By on December 20, 2012

I’ve loved high-turnover self-service wrecking yards since I used to hang out at U-Pull Auto Wrecking in Oakland as a teenager in the early 1980s, and so it makes sense that junkyard-related stuff became so central to the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™. During the last year, as my Junkyard Find series has evolved into a near-daily thing, I became increasingly curious about the life-cycle of the vehicles in these yards. A new row of fresh cars appears one day, replacing one that was put out a few months before, and that’s all I knew. Then, earlier this year, I was able to convince the brass at U-Pull-&-Pay Self Serve Used Auto Parts to give me a behind-the-scenes look at their operation, and I chose to follow the trajectories of two cars I thought would be typical junkyard inmates: a 1991 Honda Civic Si and a 1994 Toyota Camry XLE. I visited the auction at which they were purchased, I documented the pre-yard preparations, and I visited both cars every week for their three-month stint as parts donors. After that, I watched them get fed into the cold steel jaws of The Crusher. Here’s how our Civic and Camry spent the final months of their lives.
It all started last winter, when I found this ’78 Chrysler Cordoba at a self-serve yard near Chez Murilee in Denver. This fine example of Malaise Era personal luxury had a genuine Corinthian Leather bench seat in excellent condition.
So, I went back, bought the seat, and made it into a very comfy garage couch. In that tale, I’d mentioned some unpleasant experiences I’d had with certain California self-serve yard employees, experiences that make me reluctant to ask for help— say, moving a junkyard welded-wheel jackstand that made Cordoba seat bolts difficult to access— from any junkyard employees. The folks at the yard that provided the Corinthian Leather seat have always treated me well, so I had no complaints there… but then I got an email from a TTAC-reading employee at the corporate HQ of the chain that owned another Denver yard that has provided many Junkyard Finds: “I think you frequent our Aurora and Denver stores (from what I can see in your pics anyway). If you ever do need assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask. For safety reasons, we’re reluctant to bring mobile equipment into the yard during store hours. But someone could’ve helped you get that last nut.” I assured him that I had no complaints about any employees at those yards (in fact, Colorado junkyard employees tend to be several orders of magnitude pleasanter and more competent than their California counterparts)… but, while we’re on the subject, perhaps he might be able to find a way to get me access to the inner workings of one of their yards, for a future TTAC piece?
Next thing I know, I’m wearing a hardhat backstage at the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay yard, talking to John Fernbach, chief vehicle buyer for the company’s Colorado yards (sharp-eyed readers might recognize in the background the ’71 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser that later got picked completely clean within days of being put out on the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay yard). John, who holds a degree in economics and specialized in commodity studies, doesn’t exactly conform to the the hardbitten, gas-axe-wielding junkyard dog stereotype some of us old-timers might hold. These days, running this sort of operation is a tightrope-walking science, where even slightly bad moves can move the balance sheet right into the red. His job is to obtain the feedstock for the three Colorado U-Pull-&-Pay yards, and that job gets tougher every week nowadays. High scrap-metal prices, well over $200/ton at the scrapper, just for cars dragged in off the street, and years of a grim economy have created legions of car-hungry scavengers who scour the land for any vehicle they can drag to the scrapper for a quick buck. Meanwhile, the same grim economy means that money-strapped working folks keep their old cars limping along longer than ever. The upshot is that finding fresh inventory for three major yards is like pulling teeth, and the job requires nonstop hustling.
John buys a lot of vehicles at local auctions, so he took me along to a nearby operation with plenty of inventory to move. A decade back, I used to buy Tercels and Civics at the San Francisco City Tow auctions of towed-away cars, a Wild West operation at which you could pick up runners for a C-note… but those days are long gone. In a few minutes at this auction, mostly watching beater 15-year-old dealership trade-ins go under the gavel, I became shocked at the prices being paid for these heaps.
For example, are you shopping for a rough-looking early-90s Ford Escort with bad oil rings? This car sold for 800 bucks, at an auction mostly attended by hard-eyed car-biz veterans. Whaaaaat? Blame high commodities prices, tough credit for new-car buyers, and general economic misery. Still, John manages to buy enough cars and trucks at sufficiently low prices to keep the yards in business; keep in mind that high prices for scrap metals mean that the picked-over hulks leaving the yard are worth much more than they were a few years back, even if the value of their parts to junkyard shoppers hasn’t increased much. Back to the Denver yard we went, so that I could pick out a couple of cars purchased during a previous auction visit.
We headed over to the holding area, where fresh arrivals are kept. I wanted two cars, one that I knew would inspire an instant feeding frenzy among car-enthusiast junkyard parts seekers and another that would be sought after by those patching together their daily drivers. For the latter car, I picked this ’94 Camry XLE, the kind of cockroach-grade survivor that’s usually worth fixing up when something breaks.
For the car that would really put some blood in the water for the junkyard sharks looking for bits for personal projects or maybe to resell on eBay, I selected this 1991 Honda Civic Si.
The 1988-91 Si hatch was once the factory-hot-rod Honda of choice for street-racer types, and the fourth-gen Civic still retains enough of a devoted following to ensure that one that appears at a low-priced self-serve yard will attract hordes of parts-pullers.
I was really tempted to go with this 1978 Mercury Marquis, just because it was so incredibly cool. Unfortunately, cars like this don’t get much action at a self-serve yard these days; probably a guy with an F-150 would yank the 400M engine and maybe the C4 transmission, and the rest of the car would go right into The Crusher’s jaws without giving me much of a story (plus this yard separates imports from domestics and I wanted the two cars parked side-by-side, meaning I’d need two Detroit cars or two imports). I tried my best to get a certain TTAC writer with an irrational love of Malaise Era Blue Oval products to buy this rust-free car— which ran and drove perfectly and which U-Pull-&-Pay was offering at a very reasonable price— but he didn’t feel up to the Denver-to-Houston, single-digit-MPG drive that would be required.
Once I chose the cars I’d be following, it was time for me to watch the U-Pull-&-Pay grunts prep them for placement among the rest of the inventory in the junkyard proper. At this point, my bullshit detectors kicked into DefCon One mode, as I geared up for any sign that the men running this yard were faking up a Potemkin village of just-this-one-day-only safe-and-clean fluid-disposal procedures and so on; such is the level of suspicion that interacting with car-company PR flacks engenders in a properly cynical automotive journalist. Having watched plenty of junkyard-chain employees in allegedly-enviro-conscious California dumping oil on the ground a few hundred yards from the endangered species of San Francisco Bay (and no doubt playing Crush The Alameda Whipsnake with old car batteries when customers weren’t watching), I was ready to pounce on signs of phony safety and/or waste-disposal hijinks.
As suspicious and pessimistic as I try to be, and as much as I want to write an Ida Tarbell-grade muckraking exposé, I’ve got to admit that the operations at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver (and, I hope, the rest of their yards) appear to be legitimately safe-n-sane, and that what I saw behind the scenes this summer looks like their typical workday.
Before a new arrival gets put up on the rack for fluid and refrigerant removal, the U-Pull-&-Pay employees harvest all the loose change they find under the seats. This goes into a bucket, and the contents of the bucket are used to buy pizza for the whole crew on Fridays.
Batteries are removed from vehicles and brought to this area for testing. Good batteries are sold to customers, bad batteries are sent to recycling plants.
The air-conditioner refrigerant is harvested and stored, and all fluids— including windshield-washer juice and brake fluid— are sucked out and sent off for recycling or disposal.
A vampire-like device punches into the fuel tank and drains all the gasoline without spilling a drop. Good gas is given to employees; bad gas gets recycled with the other petroleum-based liquids. The entire procedure is weirdly clean and not anything like the puddles-of-burning-gear-oil Superfund nightmare I’d imagined.
After that, the cars were put into the on-deck area, where they’d wait until it was time to pull out an old row of imports and replace it with fresh meat.
So that the forklift drivers would keep the Civic and the Camry together on the yard, my name was written on the windows in paint-pen ink. This made me feel like a junkyard VIP.
I was off at a distant 24 Hours of LeMons race when the cars were placed at the end of a row in the Imports section, so they’d already been exposed to parts shoppers for two days when I visited them.
The hood and a couple of wheels had sold off the Camry, but otherwise it was untouched.
The Civic Si, on the other hand, had already given up a bunch of high-value parts. The Si instrument cluster probably lasted about 20 minutes; these things fetch good money on eBay— not bad for a part that U-Pull-&-Pay gets $20.99 for. The factory aluminum wheels and many interior components were gone as well. I visited this Civic every week for each of its 11 weeks in the Import section, but we’ve only got room for a brief outline of what parts got pulled when; go here for the complete start-to-finish photo-essay of the 1991 Honda Civic Si’s life at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver.
The following week, the Camry’s dash had been hit, but the factory radio, once removed, was judged to be not worth buying. Go here for the complete start-to-finish photo-essay of the 1994 Toyota Camry XLE’s life at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver.
Under the Camry’s (nonexistent) hood, the usual scramble for pocket-sized relays and electronic devices had begun.
Next door, the Civic had donated a fender and most of its front body parts to Denver Honda fanciers.
The door panels and inside latches had been taken, along with about 50% of the remaining interior parts. Exterior trim pieces were also evaporating.
By Week Three, the Camry had started to lose some in-demand bits; the driver’s-side rear-view mirror, for example.
At the same time, someone had removed a valve cover and begun the process of pulling out a couple of the camshafts, before giving up and leaving the cams in place.
Not much had changed on the Camry the following week. Nice front door panels on sub-20-year-old import sedans mostly get snapped up from self-service yards, and that’s what happened to our Camry.
By Week Five, the Civic was looking even more naked. Taillights, most of the exterior trim, and a sprinkling of parts from all over the car had departed.
The Camry’s interior, which looked pretty clean for an 18-year-old car, was bearing the brunt of the scavenging by this time. Part of the center console and the parking-brake lever now live on in a still-on-the-street Camry.
< After the Civic Si spent six weeks on the yard, someone finally came and pulled the car’s 108-horse D16A6 engine. The transmission, oil pan, and most of the accessories were left behind.
By that time, the Camry had yielded some more interior parts, including the driver’s-side armrest and power-window controls.
While Civic-parts shoppers continued to pick the ’91 Si cleaner with each passing week, the Camry at seven weeks was still 90% there.
With 266,542 miles on the clock, this Toyota served its owners well.
A row of cars stays out for two or three months at this type of yard, so time was running out for these two after 11 weeks.
The next row over was replaced around this time, with this ’73 Super Beetle parked nose-to-nose with the Camry.
High-demand parts are often pulled from a car and stashed in an adjacent car, while the buyer runs home to get money and/or check to see if he really needs the thing. I’m not sure why anybody would care much about a Mexican Solex 34PICT knockoff, but I found the Super Beetle’s carb sitting in the Camry’s trunk.
Twelve weeks after our Camry and Civic were placed on the yard, it was time for some new inventory. In their place, a Mazda Protege and a Lexus SC400.
Meanwhile, the junkyard-browsing public having had three months to pick over the Civic and Camry, our cars waited in a holding area next to The Crusher.
The forklift man grabbed the Toyota first.
The aluminum-laden engines of modern cars are removed before crushing at U-Pull-&-Pay; the forklift operator just tears the engine and transmission right out of the car.
This guy then jumps in and begins clipping off valuable copper wiring from the engine.
After that, he’ll remove the alternator, starter, and other accessories that have value as rebuildable cores.
While that’s going on, the forklift goes back in and rips out the dash wiring harness and whatever remains of the engine harness.
Copper is money!
18 years and the equivalent of 11 trips around the world’s circumference, and the end of the line has been reached for this Camry. Into The Crusher it goes.
Squish!


If you have a ghoulish fascination with watching cars die, here’s a video compilation of the sequence I just described.
With the Camry pressed flat, The Crusher has room for another course in its meal. The forklift fetches the Civic.
The engine and much of the wiring had already been pulled by customers, so there wasn’t as much to extract from this car.
Placed atop the Camry in The Crusher, the Civic gets mashed flat quickly.


Here’s the video version of the Civic’s demise.
The two-car pancake is then hauled over to the stacks of squished cars awaiting a trip to the scrapper.
The two cars together couldn’t have been more than 18″ thick.
I’ve owned a few fourth-gen Civics and liked them a lot, so this sight made me a bit sad. Still, the endless cycle of cars and steel must continue.
The crushed carcasses are loaded onto a truck, which then takes the load of steel about ten miles south to the scrapper.
The pressed remains of our Camry and Civic then get shredded and put into shipping containers. Maybe they’ll be hauled by train over the Rockies and Sierras and put into a China-bound container ship, or perhaps they’ll head to foundries in the United States or Europe. And that’s it— two more cars reenter the food chain.
For the complete story of the ’91 Civic Si’s 11 weeks as a parts donor, go here.
For the ’94 Camry XLE’s saga, go here.

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112 Comments on “Auction To Crusher: 12 Weeks In the Lives of Two Cars At a Self-Service Wrecking Yard...”


  • avatar
    prndlol

    I love this stuff, so this is like an early Christmas present. Thanks Murilee for this detailed record, I’ll be back to read this article a few times over the holidays, I just know it!

  • avatar
    Farquhar Harvey

    Thank you for this article. I found it very interesting and informative with a well-paced writing style. It’s lengthy, but holds your attention to the end. Nice job.

    Regards.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Really fascinating stuff, thanks for following their final months. I had no idea cars only lasted 3 months at junkyards. This yard is much cleaner than the one I was taken to by my dad when I was much younger.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      These yards demonstrate the industrialization of vehicle parts salvage and scrap metal recovery for efficiency that came about due to the demand from China, a growing influence of the EPA on vehicle recycling, and the increasing durability of vehicles (against mechanical failure and rust out) that keeps a vehicle on the road for many more years today than 40 years ago.

      I too remember going to local individually owned junk yards in a Northeast US state that were filthy, mud-laden, disorganized junk pits. I remember casting about for a bumper jack to fit a car to lift it up, digging dirt/mud from out underneath a tire/wheel to raise the car enough to take tire/wheel, attempting to salvage a part from a car hulk that was sitting under two other precariously balanced cars stacked on top of it, encountering the mangy and flea bitten true junk yard dogs, etc.

      I had read about the metal processing type yards in California in a Smithsonian magazine article back in the early 1990s. But when I visited a chain in the Southeast US in the mid-2000s, it was like a revelation. Easy to access parts with the cars propped up already, organized by make and listed by row, free wheel barrels to tote your tools and parts in, so easy to get a part that it was incredible.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    “If you ever do need assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask. For safety reasons, we’re reluctant to bring mobile equipment into the yard during store hours.”

    That has got to be one of the weirdest Twilight-Zone things I’ve ever read from a self-serve yard guy. There’s monster loaders schlepping cars around all day, everyday. Not three feet from where you are currently walking. *Especially* at a self-serve lot, not just a normal lot that happens to let you out back.

    What “mobile equipment” is this guy so reluctant to bring in the yard because he’s afraid of compromising your safety? The railgun tie-rod separator? Nano-Thermite bolt remover? Shaped charge cutting torch?

    • 0 avatar

      One of the weird things about UPAP is that they mostly add or remove cars from the yard only during the times it’s not open to the general public. Having been nearly squished by giant forklifts carrying teetering ’77 Thunderbirds at other yards, I appreciate this (though it’s a bummer not being the first guy on the spot when a new car with lots of tasty parts gets dropped).

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        Learn something new everyday… I just cannot imagine how that is even possible to execute from a management perspective. Do they stock at night like a Target?

        Besides, having to watch for the loader with two cars balanced precariously 15 feet over your head is supposed to be part of the experience. But that’s just me.

  • avatar

    Can we get a U-Pull & Pay in Pittsburgh, pleeeez?

    • 0 avatar

      Google Crow’s Run Auto Recyling. They are down the river in Freedom PA.

    • 0 avatar
      kid cassady

      There is also this one in Tarentum, http://www.picapartyard.com/
      This place helped me keep my Saab and 944 in service when I lived in PGH.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’ve been there, they have some of the most unusual cars for a pick a part lot. Last I was there: Three different 560SECs, an Opel GT, a small Fiat roadster, several intact early Lex E250s, and the best… rusted out 1950s and 60s Jaguars. This is exotic stuff for a PA yard.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I have used this yard in Perryopolis many times although I haven’t been back since 2011. Call to ensure they are still operating, I know it changed ownership several times since 2005.

      U-Pull-It Auto Parts

      (724) 529-2995

      885 Banning Rd, Dawson, PA 15428

      • 0 avatar
        MadHungarian

        While we’re talking about yards in PA, what’s the name of the big one in Hazleton? If it still exists — the last time I was there was probably about 15 years ago. At the time, there was a section of the yard with older cars that had been there together. Stuff you usually don’t see in U-pull yards. I remember several Corvairs, some Studebakers, a ’55 or ’56 Caddy, suicide door Lincolns, and a ’65 Caddy that was kinda chilling to see, as the front end damage, windshield damage and bent steering wheel all indicated that its last ride did not end well for the driver.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I just visited a lot around here in Sellersville PA called Roberts Auto Salvage. They have a rusty but salvageable 1949-1951 Oldsmobile 88 four door that I would love to rescue.

    • 0 avatar
      Maniacmous

      Bit of a drive, but there is one in West Alexander, PA (on the WV border) just off I-70.

  • avatar
    jaje

    The Civic deserved to be saved – a rare ’91 Si model :( It would have made a great runabout still or a dedicated track car that can keep up with much bigger, more powerful, less reliable, more expensive to fix cars.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Where I live all junk yards have been regulated out of the area. So whenever I get enough courage to venture to a yard it’s always at least a 2 hour drive. In reality, I enjoy just wandering the yards looking at the cars, even if I don’t find anything to buy.

    I’ve always wondered though, why don’t the yards pull some of the stuff off more valuable cars, like the Si gauges, and sell them on eBay themselves? Would it be too much overhead to employ someone to handle it? Too much trouble to deal with potential dissatisfied customers?

    • 0 avatar

      It costs too much (in employee time) to have someone on staff who knows what parts are worth extra, have those parts pulled, inventory them, and sell them. Most of these yards have a system for selling whole cars to specialist shops, which is why you don’t see many Corvettes or Alfa Berlinas at the self-serve places.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      Other than auctions, these places buy scrap cars/trucks off the street by salvage weight price to the person bringing it in. That is why they have core charges on most of the larger metal parts such as body panels, engines- blocks/heads, alternators, electric motors, etc. so, in theory, the yard gets the vehicle’s scrap weight back or gets pure profit in the core charge if no core is returned.

      This is also why they don’t sell catalytic convertors since the convertors are worth so much more per pound versus steel/aluminum plus the yard would ~supposedly~ have to provide a warranty on the converter etc, bs, etc, bs, so they usually pull the entire exhaust system after the exhaust manifold.

      As in the article, the car gets stripped and then is processed for the steel, aluminum etc. Profits from sales of components without much metal in them such as glass windows, plastic body panels, dashboard/interior panels, seats, tires, etc are pure gravy for the yard. Plus the DIY salvage rids the car of a generous amount of “fluff” (which are those non-metal components as in the last sentence) for essentially no cost to the yard.

      One self serve place near my region even sells gallon jugs of used coolant that has been vampired out and removed from the cars. If they could, they would even sell the “beep” sound out of the horns.

      Also the DIY yards in my region charge a $1 or $2 entry fee per person (must be over age 16) which is pure profit. I make sure that my friends and I always recover the fees in non-automotive items from the cars- could be a couple of funky t-shifts to wash and wear or use as grease rags, a brand new box of wood screws, a large stainless steel mixing ladel, a microwave safe piece of cook wear, a small plastic bag of children’s lego’s, a couple of vintage electical fuses, a small handheld wisk broom, etc. Any item non-automotive related and easy to put in a pocket, coat, or toolbox is game.

      • 0 avatar
        econobiker

        Also the DIY yards in my region charge a $1 or $2 entry fee per person (must be over age 16) which is pure profit. I make sure that my friends and I always recover the fees in non-automotive items from the cars- could be a couple of funky t-shifts to wash and wear or use as grease rags, a brand new box of wood screws, a large stainless steel mixing ladle, a microwave safe piece of cook wear, a small plastic bag of children’s Lego’s, a couple of vintage electrical fuses, a small handheld whisk broom, etc. Any item non-automotive related and easy to put in a pocket, coat, or toolbox is game.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        Beyond the profit motive, selling a used cat (retail) is a violation of EPA regs.

      • 0 avatar
        occupant

        Actually, if you’d be upfront and forthcoming about all the stuff you’re snagging from these cars in the yard, you’d find they don’t charge much for that stuff anyway, if anything at all. Example when I visited the Fort Worth Pick n Pull back in 2007 to get a replacement electric cooling fan for a 1997 Intrepid, I also got a dozen horn/starter/fan relays, a generous helping of blade fuses, an assortment of 3156/3157/168/194 light bulbs (some with the sockets they plug into on the dash cluster), an inside door handle trim piece, an AC control knob, and some screw covers for the trunk lining, all for free. The cooling fan was $26, I think. Example 2, when my wife and I visited a regular (not self service) yard to get a jack/jackhandle/lug wrench for her Durango, we paid maybe $10 for that actual car part, but they also didn’t mind my wife taking a jean jacket, bottle of holy water, a kids’ Vtech toy laptop that even had good batteries in it, and a stack of various 90s GM car owner’s manuals as big as my head, all for one dollar. We still have all those manuals (about fifteen in all including their little cases) and I could list them all on eBay for $3-$5 each if we needed the cash. All my wife wanted was one black leather case for her Kindle, and she sure as heck got it.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    At one point of time, these vehicles were sitting, all clean and pretty, paint shiny, tires deep-black, the smell of freshly created plastics permeating its interior, at some dealer lot. Then someone saw them and fell in love, and decided to plunk some hard-earned cash to purchase them.

    Then….on to a life of adventure. God only knows how many road trips they took, the wonderful places visited. Children may have learned how to drive on one of them. First loves, stolen kisses…and many other wonderful or broken hearts. Years of carrying groceries, doing errands, hauling people to school and work. Then sold out to a second third, perhaps a fourth owner, and many additional similar stories….

    Just like people, these vehicles have a lifetime of stories in their hulls. To be picked clean by scavengers and eventually be fed into the hellish blast of a furnace, to become raw material for: a toaster, a fridge, rebar, perhaps even another vehicle.

    Thanks Murilee, for these series.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      So true…such is the circle of life, Simba!

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      There’s a very moving Mercedes C-Class called “Soul” that’s very much about all of the memories a car holds, before being sent to the scrap yard. Not sure if it’ll work, but here’s a link: youtube.com/watch?v=rx04YC13R9U

      • 0 avatar
        WRohrl

        That is one of my favorite commercials of all time, it’s kind of haunting, actually. I was thinking of it while reading the article. The link works, by the way…Thanks for posting it.

      • 0 avatar
        mypoint02

        I remember when that ad aired. It’s a good one. I sometimes wonder what became of some of my cars after I let them go, some of which have surely met the cold steel jaws of the crusher by now. Lots of memories. I don’t think I could be the one to wheel them onto a pick and pull lot.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Saw one of my old cars (for certain) about a decade later. Felt good to know it was still on the move. I’ve seen three of my old cars years later. All bread and butter cars. One had 325K miles on it when I last saw it.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    Awesome and interesting article….like your others. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • avatar
    Neb

    Great article! I had no idea junkyards were so efficient in recycling.

    Also, that Mercury Marquis makes me a little sad. Do junkyards often have running vehicles like that?

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      Even still running with a clear title, once a car is in behind their fence, most of these places will absolutely not sell the vehicle on any condition even if you offer two or three times their purchase price (which is usually based on salvage scrap weight).

      This issue may be state specific due to how salvage/junk car titles are handled, but even in the US South, with it’s distinct lack of auto inspections and emissions, seems to bear the above statement out.

    • 0 avatar

      A lot of yards will sell runners to the public. Some of them (e.g., Pick-N-Pull in California) have little mini-used-car-lots for the runners. Other yards, you ask the manager about a car you can see through the fence in the holding area, and he might cut you a deal. I (or anyone else) could have driven off in that Marquis for pretty cheap– I think it was a grand.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        Just depends on the car’s status. If the yard buys it with a clean title and it thinks it’ll sell better as a whole car, out front it goes. Just like any other used car.

        Varying a bit by state, once it’s made it to the back yard and starts getting broken down, the paperwork better be there to legally identify it as “scrap”. Once that happens, there is no turning back.

        That’s why you (99.99%) can’t buy a car once folks have started tearing in to it.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Here in Chicago, we have Pick N Pull. Usually when a car like that Marquis comes in, they will put it out front for sale. I’ve seen some really nice buys out front (Trailblazer, XJR, WRX, Breezeway, etc). Typical prices are about $800-1700. They even sweeten the deal and give you 1/3rd off discount on parts pulled from the yard if you buy it.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter

      Several years ago, I purchased a running MBZ 230 from a California yard and I wish I had purchased a rust-free `83 Vanagon with hindsight. Both went for $1k, a reasonable sum. The only catch is that cars purchased out of a junkyard come with a salvage title in California.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Things have changed radically in the auto recycling business since I first visited one. Superfund site best describes some of the places I visited 30 years ago. The accumulation of various fluids left me with the impression that one of them was one tossed cigarette away from a Dresden recreation.

  • avatar
    erik_t

    I’m only a third of the way through the article and this is already one of my favorite auto-journalism pieces of all time. I can only hope the Turbo II makes an appearance near the end.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Don’t understand why both of those cars were not rescued and put back into service, they seemed to be in fairly good shape.

    • 0 avatar

      It just wasn’t worth doing. You can buy a running 20-year-old Camry or Civic for less than the value of their parts and scrap metal to an operation like UPAP’s. Both of those cars sold at auction for (probably) under 500 bucks each.

      • 0 avatar
        Synchromesh

        That’s weird. Sure, a Camry with 266K isn’t worth much at this point but those old Sis are quite sought out around here in New England. A good friend of mine sold his white ’90 Si in much worse shape than this red one very quickly on local Craigslist 2-3 years ago. It was quite rusty and had some issues but it ran and sold within days of listing for over $1000.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I’m sure there was a reason. A well running car with no issues just doesn’t usually get scrapped/traded. Maybe they had blown transmissions that wouldn’t shift out of first gear. Maybe the engines consumed quarts of oil ever 20 miles. Maybe the wheels bearings were all toast which would be well over a grand just to get those replaced at a local shop. The reason most cars are sent to the scrapper or traded in is that people are done spending money on them or that too many problems surface and to repair all of these items would far exceed the value of the vehicle. My buddies 92 Accord was a perfect example. With 105k the transmission went south. The power antenna quit. The engine lost it’s timing belt which bent the valves requiring a replacement head and lots of money out the door. The engine mounts were gone causing a throbby idle in drive. The radio stopped working. The rear quarters were rusted out. After getting most of this stuff fixed thousands later the heater core crapped brown fluid all over the passenger floor. Off to the yard this car went for a mere 200 bucks with a good running engine and a replacement transmission. The rust and expensive to replace heater core were the final nails in the coffin. I have seen this scenario so many times where the person could have just put in that final repair and the car probably would have been fine for several more years. It’s the build up of so many expensive items breaking that does many of these cars in.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        THIS.
        I LOVE it when I find NEW parts in a car at the yard. Thanks buddy!

      • 0 avatar
        MadHungarian

        Yeah, those XLE Camrys were incredibly well made cars, like a low or mid level Lexus today, but the transmissions were a weak point; I had two of them go at about 110K. Even a “good used” trans costs more than a ’94 Camry is worth these days.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      Welcome to the world of consumer hard goods. WHy aren’t 1950’s products still running? If so, we’d never have the economic growth of the past 60 years.

      Most cars are just machines that get used and recycled. The Camry gave good service, 266k miles. Unthinkable in 1979!

      The ’91 Si I think was tossed since it isn’t a desirable to tuners as te 92-95 Si.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    Thank you.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Cool article.

    I go to the Orlando UPAP lot most often. They are a decent place, but I’d never think of asking an employee for help removing a part.

    They won’t sell you any car. I don’t know if that is due to FL laws or corporate policy.

    They’ve recently created an entire Hyundai/Kia section and a row just for Land Rovers.

    At the lot I go to, Jeep Cherokees and ChryslerCo minivans are the most numerous vehicles (not as many Tauruses as you’d expect though).

    Generally, most of our “classics” are donk’d-out (Saw a lime green ’78 LeSabre with zebra print door panels and a bunch of wooden speaker boxes last week). Something like that Mercury would be pretty rare.

    Grilles on trucks and Full-size vans seem to get removed immediately. No one ever touches anything from the Northstar family.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’ve seen a few donked scrapheaps myself, why would anyone put so much money into a car just to throw it out?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Some of the cars come from tow yard auctions. Park it where it shouldn’t be parked or spend some time in the pokey and by the time the person gets the notice the bill to get it back is too high or it has already been sold. Some cites authorize extortion level impound tow fees. IE the yard can charge $300-$400 for the tow and $100 per day in storage, then they can charge you an extra charge for off hours release or if it is due to parking tickets you have to show proof of paying it. So next thing you know the car you parked Thur night costs you $1000 to get back Mon afternoon.

        • 0 avatar
          ApK253wa

          No doubt. I used to frequent those auctions, a couple times I got my OWN cars out of impound by having a buddy bid undercover (can’t bid on your own impounded car in WA state). For example my ’88 Grand Marquis had a tow/storage fee of well over $1200 when it finally went to auction, we got it back for a winning bid of $200. (The aftermarket wheels were worth more than that per piece). Score 1 for me, suckas. I still owed $1000+ but at least I had my car back.. losing it AND having to pay them all that dough woulda really been insult to injury. A lot of those companies are outright predatory when it comes to what thay charge ppl, I believe one I dealt with had a storage fee increase every 12 hours as opposed to daily.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Who’d put $5K into a $2K car in the first place? The same logic that leads to the shiny bits, leads to the junkyard too.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Who’d put $5K into a $2K car in the first place? The same broken logic that leads to the overpriced shiny bits, leads to the junkyard too.

    • 0 avatar
      sco

      Agreed, the employees at most of these chains will not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES help you pull something out of the car. At one location frquently visited by Murilee in NoCal,however, an underground economy has sprung up consiting of guys who hang around somewhat near the entrance and will, for a fee, help you remove items. I think the management turns a blind eye to this as its a nice service to the customers that, given insurance costs, would otherwise never be offered. I was quoted $60 to remove a transmission and given the risk of dropping a 200lb chunk of metal on my head, I think this was a great deal. There must be at least five levels of free enterprise at work at these kinds of places, which is what makes them so fascinating

    • 0 avatar

      In Brazil, no such hesitations. Whenever I’ve been to a pull-it-yourself yard, I end up asking for help and help they do. Granted, it’s always been finishing parts I was hunting for. Wish I had the knowledge and disposition to frequent these places more.

      BTW, anyone knowing of a front grille for a Brazilian Ford Ka 2005 in BH and region pls let me know. Also, would buy a back parcel shelf for such car. Having already scavanged and found the seat belt nut covers and air con vent handles (removal of which I needed help), this is all I need to get my car in mint condition. LOL!

      Thanks Murilee for a great series. This article is just wonderful.

  • avatar
    StaysCrunchy

    “If you ever do need assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

    I need some assistance. Could you send some of your workers up to the u-pull yards in the Seattle area please? A surlier, more miserable bunch of folks you’ll never find gathered in one place at the same time than the employees of those yards.

    Remember those old airline ads, “We Love To Fly And It Shows”? These guys could run their own version, “We Hate Our Lives And It Shows”

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      You can blame Schnitzer Steel for that – they are the new (global) corporate overlords of the Pick-n-Pull yards in the PNW. They treat the customers exactly as their employer treats them (my best guess – this is almost universally the case in my experience).

      I enjoyed going to the local self-serve yards much more before Schnitzer took over. The cashiers had a lot more flexibility on pricing, and quite frankly, with the new pricing, core charges on non-core-charge-type items, and outrageous environmental fees (almost as much as the sales tax), I have found that for many items it’s not even worth the trip out there when I compare pricing to new parts (assuming that they are available) purchased via the internet.

      I still love going out there, however – it’s my personal favorite recreation: a combination of treasure hunting, Macgyvering (parts off w/o having all of the necessary tools), gambling (“does this work?”), and hoarding (“Gee whiz, another freshly-rebuilt GM alternator, for only $13.99″) all rolled into one!

  • avatar
    d524zoom-zoom

    Excellent article as usual.

    My question to you Murliee is this: How do you keep this stuff to yourself?

    What I mean is you followed these two cars all summer and post this article now in December. I would not be able to contain myself on this type of article without at the very least mentioning it form time to time or teasing with pictures.

  • avatar
    JMII

    A shed a tear for the Civic.

    To echo what others said above: #1 great story, and #2 what was wrong with these cars in the first place? Now I want to know how these cars found their way to the auction.

    My step mother works at wrecking yard/car parts/crusher in upstate NY, so I understood the process… just never saw it detailed out this way.

    • 0 avatar

      Having seen how cheaply LeMons racers manage to get their cars, and having bought lots of crappy cars myself, I’ve learned that the real-world value of cosmetically challenged (or maybe just old) cars is way lower than you might think.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Have been waiting for this article forever. Thanks MM.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Great article Murilee.
    I’d be interested to see the money side of this process. How much the car cost at auction, transport cost, how much they got for all the parts, and finally how much the scrap was worth.

    • 0 avatar
      Scout_Number_4

      Echoing Sin-man and others, we now need the adjunct pre-quel from the last owner’s perspective before the car gets into the system. What did he pay for the car, how long did he own it, what repairs were done and what did they cost? By what path did the car reach the auction? You get the idea.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Great article, thank you very much.

    Your one photo showing the Camry from a high angle with the rows of cars back toward the other edge of the yard showed me that this is a pretty big place. Do you have any idea of the total acreage for this yard? Any guess how much of it is for this parts-pulling area compared to the total operation?

    There’s no question that it’s bigger than any yards I’ve hung out at.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure how many acres they have, but I’d say they’ve got more than 500 cars on the yard at any given time. Pretty typical size for an urban self-serve yard (though some of them— e.g., Pick-Your-Part Wilmington in Los Angeles— are much bigger). The non-customer-accessible areas probably amount to about 1/3 the space of the yard itself.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    Great article. I would love to see more like this one.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Typically cars like the Camry and Civic are scrapped simply from something expensive breaking, plus cars with high miles are a bit hard to sell.

    A part of me says that its a shame that nice Mercury was scrapped, and a part of me says “better dead than donked”, its surprising that old coupes are being thrown out as well.

    But for all that we know that Mercury could’ve been stolen, had bad brakes, a worn transmission, serious engine issues, who knows? Hardly ever are cars thrown in without holding a “secret” of sorts.

    I’m glad that the junkyard tried selling it though, I assumed that some scrapyards don’t sell cars simply because people would try suing them if something broke.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Great piece. I’ve often wondered the same things about the cars in the self serve yards as well.

    The most interesting times for me in the yards are when I run into cars that I know. Cars that were owned by friends, or remarkable cars I’ve worked on.

    I also wonder what the last straw was that sent the car to the yard. Expensive repair? New dealer trade not even worthy for bottom-feeder lots? Perfectly fine, but undesirable model?

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    My roommate once had a chat with someone whose business was buying siphoned gasoline from junkyard cars and reselling it.

    I’m glad this yard follows environmental practices. On an episode of Dirty Jobs, where they went to a junk yard to prep a car for recycing, they simply cut all of the lines and noses, let all the fluids run out of the bottom of the car, and hoisted the engine out for resale. I would bet that at current prices, that salvaging fluids, refrigerants, etc. is more profitable to recycle everything, than simply dumping.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    Thanks.

    I liked learning about the recycling.

    Something that was missing was the computerized systems that yards use to keep track of parts. I needed a door for a particular car and I called quite a few yards before I finally found it on the shelf at my local yard – even the color matched.

    This is an argument for buying the most common color of any car…

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    GREAT! I love this series.

    I have a friend that has 2 fridges, a newer 4 banger and a V6 similar to that one, in white, and he told me the usual issue with the V6 is that they corrode the heads, leading to overheating. Expensive job. He did it in his car, but because he knows basically all the town and can get some stuff done cheap. He does his own wrenching.

    For non running cars, I got this week a 98 Saab 900 2.0 which has supposedly a dead starter. The car is straight and relatively clean, low kays and you could eat in the engine compartment. Will make a nice summer project. I am surprised at the HUGE boot the thing has and that is with the rear seats up.

    I’ve seen plenty of good “fixable” cars in the street and potential ones on ebay/gumtree. And that is just by walking the neighborhood. Many will end impounded.

  • avatar
    majo8

    This was an enjoyable read. Thanks.

  • avatar
    markholli

    Murilee, I have a suggestion for a future post: create a time lapse video of this process. I could almost imagine it as I scrolled through the images, with each succeeding image showing less and less of the original car. Almost like it was rotting away.

    I loved reading about this. Incredible how almost every ounce of plastic, rubber, cloth, glass, metal or fluid has value.

    My two favorite parts: 1) watching that forklift operator wield his machine like a surgeon’s knife. 2) “U-Pull-&-Pay employees harvest all the loose change they find under the seats. This goes into a bucket, and the contents of the bucket are used to buy pizza for the whole crew on Fridays.”

    Thanks for the great content.

  • avatar
    Lt.BrunoStachel

    Great story! I too have witnessed many an atrocity at the boneyards I frequent. You might want to point out that who ever is cleaning out the loose change is stealing most of it for themselves. There aren’t too many quarters and dimes in that bucket. Anybody who has pulled a seat, even a white Corithian leather one,knows that the good stuff hides there.

    Hey maybe you can point a suggestion towards management, since you are on a first name basis. Maybe other yard managers will pick up on this as well. If there is one bitch I have with the self service yards is that they lean more towards the scrap end of the business and not the spare parts end. What am I talking about? Taking fairly good parts and destroying them. Chances are the yards you go to have a sign about vandalizing cars that more or less means if you get caught breaking that window to pull the regulator and some employee sees you doing it they could put the “FiveOh” on you. But what about the employees? OK I buy cars to flip on ocassion. One thing I hate is rust and body repair. Now I hustle on down to the SS yard to snatch that fender,hood and door for the Marquis I picked up for a song. My unemployed BFF calls me on a Friday saying he saw a Marq sitting in the holding lot. Gives me a detailed rundown on how Grandma drove it to church and it is in Harrahs mint condition. I get there bright and early Saturday AM only to find that the retard running the fork has bashed in the fender,hood and door. I won’t pay money for something I have to fix. SS Yard loses a $150-$200 sale. Now if I was to do that I would get fired. Retard keeps his job because nobody gives a fecal matter.I complain to “TheMan” only to hear some line about “we recycle, we dont sell parts” or something to that effect. Somebody needs to point out that these yards make more profit selling a part, especially if it is metal and not plastic, than they would if they have to prep it for shipment to its end means.

    And the comment about the yards wanting to help you is true. I have found that if you are there during normal hours, say 9-5 on a weekday, than they almost are always willing to pull out the fork and haul that engine or other major assembly out to the parking lot for you. You can’t expect them to do that on the weekends. It also helps if you come prepared. Bring a chain if you need that engine pulled cause they won’t provide one is what I mean. Don’t make them wait because you forgot to unhook something,etc.

    I too would rather read more stories like this one. I’m tired of the “I found some import POS” format.

    • 0 avatar
      meat1709

      I think I have seen about as much destruction to the vehicles done by employees as I have from customers. It sickens me to see good parts destroyed by stupidity or laziness, especially when its harder to find pieces like sheet metal for older cars. I had a few nasty comments from customers, before the yard deleted my post to their FB page when they made a complaint about the destruction of parts, and I comment that they should have a you break it you buy it policy that should be used for employees as well as customers.

  • avatar

    Just for some perspective folks, it’s easy to joke about “Superfund” sites, but way back when, I managed waste for a DuPont lab and took a bunch of courses in a graduate engineering program in Haz Waste Mgmt. Part of my coursework involved some research about actual Superfund cleanup sites. To make it onto the Superfund list, which meant that they needed immediate remediation, there had to be some serious contamination with dangerous chemicals, not just a little oil on the ground. It had to be pretty bad. Most of the ones that I looked at didn’t just involve negligence but also some serious criminal behavior over and above any environmental regs they may have violated. I remember one site in western Michigan was recycling lead acid batteries and they were letting the sulfuric acid just run into a river. Ironically one of the Superfund sites in Michigan at the time echoed an earlier environmental disaster. It was a where the carcases of cattle that had been mistakenly fed PCB instead of nutritional supplement were illegally dumped. The were landfilled adjacent to the Saginaw Bay were the chemicals were leaching into the fresh water. Instead of properly disposing of the carcases, as they had been paid to do, the mob connected contractors just buried them. Like I said, a lot of the Superfund sites involved actual crimes.

    There’s a big difference between your average industrial brownfield that might need some haz waste cleanup before gov’t agencies will let you develop it, and a Superfund site. As of a couple of years ago there were just 1,280 Superfund sites in the US. Hell, the old Packard plant in Detroit isn’t even a Superfund site. There are only two Superfund sites in the entire city of Detroit, which has more than its share of abandoned industrial sites.

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      I appreciate your comments… good information. I can imagine what they’ll find in places like China in 100 years where the political mob has been running wild.

      I suspect that some of the jokes or criticism of “Superfund” sites evolves from the treatment of small businesses by agencies such as the EPA, or even the local government. I have a small business in my family that if left to the bureaucrat pencil pushers on power trips, the business would have been out of business a long time ago. One example is that the local fire department wanted to raise taxes on businesses depending upon what tools they had. For a small auto body shop that has to have a ratter extensive tool collection, they couldn’t afford paying an additional $5k in taxes each month! But as far as the fire department cares, f*** ‘em! Then go out of business as we could care less!

      So to get off my rant, there is an example of why there is plenty of mistrust by small businesses – that are backbone of our economy – with Government employees and their benefits and pensions. The sites you mentioned in Detroit were not locally owned. They’ve moved on and the government only has the small business owners left to target.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Okay, okay – why does the number of tools relate to taxes levied by a fire dept? More chance of a fire b/c they are working more? Otherwise only the insurance policy cost ought to go up with the number of tools.

  • avatar
    davew833

    An old girlfriend had a red ’91 Civic Si just like that one about 1996 or so… I worked on it a few times and I’m pretty sure the wheels and tires (identical to the ones pictured) were black steel with plastic covers, not alloy. I always thought it was pretty cheap of Honda to stick steelies on their “performance” hatch the way they did, but even some of the Prelude Si’s from ’90 and ’91 got steelies, where in previous years they would have been alloy.

    Speaking of various levels of commerce at these places, I’ve witnessed an interesting phenomenon at the self- serve yard closest to my house. Some time before opening, a line forms outside the store entrance made up of employees from the many used tire stores in the area. When the doors open (and after paying their entrance fee) the race is on for these guys to beat each other out for the best tires on the new rows of cars that have been put out that morning. They load up their wheelbarrows with good tires mounted on wheels, and then proceed to the manual tire dismounting machines provided for customers and “bust” them down, just buying the tires to resell. Often there’s quite a wait to use the tire machines.

    The sad thing is, it make it pretty much impossible to buy a good used tire from these places by the average customer, and forget about a matching set of four. Even worse, no one cares what happens to the wheels after the tires are dismounted, they’re just piled in a recycling dumpster. It’s pretty rare to be able to find a good replacement wheel there, and again, forget about getting a matching set of 4 for a steel-to-alloy or stock-to-aftermarket upgrade!

    A few years ago the place used to pull good matching sets of wheels and tires off some cars before they went to the yard and sell them in the office as a set- I got a nice set of Suby factory alloys with matching BFG tires for my Legacy for $150- but they don’t even do that any more. The other two self-serve yards in town don’t have tire dismounting machines for customers, so the “great tire race” is an experience unique to that one yard.

    I’ve never seen any signs warning against vandalism at the self-serve yards in my area (Northern Utah) and I’ve seen entire engines torn apart just to get cam gears or a valve spring or something small. It’s frustrating and seems like it’s not very cost- effective to the buyer either just to get little stuff like that.

    I’ve been guilty of “vandalism” myself a few times though, notably when I thought I would pull my own windshield for an old Subaru Loyale I had and ended up breaking half a dozen before I found a car where the a-pillar & roof rust was so bad I could literally just push it out. I got to feeling guilty later and called the manager to tell him about it and he said not to worry- at least used windshields aren’t a high- demand item.

    Oh and by the way, it seems to be pretty common knowledge among the customers at these places that a cut-off length of safety belt makes a GREAT way to hoist an engine (when used with the supplied A-frame yard hoist) when there’s no chain handy…

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I’ve been in yards where they won’t let you just crack open an engine b/c the whole engine is basically good and you’d ruin it’s resale. Or take a door or window when the interior is good and you’d expose the rest of the interior to the weather.

    • 0 avatar
      meat1709

      I think the u-pull it yards around here pull the excellent sets of tires themselves and sell them. I have seen cars without the tires when they were set. I have walked out with very good pairs, but those are very hit and miss. I think I did stumble on a set that were overlooked when it was set. They were four matching almost brand new tires on matching alloys. they were stacked in the back of a van that I don’t believe they went to. Only shame was that the centercaps were nowhere to be found. I was happy because the tires were needed for my Crown Vic, and the wheels will look good on my Sonoma.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    I’d like to see a newer car’s time on the line, like a 2001 Civic or that 2004 Sunfire from a while back. Bet they get carved up fast like a turkey.

    OTOH, this shows that 20ish year old cars will get crushed sooner, since even low income buyers want the ‘newest thing they can afford’. So, the ’91 Civic Si will get junked, while for a few bucks more buyers can find later 90’s Si’s. Same with Camrys, the 97 era ones are gold to working class.

  • avatar
    sco

    Just a few more random comments:

    @davew833 – regarding the multiple levels of commerce at these places – dont forget the taco truck that always sits in the parking lot to feed and water the patrons

    @danio3834 – i only look for Peugeot 504s when I go to the yard so my data about what kills cars in the junkyard is VERY biased. Blown head gasket is very common but in most cases the car appears to have sat idle in someone’s garage (best), under a tree (worse), or out in a field (worst) for many years before the owner died or gave up hope of repair, making an exact cause of death uncertain.

    @redmondjp – exactly. Schnitzer must totally ride the asses of their employees because a more threatened bunch would be hard to find. They are the type that will give you 99 cents change from a $20 bill for a $19.01 tab, and dont get me started about the third degree for returns and the multiple lines one must stand in. But I agree, there is no better way to spend a few hours.

    @lt bruno and davew – I’ve never seen a sign covering vandalism or the etiquette of part removal at any yard although I have wondered about this. I have definitely practiced some manuevers (rear windshield removal comes to mind) on junkers before trying the same on my keeper car, and they haven’t always worked. i dont feel guilty because see above

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Murilee,

    How many miles did the Civic have? Did it have unraveling bad body work? While it would have needed a full restoration to be nice, it was complete and original, two things that generally keep Hondas from getting scrapped. Were that car for sale in my neighborhood for $800, I’d snap it up, comfortable that I could double my money with $35 in supplies and a little elbow grease.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Things have sure come a long way. I’m pretty sure that the self-service yards I used to frequent in PA around 10-15 years ago, when I had a series of beater 70’s Cadillacs I kept running that way, did not drain fluids or remove batteries, at least not systematically. I know this because on several occasions I came across cars that had just come into the yard that still had keys in them, and you could start and run the engine.

    Thank you for not forcing us to watch that Mercury get dismantled.

  • avatar
    gator marco

    Great article!

    I think it would be a wonderful opportunity for school kids, with sufficient supervision, to get to see how the economy really recycles. Just throwing soda cans into a bin in the garage is nothing.

    There is a facility in the Port of Tampa that grinds up cars all day long. It’s right across a canal from the cruise ship terminal. Last I heard, that facility ships all it’s metal to Mexico, where it returns to the US as Dodge pickups.

  • avatar
    henkdevries

    Thank you mr. Martin for this great behind these scenes article!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    More stories like this please!

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Late to the party, but great series, MM. I miss those days. Around here, scrapyards of any kind are increasingly rare. Not regulation, just property values. Land is just too damn expensive to use this way. I used to go to a place called Universal Salvage in Southampton, Long Island. It was sad to see zero concern about spilling lubricants and fluids on the ground – some areas had rain puddles for weeks after a storm because the ground was so oil soaked. But I would make the long drive out there and grab options for my Fury. I learned a lot about how cars were made, and just how much part sharing went on. I would love to have the time to do this again…

  • avatar
    19 Pinkslips

    I’m always curious how some of the cars I see at my local Baltimore u-pick u-pull yard end up there. Yesterday there were THREE crusty Nash Metropolitans there! Out front was a 3rd gen Avalon that was COVERED in barnacles?!? Like it had been on the bottom of the ocean for years, so weird. I need to find the story on that one.

  • avatar

    Great story, after spending years picking parts at these yards, your story strikes me as being very well written. I loved the fact that you put on video the last moments in the crusher, I share your goulish tendancies. Great that you took the time and effort to put the two cars together and update their progress. Pity we missed the first two days of the Civic. I am sure most of the stuff went in the first thirty minutes of opening time day one.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    Awesome story. I like human ingenuity and not letting things go to waste.

    I keep driving my 17 year old Grand Marquis because the thought of her going to the crusher makes me queasy.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Thanks for sharing the story as I enjoyed it!

    It does make me sad for my first car. It was fast, cool, girls loved it, and it was also a piece of junk. Okay I don’t miss it… LOL

  • avatar
    Simon

    Can someone tell me why the engine block for the Civic was spray painted yellow, but the Camry was unpainted? Was there something special about the Civic’s engine?

  • avatar
    Snaab9-3

    What a great read! I started reading TTAC because of Down on the Junkyard, always found something interesting about seeing cars at the end of the line. Whether it was a pride and joy, or just an appliance to get from A to B. Its hardest of all to see cars someone must have loved like that Civic Si, meet their ultimate fate.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Some people walk laps at the mall for exercise. Me? I drive to Gary’s U-Pull-It and walk the rows, even if I don’t actually need anything. My wife laughs at me, but at least it’s exercise.

    Thanks for another great article, Murilee!

    • 0 avatar
      mbardeen

      I spent lots of time there, scrounging for parts to keep my ’78 Mustang II running. Nice to see another NY-rustbelter here.

      Now I live somewhere where cars just don’t rust.

    • 0 avatar
      meat1709

      That is one of my favorite places, I usually make it a day long event when I go, partly due to the 2 1/2 hour drive, partly because its like a treasure hunt

  • avatar
    bandi

    I signed up on this site just to comment on this article… and all I’d like to say is the is one of the coolest pieces of automotive journalism I’ve ever seen.

    Thank you.

    (Now… to save that ’73 Super Beetle)

  • avatar
    thornmark

    That was not Corinthian leather. That was vinyl.
    http://www.hamtramck-historical.com/images/dealerships/colorAndTrim/1978/78_Cordoba_0004.jpg

    This is what Corinthian leather looked like:
    http://www.hamtramck-historical.com/images/dealerships/colorAndTrim/1978/78_Cordoba_0008.jpg

    All options here:
    http://www.hamtramck-historical.com/dealerships/1978ColorAndTrimChrysler-02.shtml

    If that’s leather, then it was not original.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    The only thing that stops me from visiting pick n pull more often, is the fact that it is 60 mile round trip from where I live. I can certainly make up for gas with little pieces I can sneak out for free in pockets. Even without picking significant parts, it’s an interesting pastime for a car geek. Sort of like visiting a specialized museum.

    • 0 avatar
      meat1709

      Its a 90 trip each way for me, but I still enjoy it and wish I were able to go more often. Though I almost always go way over budget because of finding those gems that are too good to leave behind.

  • avatar
    guy922

    Strange as it sounds, I think the junkyard gave the wrong model year on this Camry. It’s got the 3vz-FE V6 which was only available 1992-93. (I have this model personally). 1994 onwards had a different V6 engine, used in the 1994-2001 Camry V6 models and the Avalon. I found the parking brake pic interesting and thats what made me realize the difference. E-brake on 1992-96 V6 is on the dash, not in the floor unless a four banger. 1993 was also the last year with the availability of a blue colored interior. Blue interior was dropped for 1994. Lastly, 1994+ Camry’s have a passenger side airbag, with a smaller glovebox than 1992-93. 1992-93 models do not have a pass airbag but all have a driver airbag. The car you photographed does not have the airbag. I really love these junkyard posts. Im just a Camry fanatic and couldn’t help it. Great post. Keep up the good work.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Great article. Seeing the pictures makes me want to treat my cars with more respect.

  • avatar
    meat1709

    Very nice piece, I love the u-pull-it yards and go every chance I get. I admit, it made me sad seeing that Merc sitting there. I just wanted to take it home where it would be safe. The one yard I go to most puts the antifreeze and washer solvent in barrels with pumps so that customers can take as much as they want as long as they bring their own containers. The other yard sell it by the gallon or 55 gallon drum. I like this idea because I like being able to wander through the yard and choose the parts I want, and the extra perks, like nuts and bolts that fall into my toolbox. I know they see them, but they never have a problem with it, I usually pick lug nuts up that others, yard employees included, have tossed on the ground. I know how expensive these are to buy new, so a friend and I sort them into coffee cans so we have them when needed. My biggest complaint is seeing the unnecessary destruction of parts, like one trip I saw where someone destroyed a nice set of spoked hub-caps because they were too lazy to get the key from the glove-box[it was in there, I checked] or another that ruined a good truck bed by cutting a section out of one of the sides, when there was a truck two down from it that had a damaged bedside, but the panel that was cut of the first truck was intact. But, I look forward to seeing more like this. Its almost as sickening as seeing the good parts that are wasted by people selling to scrappers for that quick buck. It’s already hurting the used part market and will continue to do so.

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    What an interesting piece. Kids would find this fascinating. Murilee, maybe you should think about repackaging this content for a kids’ book or maybe an article in Boys Life or some science magazine for kids.

    While we’re on the topic of junkyards, the New York Times just had a piece about a rash of thefts of big old beaters and Econolines and other such vans. In NY state, once the value of a vehicle falls below a certain amount, no title is needed to junk it. The thieves are getting paid by the pound, so they go after heavy stuff they can steal with the old screw driver in the ignition trick.

    • 0 avatar
      meat1709

      I’ve heard of similar cases around my hometown in Pa. Although there many scrap yards don’t ask for titles if all they are doing is processing[usually just tear motor/trans and axles out of the car with an excavator then shove the pieces into a bailer] the car and shipping it out as scrap metal. It’s a sickening thing to hear about, especially since the scrap prices are already sending cars to scrap yards that should be going to parts yards or people that need them as a daily driver.


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