Oh, how a trip to the junkyard has changed
Tuesday, June 06, 2017
When I first got into cars back in high school, one of my friends offered me a ride to the local junkyard to pick up some used parts. I had never been to the yard before, and it turned out to be an amazing experience.
Back in 1980, I needed a few items for my newly acquired '70 Challenger, so I jumped in his Buick Skylark, and we made the trek to Norwalk, Connecticut, where three automotive junkyards awaited my visit. The places were a mess with stuff everywhere.
There was an old guy at the desk. We told him what we were looking for, and he waived us in. We were armed with our portable toolboxes, so we set out to find the many treasures that lay ahead.
Upon entry, I recall taking in the place. It was amazing. Cars of all types were stacked up three high, engines in one corner, tire and wheels in another, doors over here, fenders over there. It was a mess with just a semblance of organization, but I was like a kid in a candy store.
I set out looking for the Challengers and, after finding one, went to work removing my needed parts. When we were done, we brought our pulled parts back to the old guy who gave us a reasonable price, which we happily paid in cash, and headed back home to install our items on our rides.
For the next 10-plus years, I would make regular trips to the yards to pick up parts. They always had a new stock of muscle cars to pull parts from and keep the machines at home going. As I look back and think of the cars we stripped parts from, it makes me cringe knowing what they would be worth today. Still, those were great times.
I recall visiting junkyards in upstate New York. Unlike Connecticut, they never crushed the cars in upstate New York. They just moved them further down the hill and had cars at the yard that had been picked at for 50 years and were still providing parts. It was something to see.
Many years have gone by since those fun days in 1980, but with my new Matador 968 project I found myself again in need of some used parts. Heavily distorted from the rear-end collision, the car needed a driver's quarter panel and a rear tail section.
Sure, I could go new, but new parts are very expensive. I knew the chances of finding what I needed in great condition on the used market were good, so I set out shopping on the internet. I wanted to find what I needed locally to save on shipping, and sure enough I did.
When new, RS820729 was a beautiful 1994 968, painted in the striking Iris Blue metallic and paired with the marble grey/black interior (one of only five made). However, sometime in 2014 fate intervened, and it suffered a fatal front-end collision.
Sad as she may have looked, her future was determined with the many great conditioned parts she contained, including a mint-condition rear clip. She was sold by an insurance company to an auto recycling center in Lancaster Massachusetts.
I spotted RS820729 on the net and made the call to inquire if the parts I needed were available. They were, so I planned my visit. I contacted Larry at the center and told him I was borrowing my brother in-law's truck and would be up to pick up my needed parts on Thursday. Larry informed me that was not the way things worked.
It was then that I made the first of many modern-day "used car part purchase" revelations.
Larry told me I would have to come up first (two-plus hour drive one way), inspect the part, discuss exactly what I needed and pay for the part. Then, they would call me in a couple of weeks when it was ready to be picked up. Well, that's a pain and certainly not the way "it used to be done," but what could I do? They had the part, and I had the need so I followed the process and drove up.
Now for revelation No. 2. I pull into the place and, oh my, do I have the correct address?
The place is beautiful. The parking lot is neat, the building is neat — it is even landscaped. No parts hanging around, no cars ready to be processed, not even a junkyard dog! I checked the sign, and it had the correct name, so I must be at the right place. I parked and walked through the clean glass door,s and what's next?
Revelation No. 3: Cubicles, just like at my employer. Sure, there are a few automotive-related photos on the wall, but the place is neat and filled with cleanly dressed staff armed with headsets and computers and talking to people on the phone.
A friendly receptionist greets me and then calls Larry who tells me to walk through the door on the side and meet him out back. As I open the door, I am presented with Revelation No. 4, an amazingly neat and organized yard of wrecked cars. They are all sorted and no longer stacked.
We get into the yard vehicle (a fairly late-model Ford SUV) and proceed to drive back to the Porsche section of the lot. As we pass the rows of organized and sorted wrecked cars, Larry explains that they have 54 acres of inventory. Everything is cataloged and inventoried so they know exactly what they have, and they sell to people all over the country every day. They specialize in European-only vehicles, and the city of Boston regularly furnishes them with fresh inventory.
We quickly and efficiently made our way to the Porsche section and RS820729. The car was already pretty well picked but still holding that beautiful quarter and tail section needed by my Matador 968 project. It was sad to see the RS820729 in this state, but I could find solace in the fact that the donated parts would be put to good use on other 968s, including mine.
Larry and I discussed the needed parts and where the cuts would need to be made. There was no time allocated to explore the yard and see the other wrecks. We had the needed info, so we drove back to the office where I paid for my parts and then headed home.
A couple weeks later, Larry called and informed me that the parts were ready to be picked up. My brother in-law was in the area and picked them up for me, and now they are at my house awaiting installation on the Matador.
It was amazing how my "used car part" purchase experience has changed between 1980 and 2017, but in the end I still got what I needed. I'm thankful I had those experiences back in 1980 as the 2017 transaction wasn’t nearly as much "fun." But in our current environment of insurance oversight and computer-based control, I guess this is the way it has to be. However, I do feel sorry for that "now out of work" junkyard dog.
Now, to get that quarter panel installed ...
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