Many vehicles towed off the streets of Alameda go to a tow-truck company's yard in nearby East Oakland, where they get auctioned off each Tuesday morning. When I heard that a white Amazon sedan was spotted in the yard, I suspected it might be a car I'd featured in the Down On The Street series. Sure enough, it turned out to be this battered but plenty solid 1966 Volvo Amazon sedan, which once lived just a couple of blocks from my house. Since it lived in a parking-challenged downtown neighborhood, enraged neighbors probably caused it to get ticketed and then towed away; such is the fate of street-parked project cars that don't move for weeks on end. At that point, the owner must pay for hundreds of bucks in towing/storage fees, plus all back tickets, in order to get the car back… and this Amazon's owner couldn't or wouldn't do so.
So, there it was at the auction. The transmission appeared to be stuck in gear, which explains the chunk of wood propping the clutch pedal down, but the car was complete and probably wouldn't need much to get back on the road again.
Most of the potential bidders were more interested in the late-model runners than ancient Swedish sedans, so I was concerned that the Amazon might fail to attract any bids. In that case, the next stop would be the self-service wrecking yard about a mile down the street.
As we've seen, there's been a real rash of perfectly serviceable Amazons winding up in local junkyards lately. Very sad.
Even though I don't have any room for another car, I showed up to this auction with enough money to meet the minimum bid (which is pegged to scrap prices; Pick-N-Pull now pays $175 for a junk car, so the bids at this auction start at 200 bucks) and a commitment to rescue this Volvo in the event that nobody bid on it. What would I do then? Who knows- maybe sell it to a 24 Hours Of LeMons team. The important thing was to keep it from The Crusher's jaws!
The bidders were in a tizzy over this extremely redneck-ified Mustang, which had a pretty healthy-sounding small-block and several hundred pounds of Bondo beneath its backyard-applied candy paint. Because it had some good parts on it (including a near-perfect dash and instrument cluster), it went for $1,600.
Want a running Mercedes-Benz W123 diesel? 200 bucks took it away!
This isn't your typical high-tension car auction; only a dozen or so cars go under the auctioneer's non-existent hammer each week. The tow-company dudes running the operation crack jokes the entire time, and the auctioneer's words are barely audible over the scream of passing BART trains.
Shopping for a speedy red Eclipse? For you, my friend, $550!
Even the total basket-case Datsun 280Z managed to attract the $200 minimum bid, no doubt from a buyer looking for a parts car.
Then the Amazon's turn arrived. There was a long pause after the bidding started, and I'd resigned myself to finding a place to park an unregistered, non-running Amazon at my place… but then a buyer stepped in with a 200-buck offer. Rescued!
And look what was parked behind my car when I left!