with your camera, and now I’m being bombarded with yahoos!” So be cool. Stop in the garage and say hello first. Close doors and hoods. Don’t break one part to remove another. Leave the badges alone. Common courtesy… you dig?