About 18 years ago, I went to Florida to visit my grandparents. While we were down there, my dad and I escaped from the rest of the family for a bit, and found ourselves at a local junkyard. I remember very little about that day, except for a glorious pair of convertible Packards that we found. When we first entered the yard, we exchanged pleasantries with the yard owner and wander through the dusty gates. Sitting right before us were two 1948 Packard convertibles that looked like the had been off the road for quite a while, but probably not at that junkyard for long. They weren’t in bad shape overall, and had beautifully patina. Back then, patina would have been removed immediately. These days it would have commanded top dollar. Sadly, we had zero room for a set of gigantic Packards in our driveway back up in Massachusetts. So, much to my chagrin, we left them behind. Since that day, there has always been a spot in the back of my mind, yearning for one.
Today on eBay is exactly that, a 1948 Packard 2 door convertible. It actually looks extremely similar to the mental image of them that is branded in my mind, though a little worse for wear. This one is for sale for $6500, and looks surprisingly solid. If it were mine, I would drop a good running engine in it, some nice brakes, a decent bench seat, a new windshield, and drive the heck out of it. What can I say, I just love that barn woods-fresh look.
Junkyards are the final resting place of failed invention. For those of you that frequent junkyards, I certainly do not need to tell you about the types of brilliance that can be found behind their prison-like chain link fences. See, junkyards aren’t just about crashed cars; their awesomeness is far deeper than that. Obviously there are a plethora of cars that are so horrifically crashed that they instill the fear of driving into you that you will never forget. Then you see rows of burned-out motorhomes. In tough economic times, as if by magic, those rows seem to grow. Coincidence? Hmmmm. Around the outskirts of most junkyards is where you typically find the really old stuff. Everything from old cars and trucks to farm equipment and machinery. But we aren’t talking about any of that today. We are talking about inventions.
These inspirational inventions in junkyards are almost always unfinished projects that were likely fueled by acetylene, oxygen, a bit of argon, and most of all, alcohol. We all know that if you take two great things, and put them together, you obviously multiple the greatness and get something twice as nice. Right? Well, junkyards prove this because the merging of great things just so happens to be the most common invention found. Take this “Willy’s-Jeep-Nissan-Plow-Tow-Offroad-Truck” from the 80’s for example. It features an 86 Nissan D720 up top, and what I believe is a vastly shorter Willy’s Jeep chassis and suspension below. It’s a win from every angle.
Now, you are probably asking: What about the projects with less than 4 wheels though? Do those end up here too? Ofcourse they do! The junkyards don’t discriminate when it comes to great inventions. Here we have this “Lawnmower-Scooter-Moped-Trike” for a 3 wheeled example. I have always thought that my lawnmower had too many wheels. Sadly, the previous owner of this super mower trike didn’t put it into production so that we all could reap the huge benefits of the rotational weight savings.
Oddly enough while at a swap meet over the weekend I spotted an invention that is strangely similar, yet equally genius. Naturally there were a lot of comments like “Geeze, my (husband, wife, mother, son, grandmother, etc) could really use this thing!” So was it purchased? You’re darn right it was! Sadly, I don’t know the purchase price. We can only imagine that an invention of that caliber must go for top dollar. Will it be a failed invention found in the junkyard someday? Who knows.
For those of you that don’t find yourselves loafing through the ever glistening, questionably non-freezing mud of your local salvage yards, I would like recommend letting down your hair and taking a stroll through. It is a bizarre world out there, and the salvage yards are hiding the physical proof of it. After all, it is the resting place of failed invention.
I would expect the editor of any automotive blog to have owned and driven a massive number of vehicles to give some kind of legitimacy to the blog itself. For that reason, I feel that it is my duty to the readers to own and drive as many vehicles as possible, and for that, I thank you. Between my own personal automotive obsessions and working as a technician, I have driven hundreds of cars, each with it’s own intricacies, oddities, and personality. How trustworthy are my gearhead opinions though? Why continue on this automotive journey with me if you don’t even know where I have been? I think at this point in our internet relationship, it’s time that you learned about the triumphant rise and epic fall of my first daily driven vehicle. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really loved that truck more than I can explain. Something about it was special to me, though I am still unsure of what.
When I was 15, I had about $500 to my name from dogs chasing me my newspaper route days, and I knew that the pinnacle of life was knocking on my door. I was getting my license soon. Sure I already owned 1 car, which will undoubtedly come up in future musings, but I needed a car that I could actually drive daily. A car that moved under its own power, maybe something with wheels and a running engine. After harassing my parents for a while, they finally agreed to let me get a second car a little early. (Thanks Mom and Dad). I immediately ripped through the “Vehicles for Parts”, and “Antique Autos” sections of the local Want Advertiser searching for the perfect older car to drive daily. A Dart would be cool, I thought aloud… or maybe an Iroc, OH how about a 1939 Studebaker, that would be really cool too..
The weeks steadily passed and my parents shot down every dumb idea I had, thankfully. Then my mom came home one day and said that a person that she knew had a 1987 Dodge Ram 50 for $500 that needed some work. Initially, I wasn’t so sure, but within a day or two I had found pictures of some Ram 50’s in MiniTruckin magazine that made me fall in love. I scrounged up every last penny I could find, and I bought it. It was the beginning of a very special relationship.
The first thing I did when I got it home was to rebuild the carburetor. That’s what you’re supposed to do right? It took a few tries, but I got the carburetor back on the truck and got it running again, albeit only slightly better than before I had touched it. Nevertheless, I pressed on. I changed fluids, fixed exhaust, and even fixed the leaky power steering. After an eternity (a few weeks) had passed, I got my license and began driving my newly improved Ram 50. We quickly became great friends, and each weekend, I would spend endless time improving different areas of her:
– Removed rust and rot
– Straightened all the metal
– Added bucket seats
– Lowered 3 inches
– New tires, polished chrome wheels
– Absurdly loud stereo system
– Tinted window
– Bug guard (they were cool then)
– Tonneau cover
– Custom frenched license plate in the tailgate
– Painted neon green brake drums and calipers
The Epic Fall:
It was beautiful on so many levels, and perfect for cruising the beaches. Rust free, dent free, and just a really astonishingly clean truck. Although the local law enforcement were not fans of my tailgate, it really did set my truck apart from the rest. Mine was special. After about a year of driving the truck, I began thinking irrationally. For some unknown reason, I decided that I could not handle the slowness of the truck any longer, and I needed a faster vehicle. What an idiot! I put the truck on the front lawn for sale for $1000 obo, and a guy I knew gave me $800 cash for it. He then drove away my original $500 purchase price, about $1000 in upgrades, and thousands of hours of making it perfect. All because I was an idiot.
Years pass, and the truck vanishes from sight and everyone’s memory but my own. It was only a year after selling it that I had realized the mistake that I had made. I constantly dreamed about turning back time, but without a Delorean, I just couldn’t. I jumped from one car to the next to the next, desperately trying to find the magic that my little Ram 50 and I once had, but the magic just couldn’t be found. It was gone for good.
Months turned to years, and my brother and I needed something to do one hot summer day. We decided to challenge the junkyards in a game of mud, oil, and grease. It was always a great time and would have been again, but destiny had other plans. There she sat, my beloved 1987 Dodge Ram 50. Smashed on every corner, missing wheels, and another truck sitting on her roof. I felt sickened. Something I had worked so very hard on was now crushed right before my eyes. It was truly an awful feeling that I would not want any other gearhead to go through. I reluctantly approached the truck knowing full well that I had done her wrong. A silent heart felt apology was in order as I slowly meandered my way around the back of the truck. My custom tailgate, the green drums, the lowering blocks, the interior, the tint. It was all still there, just horrified in every sense of the word…. I spent a few minutes thinking about all the great times we had, snapped off some pictures for memories, and then shamefully walked away.
Amazingly, this saga didn’t end that day in the junkyard, but “The Reincarnation” is a story best left for another day. Anybody interested?
Every car in Massachusetts is rusty. Whether you have a 1955 Lincoln Capri or a 2010 Chevy Camaro, in the North East, your car’s destiny is rust. Now, if the nice cars are rusty, just imagine what the vehicles in our junkyards look like. They are absolutely horrifying at best. In the time that it takes to remove a junkyard fender, it often erodes itself back into dirt right before your eyes. Bolts? HA! After 1 year (so… 2009 models at this point), all bolts become permanent. At the 2 year mark, the bolts don’t even look like bolts anymore. They become round rusty buttons that can only be removed by breaking the head off with Vise-Grips. It is truly an awful experience. Thank goodness for torches, Sawzalls, sharp drill bits, and tetanus shots.
Arizona cars on the other hand, are better in every possible way. Rusty cars (New England style) just don’t exist out there. What they consider a junkyard car is usually “flawless” in my opinion. The nicest cars I personally own aren’t as clean as what is found in their junkyards. It’s quite sad really. Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure of working on several classic cars from the South West, and I laugh like the village idiot the entire time I work on them because I can’t believe that the bolts come out. Underneath the AZ cars, the original hydraulic brake lines and parking brakes cables are often still there and working. It is a gearhead fairytale.
Let’s do a comparison, to see who the real winner is. Massachusetts on the left, and Arizona on the right. Ding Ding Ding. FIGHT!
Sure enough, Arizona wins with a KO, as expected. If you want to restore an old car, just buy a rust free body from someplace dry. It will save you thousands of dollars, trillions of hours, and a Tetanus shot.