By on October 18, 2013

Photo courtesy of NBCnews.com

Just in time for Halloween, NBC News’ China-centric news blog “Behind the Wall” is running a piece on the removal of a Chinese “Zombie car.” The car, actually a small blue van, was left in a roadside parking lot just over a year ago and has since been consumed by a voracious ivy plant. When photos of the plant covered car became an internet sensation earlier this year, the police became involved but had little luck tracing the current owner. Eventually the decision was made to impound the vehicle, but by then the vines were so thick that local authorities determined it would be easier to haul the entire mess away in one fell swoop. The end result makes an interesting photo.

Photo courtesy of NBCnews.com

There is something sad about an abandoned car. How a vehicle goes from the object of a person’s desire to a worthless piece of trash is an amazing journey. Think about the money and effort involved in purchasing a car. The average person struggles for years to find the money to make the down payment, then years more to service the loan. Along the way there is gas, oil, tires, batteries, tune-ups and eventually parts and repairs, but in return for all that your car gives its entire life to your service. It is, at first, a status symbol, the object of your neighbors’ envy, then a faithful servant that carries you on every errand. Later it becomes that part of your family that carried you to the hospital when your son or daughter was born and eventually that aging but stalwart companion that carried you across the country on your family vacations.

Sooner or later something new catches your eye, your situation changes, or the repair bills begin to mount up so high that you decide a change is in order. In most cases people trade their old car in for another and, although they are thrilled to have something new, they are saddened to see the old one go. Still, the idea that the old car may find some service for another family, may live to serve that family as it has served your own, helps soften the blow. I know that’s how I felt when I traded the keys to my Ford Freestar for the ones to our new T&C but I walked away from the relationship knowing that I did my best to ensure that it would live on for some time to come.

I can’t look at an old, abandoned car without imagining how it came to be there, the people it carried and the lives it touched. In my mind, abandoning your vehicle is a despicable thing to do and it reminds me of an old folk tale called “The Bell of Atri.” Of course I know a car is not a living, breathing thing but as a faithful servant it deserves better. If it can’t go on, then at the very least take it to the recycler and let it start the process anew. Everyone deserves justice, do they not?

Image Courtesy of Gutenburg.org

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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33 Comments on “Justice for the Zombie Cars...”


  • avatar
    noreaster

    I enjoyed the folk tale, but I don’t necessarily see abandoned cars (or run-down houses, neglected yards, and other similar things) as despicable acts by miserly or fickle owners. Instead, I tend to imagine someone waylaid by illness, age, despair, or some other hardship. I too am saddened, but more for the person than for the object.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Overdoing it a little here Tom – it’s a little cheapo panel/box van judging by those wheels and it’s size in comparison to that Mazda 6. Not some object of desire which a Chinese person loved greatly. Parked in THAT parking lot (garbage and slummy building next door), it was likely a piece of crap anyway. Good riddance to a junky old van illegally left in a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Perhaps instead of the Bell of Atri, this fable would be more on target:

      One day a farmer’s donkey fell into a dried up well.

      The animal cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He began to shovel dirt into the well.

      At first, the donkey cried horribly, then he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel ­of dirt that hit his back, the donkey would shake it off & take a step up. Pretty soon, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well & happily trotted off.

      Covering your ass can be a big waste or your assets.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      Don’t judge a communist apartment by its cover. This actually doesn’t look half bad.

      Having been to Russia by the look of the apartments on the outside you would describe them the same way. But, as you walk in through the non descript blacked out door that lead to bare concrete walls and staircase. Then you notice something. The doors off the stairs look kind of nice. You wonder.Then you open a door and you would find a well cared for and possibly renovated apartment inside very much in conflict with the outside of the building.

    • 0 avatar
      SkidRo

      While I agree on your comment about shit-box van that apartment complex is probably not a slum. My gf lived in something similar in Beijing and most people in the building were middle class (well off young professionals). The buildings look like shit on the outside but the actual condos were very nice with fancy indoor plumbing and electricity.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Only in China, you hear the whackiest shit coming out of there!

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    Here I was expecting an article on Plymouths, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs and Saturns. This is much better. I’ve never read that story before, and I like the analogy.

    So many people seem to think nothing of their cars however, or keep them for a fairly short time, that I wouldn’t expect them to relate.

    Also, what of well-meaning individuals who park their old cars, saying “I’ll fix it up someday”, but never do? Spared from the crusher, only to be consumed by the elements.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I found that Plymouth that they sealed in the concrete to be depressing. All that anticipation and hope. Then they dig it up and it’s all rusted and coroded. I guess it’s a fitting alegory for the American dream.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I found some kind of unofficial junkyard with several interesting vehicles seemingly left to rot…

    A 1960 Buick four-door wagon…
    Two IH Scouts (one a Scout II)
    Some kind of 40s/50s military truck
    First generation Chevy Blazer (likely a ’71)

    And that’s just what I saw before I left in fear of being chased away. Some of these vehicles look like they could be made roadworthy if they hadn’t spent too many years rotting…

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    Don’t go to this website, it will make grown men weep:

    http://www.carsinbarns.com

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    When I was in high school, there was a 1970 Cutlass abandoned in my friend’s apartment complex. It sat there for 2 years. I found the Rocket 350 disassembled to the heads. I wanted to claim the car, but had no clue how to go about it. No internet or anything back then.

    I theorized that it had belonged to a young Navy guy from the nearby sub base, that had moved away long ago.

    The few real life stories I know of when somebody abandoned their car were real winners. Every junkyard car tells a story, but an abandoned car is a different matter entirely. Especially these days, when you can simply pick up a phone and have a check made out for it on the spot from a scrapper.

    • 0 avatar

      I rotate through DC every few years and usually stay in the same corporate apartment complex. When I went through there 7 years ago I noticed a mid 60s 4 door Dodge Dart in the lot.

      You guessed it, it was there when we went to that complex to visit friends this summer. This in a place where you are required to have a tag hangining from your rearview mirror all the time. I know someone had to have just left it there when they rotated through.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    So…how stupid would it be to go back to this place I found and offer a guy 200 bucks for one of the vehicles? The 1960 Buick and the Scout II are the best restoration candidates I saw, since the Buick is up off the ground and the condition of the Scout’s paint and trim means it hasn’t been sitting there for THAT long.

    I just don’t want to see perfectly good cars rot, even if I can’t fix them up myself…I foresee a lot of project cars in my future.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Not stupid at all unless there are signs stating “trespassers will be shot”. Even if there are signs you could still take note of the address and send a letter, or look up the owner of the properties name in the tax data base and see if you could find a number. Of course the likely answer will be “I’m going fix them up some day”. You may want to adjust your price a bit though since $200 is less than many scrappers will pay currently, depending on the price of scrap steel in your area.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I’m thinking the former rather than the latter…scrap prices are like $200 per ton around here if the $250 for my ’87 Nova was any indication, and in this rather stagnant economy you would have to have some kind of sentimentality to ignore a chance to make a couple grand.

        And I like to photograph cars, so I always ask if I can take pictures because some people might be paranoid and think I’m with some kind of zoning authority, I dunno.

        But yeah, you’d have to be a little crazy to sit on like…four thousand dollars worth of scrap steel.

        I just can’t help it, I want to save cars, especially off-beat cars from manufacturers that don’t even exist any more, and I really like Scouts for some reason. Maybe there are some parts on the white Scout I that are in better shape than those on the green Scout II…

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Not many parts interchange between the Scout 80/800 and the Scout II. However you really should just pick up both since IH vehicles have been scientifically proven to be the most addictive motor vehicle known to man. You would be surprised how many people show up on the IH forum having purchased their first and then soon have a collection. Usually people pick one up for parts and then determine that it is in too good of shape to part out which leads to another parts truck. Then you find one that just needs a couple of things and since you have some of them anyway…..

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I just really like the Scout for some reason! And I’d gladly pick up both of these rusty Scouts just to help guys like you and fellow Scout fans keep their Scouts going, unless the Scout II is in good enough shape to put back on the road again…I have always wanted a 4×4.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Just how fast do Vines grow in China?

    • 0 avatar

      The article says it was in Sichuan province and looking at a map it’s fairly far south. If my Okinawa experince, which is in the same lattitude but a little bit more of a marine climate, is any indication the answer is “really fast.”

      One year I took a month long vacation back to the States in October and let my lawn go while I was gone. The grass was over three feet tall when we got back and parts of it had already dried like hay – and that’s just plain old yard grass. Vines and other things like bamboo grow even faster.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I’m no botanical expert, but if the vine is kudzu (native to SE China) it wouldn’t take long at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      I am a botanical expert, and this vine ‘Alraune’ grows at an exponential rate. So if you give me some assumptions about initial conditions, exact solar exposure, rainfall, and soil chemistry, I will calculate it for you. Judging by these pics I estimate 2 years minimum.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    In Iowa, there’s an abandoned Amphicar under an awning.

    The shop shown looked like it had been shuttered for a long time since this picture had been taken.
    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Auto+Repair+Specialties,+Center+Point+Road+Northeast,+Cedar+Rapids,+IA&hl=en&ll=42.012539,-91.66415&spn=0.003906,0.013797&sll=42.012459,-91.664437&sspn=0.000383,0.000431&oq=auto+repair+&t=h&gl=us&z=16&layer=c&cbll=42.012542,-91.66414&panoid=PIEsr52h7IayfHbk9feCDA&cbp=11,264.17,,1,3.75

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    “Someone
    Has Done
    Me wrong!”

  • avatar
    Dan R

    The unpaved ground around the van is covered with litter.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Tom, I get it. My wife and I hate to see our cars go. I kept my first car and she tried to keep hers, but her father sold it before we got married. You can’t replace it either. The time has to be put in, just like a human relationship. Either you get this or you just don’t.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I’ve always felt bad selling a car. Call me a hopeless auto romantic. One car I sold was used as a engine donor, I later found the body abandoned in a shop parking lot. That hurt. I had the car 9 years and did so much work to it and had so many experiences with it.
    Another car I had for 10 years and 120K miles was sold to a couple who not only abused it but ended up wreaking it. It ended up in a scrapyard way too soon.

    Two I sold to good homes and one I traded in. I like to kid myself they are still on the road but I know better.

  • avatar
    DGA

    You really struck a chord Tom… You just summed up exactly how I’ve felt letting go of a car in one paragraph.

    “here is something sad about an abandoned car. How a vehicle goes from the object of a person’s desire to a worthless piece of trash is an amazing journey. Think about the money and effort involved in purchasing a car. The average person struggles for years to find the money to make the down payment, then years more to service the loan. Along the way there is gas, oil, tires, batteries, tune-ups and eventually parts and repairs, but in return for all that your car gives its entire life to your service. It is, at first, a status symbol, the object of your neighbors’ envy, then a faithful servant that carries you on every errand. Later it becomes that part of your family that carried you to the hospital when your son or daughter was born and eventually that aging but stalwart companion that carried you across the country on your family vacations.”


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