Tales From The Junkyard: The Gift Of Life

Junkyards. They're the unsung heroes of car lovers. They help us keep the cars we rely on running cheaply and rebuild the cars we love. Every car guy has a tale from the junkyard. Here's one of mine.

I live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts — a land of pilgrims, the Kennedy family and rampant Soviet-style socialism. Another thing we are known for, though perhaps not as famously, is rust on cars. If Alameda, CA is the island rust forgot then Cape Cod is the cape that rust remembered and liked so much it decided to summer there. With summers spent driving on the beaches, salt-caked winter roads and salt air all year round, older vehicles don't stand much of a chance.

I knew I would have to go off-Cape when, almost ten years ago, I decided life could not be complete without a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. In a decision that I have lived to regret (we'll save those stories for another time), I bought a car from northern New Jersey covered in, you guessed it, rust. Now all I required was a dry air-huffing 1957 Plymouth to use to Frankenstein my rust-bucket together.

I finally located a suitable donor in a Southwestern junkyard. Calling them up, the yard scrappers agreed to perform an immediate emergency ampu-parting, slicing off almost half of its body and most of its chrome trim. The yard shipped it off, allowing me to stitch my Northeastern car back to life.

Nine years passed.

Driving across the Southwest with three friends, I decided the time had come to find the donor that gave much of itself so my car could live comfortably in a garage under cover, waiting out a Massachusetts winter. It was time to pay my respects.

We pulled into Desert Valley Auto Parts in Phoenix, AZ. I was in heaven. Rust-free American cars in various states of disrepair everywhere I looked. Some were project cars waiting to be saved. Most were parts cars in the process of being disassembled. But even the parts cars were almost entirely rust-free.

After three hours of dragging my willing but largely uninterested friends around the junkyard before I determined that the car in question was not there. When I inquired about the possible whereabouts of the car I was met with a very polite response that it could be in their other junkyard in Casa Grande, AZ which was about 80 miles away. One look at my friends told me that their tolerance for my junkyard automotive sentimentality tour was wearing thin. A 160 mile out-of-our-way round trip? Out of the question.

Some friends.

The next time I had Internet access I sat down and realized what the DVAP employee had either been unaware of or unwilling to tell me; the brave 1957 Plymouth that gave its parts to my baby was gone, probably for years.

My friends weren't willing — or wanting — to help me further in a quest to find my gift of automotive life donor car, but it doesn't mean I didn't enjoy those few, fleeting hours in that Phoenix graveyard. Enjoy it with me in the gallery below.

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