By on July 22, 2015

All You Can Pull

As fellow automotive scribe Murilee Martin outlined the rules to me, I could only picture it one way: “That sounds like Black Friday meets a roller derby.”

All-you-can-haul days at the junkyard were outlawed in California for good reasons, he said. People kept hurting themselves hauling engines or whatever, and sued the junkyards.

People use hoods as makeshift wheelbarrows and haul hundreds of pounds of radios, he added.

“I have to see this,” I said.

All You Can Pull

The first all-you-can-haul day at U-Pull and Pay started with a surprise: the line was out of the front door. People had been here all morning picking old 1994 Ford Escorts clean and paying $59.99 per person for the privilege to do it.

Martin had baited me by saying there may be an old Alfa 164 at the lot I could wrench on, which turned out to be a fib of the first order. (I want an old Alfa more than I want my next meal, but that’s another story.)

Nonetheless, I arrived on the lot at 10 a.m. with my Husky “My First” wrench set in tow — complete with foam insert so the sockets don’t get scratched — and cargo short pockets stuffed with a hammer, screwdriver and crescent wrench. I had pulled a gas tank for a 1984 Ford Bronco once when I was in high school, but beyond that junkyards are more foreign to me than women. I brought some tools, but hell if I knew whether they’d help or not.

IMG_1422I knew I was a fish out of water. I even chuckled as I pulled up in an electric car that I had on loan that week because I’m an ironic millennial who thinks he’s cute in his Cheerios T-shirt.

I arrived, clicked through the front kiosk to see if anything Alfa was at the yard, and prepared myself to walk the yard with Martin and hear everything he knows about old cars (which there isn’t enough natural time for in the known universe).

I met Martin at the door. Niceties were exchanged. Hellos were heard. I quickly realized that Martin was on a mission — seats and relays — and humoring me wasn’t on his menu. I could tell quickly that I was on my own for entertainment.

No problem. I’ll find an oily, old Fiat valve cover that’ll look good on my wall (there were two Fiat 124s there) or a vintage Hillman badge that I could sell on Etsy for $1,200 or whatever.

“My back sucks, so I’ll make you a deal. You get a couple light things and carry my stuff and I’ll pay for your haul,” Martin said to me.

“Sure thing. Done deal,” I said. Flattering my Flab Power® goes a long way these days, after all.

Asunder from Martin, I roamed. The Fiats were in sorry shape; someone had taken an electric saw to the poor thing’s right butt cheek and forcefully removed its tail lamp. There were no interesting Italians, just weathered Saabs and unloved Subarus — this is Colorado, after all.

All You Can Pull

And then a forest-green 1997 Range Rover showed its hide. A majestic luxury ute in its day, it had been beaten to within an inch of its life and not survived an attempt at a recovery. (In reality, it had been lightly crashed and an all-to-eager insurance company and likely underwater owner gleefully parted ways with it.)

At its bow was a relatively untouched 4-liter V-8, compete with iron intake assembly and valve cover.

“I’ll have it,” I said.

I don’t own a Range Rover. I don’t plan on owning a Range Rover. I’ve never owned a Range Rover.

But if there’s one thing I’m more ashamed to admit than my relative inexperience with the fussy SUV, it’s this: My tools are clean enough to eat off of.

IMG_1440I wanted to wrench the hell out of that intake, curse at the throttle sensors and rip the engine’s pelt from its lightly sealed gasket and hang it on my wall. I don’t hunt, so this Rover was my five-point buck.

For 30 minutes, I fussed over hex screws longer than my hand, over-engineered hoses and intake sensors that were likely broken well before the car was junked. After all that, I joyfully jammed a pry bar up its nose and yanked the bastard free.

It was mine.

Now what am I going to do with it, again?

It whet my appetite, that’s what. I went crazy for crap I’ll never use. That old Volvo has a valve cover? It’s mine. Want to watch me pull a Mercedes grille? I have a tool for that so it’s a done deal.

Then I gazed upon my junkyard Rosebud: The spider legs and tangled mess of a Yamaha-built, Ford SHO engine’s intake. You know the one, when engines looked like engines and Ford screws were hand-tight.

With help, I removed 20 bolts and nothing moved. There were nuts and washers that held together more nuts and washers.

IMG_1439“It’d take a competent mechanic hours to pull that thing off,” Martin told me later.

I’m not a competent mechanic. But I wanted it.

In six pieces, the SHO manifold held fast to its block. The Ford section of the junkyard was by far the biggest section — a bursting testament to automaking malaise — and the SHO engine’s cover was like the polished Galaga machine in the corner. More competent men had gone before me and failed. I was not special.

Defeated, exhausted and wildly dehydrated I made my way back to Martin. His haul consisted of two red-and-black, launch-edition seats from a 1985 Toyota MR2. I did not see this coming. Our comrade, Rich, poached four headlights, a wiring harness of some sort, two calipers and a handful of switches, gauges, relays and senders to stuff in between the seats.

“You can carry all this, right?” Marin asked.

“Right,” I said.

If one person can haul it, one person has to pay. Sacrificing pain for monetary gain was something I mostly gave up in my 20s, but I wasn’t going let our side down. Plus, I wore a Superman shirt.

“Load ‘em up,” I said.

All You Can Pull

Tied together like a backpack, I walked the 20-foot “all-you-can-haul” walk to save $60 at the expense of a fully usable back in my later years. At least I got a free T-shirt.

In reality, I couldn’t hold a candle to the guy who, clad with nine wheels and tires, hobbled down the walk. There were the guys with seatbelts attached to hoods and wrapped around their shoulders like cigarette trays carrying salvage ECUs. Then there was the guy hauling a transmission.

All You Can Pull

Earlier in the day, I watched two guys start in on a military-spec K5 Blazer’s front and rear axles. To get the deep discount pricing, they’d have to walk the blast-proof units down the aisle.

“I gotta see this.”

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34 Comments on “Junkyard Bonanza: A Tale of All-You-Can-Haul Hooliganism...”

  • avatar

    I feel like a total wimp now…I was having issues with front fenders and a full trunk carpet.

  • avatar

    ridiculous and hilarious at the same time. More articles like this and pictures of people doing the walk of shame….

  • avatar

    Saw 4 good ol’ boys each get the corner of a Dakota bed laden with car doors and all sorts of other stuff, it was a struggle but they pulled it off.

    I find that yards have these “anything you can carry out” sales when they’re ready to crush a bunch of picked apart stale cars and are ready to bring in a fresh load.

  • avatar

    I have some experience with this competitive event, having carried two Huyndai Excel front doors. (GF’s car’s ones were devoured by rust).

    Rolled down the windows and slung them over my shoulders. Probably looked like a human attempt at impersonating a car walking across the junk yard.

    Even Excel’s doors are heavier than one would have thought. Keeping a mental image of the “Farmer’s walk” event from the World Strongest Man competition helped with completing the delivery. :)

  • avatar

    they used to do this at a local junkyard by my house.
    One year, I walked out with a Dana 60 front axle out of a 1 ton Ford across my shoulders. that thing was friggin heavy. Needed two buddies to help me get it up on stacked-up wheels and put a seat cushion across my neck so that I could squat it and walk. dropped it on the far side of the 50′ long scale you had to walk and the discs buried themselves in the dirt road with a dead thud.

    • 0 avatar

      You win, Dana 60’s are stinkin heavy. For those of you who haven’t wrangled one, its like picking up an complete cast iron v8 engine. Maybe a little lighter, but still…..

  • avatar

    Great story. I wish my local yards did these kinds of sales.

  • avatar

    “All-you-can-haul days at the junkyard were outlawed in California…”

    Of course they were, because it’s fucking California. They’re not gonna be happy until they’ve criminalized everything except smoking marijuana.

    But getting back to the junkyard business – I used to cruise junkyards all the time, for both parts – and fun. And of course, I used to run into two types that didn’t want my business.

    The ones that wouldn’t let me in the yard “because of the insurance,” and the ones that had all the parts already pulled and stacked up on nice, neat rows of shelves.

    What the actual fuck? The whole point of going to a junkyard is to yank it yourself. That’s the fun part! If I wanted to buy shelved parts, I’d go to fucking AutoZone.

    Although, one place did feed my friend and I an original line of bullshit – he said he couldn’t remember where all the dogs were in the yard. I told him not to worry about it, we’d just climb up on top of a van or something, but he still said no.

  • avatar

    Fun stuff. I’m almost as much of a n00b as Aaron and I’ve never carried anything bigger than a wheel out of a junkyard.

  • avatar

    We have have a local U Pull yard that does these $60 all you can carry days 3-4 times a year. Christmas for a 24 Hours of Lemons team.

  • avatar

    Getting the right seats in the right condition you might be able to make some money doing man cave furniture during one of these days…

  • avatar

    “People kept hurting themselves hauling engines or whatever, and sued the junkyards.”

    That totally make sense.

    • 0 avatar

      It makes sense in California.

      Seriously, I travel there regularly for business. I spend enough time there that I see how the nutty things kinda make sense there… It’s a different culture, even though we all technically speak the same language.

  • avatar

    If you can start out with a breakfast burrito, then all you can carry junkyard haul, some pho and later a Dry Dock; well fella, I’d call that a damn fine day ’round Aurora, CO.

  • avatar

    If you want a cheap Alfa that might actually run buy an early 80s Spider with Bosch fuel injection. The 70s Alfas are cheaper but if you get one with a bad mechanical fuel injection pump that alone will coat $1000.

  • avatar

    “I brought some tools, but hell if I knew whether they’d help or not.”

    Is this how you approach things with women, too?

  • avatar

    Are you Murilee’s son or does everyone in Colorado look the same?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    from the website of Standard Auto Wreckers in Scarborough (north east part of Toronto) famous for their risque comical radio ads and their all you can haul parts days.

    Hope that posting this doesn’t break any rules about advertising.

    Every Saturday until October 31st, all the parts you can carry for $49.95 (Canadian)

  • avatar

    One of our local yards, Bessler’s, just advertised their upcoming all you can carry event. Thankfully I don’t have a burning need for any parts at the moment, I am bedeviled by the ABS module in the Volvo C70…who the hell thought using E5 female Torx fasteners, upside down at an angle, would make for easy replacement?!? My hands are so cut up and swollen, I can’t believe it.

  • avatar

    I had fun trying to carry a hood through one a while back, the wind made it into a sail

  • avatar

    Aw man, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any event like this over here. They have 50% off days, and in the summer, some places have 25% off if its over 105ºF.

  • avatar

    I wish you had a picture of the rules, couldn’t you bring a hand truck or wheelbarrow in?

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