By on April 11, 2017

Yards Across America

You can always spot a gearhead on vacation. They’re the ones arguing with the people at Hertz over the type of tires on their rental or, at the bare minimum, running up and down the Emerald Aisle at National like a kid in a candy store.

Serious car freaks, like all hands writing for this august establishment and (I’m wagering) a good percentage of our readers, start seeking out car-related “events” at their destination at the earliest opportunity.

Me? I usually end up digging through the Yards Across America.

Don’t tell me I’m the only one. I refuse to believe it. Our very own Murilee Martin has been visiting yards since the days of Crystal Pepsi and Hammer Pants; I’d be lying if I told you his escapades didn’t have some sort of influence on my own proclivity for hitting up the nearest u-pull-it whenever I’ve some free time in a new town. While children look forward to meeting Mickey and Minnie at Disney World, I’m eagerly tucking a rudimentary toolkit into my suitcase in anticipation of finding an obscure cloisonné badge or dashboard switch; whatever’s small enough to tuck into my suitcase and take back home, basically.

It’s not just busted cars and dirty tools, though. My browser history is littered with searches for car shows scheduled during the time I’m at my destination. Occasionally, luck is on my side and I’ll find a five-star show at the duPont Registry or a 1,000+ strong classic car show in a major city. Sometimes, of course, the best ones are happened upon completely by chance, like the time I found a group of people in tattered Datsuns expertly drifting their way around a half-abandoned mall in rural Nova Scotia.

How about you, B&B? Do you — intentionally or completely by chance — take in some car-related fun while on vacation? And if you find yourself arms deep into an ’89 Reatta trying to harvest its tasty (but prehistoric) touchscreen CRT at a u-pull-it in Arizona with only a few hours until your flight, remember to factor in the extra cost levied by flinty-eyed clerks at the airline check-in counter. Those pixelated Buick dashboards are heavy, man.

[Image: © 2017 Matthew Guy]

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23 Comments on “QOTD: National Lampoon’s Gearhead Vacation?...”

  • avatar

    For sure, almost all of our family vacations include a pre-planned stop at a car show, auto museum, major drag racing event or occasionally a wrecking yard. My wife isn’t enthusiastic about it, but she humors me.

    We flew out to BC once and I planned a stop at a wreckers known to have a good supply of old cars. When we got there, I was informed “Sorry, we crushed out all of our C-body Mopars a couple months ago.” If/when I plan something like that again, I’ll call ahead.

    • 0 avatar

      @BigOldChryslers – I read a story about a fellow selling his property and all of his cars.

      5 acres of land and over 340 vintage car for $1.45 million Canadian.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve seen that story. It has a working restoration shop on-site and farmland. I’d be tempted to buy that if I won the lottery, and thus could afford to be so eccentric. I’d sell off or part out most of the cars and rent out the farmland. That would help finance restoring the cars I’d want to keep.

  • avatar

    I used to have to go to a large midwestern city for some training. If I were there over the weekend, I’d take my rental car, usually a Taurus or something similar to the drag races and try my hand at bracket racing. I never won overall, but it was more fun than sitting in the hotel room, eating Funyuns.

  • avatar

    I’m no gearhead by any means, but anyone who travels with me gets a kick out of me at the rental counter. Friends and family call me when I’m not with, even. “Ok, I just got to the rental lot and all they have is a Jeep Patriot and a Dodge Journey. What do I take?” “Something in a different class” is the right answer in that situation, obviously, but they just don’t know.

  • avatar

    Family and friends know that where’re I may roam, anything pre-1965 appears (car, truck, tractor..) and I’m officially off the leash.

    I think that’s the main reason my wife wanted me to get a cell phone: coordinate a meet-up after I stray.

  • avatar

    I limit my car-related recreation to solo trips. Last weekend I had to go from NYC to Garrison, NY for a friend’s wedding; I stopped to check out a friend’s old 911 at an exotic car parking garage. Before that, a work conference in Philadelphia included a couple hours at Simeone. A mediation in San Francisco meant a drive down US 1 and a visit to Canepa. Parkhaus and Creative Workshop are highlights of every Miami trip. Phoenix, though, is my favorite: Hertz usually has interesting metal and I totally love the drive out toward Superstition Mountains.

    For years I’ve been trying to pull off the ultimate gearhead family vacation: Euro delivery. The catch is that it’s not easy to fit four people plus gear in the kind of car I’d want to drive on a Euro delivery.

  • avatar

    Just so ! .
    For me it’s always Junk Yards as I never quite know what I’ll find, often completely unobtanium items .
    I’m very lucky in that SWMBO doesn’t mind one bit as long as I take her wherever she wants to go during the travel .
    She’s from Oklahoma and so doesn’t mind sitting in the heat one bit (I do) .
    In Jamaica I found a hidden Motocycle Junk Hard on a hillside, almost bought an entire Honda Moto, I figured to take it fully apart for shipping home….
    It’s not unheard of for me o buy some dilapidated vehicle when I’m 2,000 miles from home and figure out how to get it home after the purchase .
    I also love meeting new people and listening to their stories, I always learn something new .

  • avatar

    Have detoured on two different car trips to visit the Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum in Ocala, FL. Totally worth the time and effort to get there (and very satisfying to revisit after a few decades elapse).

  • avatar

    I got taken to some car shows as a kid by my uncle. He came back from his stint in the Marines in the early 80’s with a vintage Beetle and a Karmann Ghia.

    It was cool to look at some classic cars, and some newer stuff.

    But I find them mostly boring, and haven’t gone to one since high school. Part of this is the internet giving me all the info I need on cars, part of it is the bad marketing/sales pitches you get from the reps, and part of it you walk around and take pictures (well, I don’t but most do).

    If I could test drive everything, that would be a far better reason to go.

    So, no, I certainly don’t do this on vacation, as I don’t do it regularly.

  • avatar

    I’m always fascinated to observe the local car-scape, and the infrastructure for car repair/maintenance, the sorts of common modifications people do, preferred brands, etc. Love riding in cabs and talking to cabbies. Better yet a friend or family member who’s a car owner who can give me the scoop on what car ownership is like in that locale.

    A lot of this hangs on travel to less developed countries, much more interesting to me than going to some wealthy European country.

    Recent examples that stand out to me: prevalence of 2nd gen Explorers down in rural Mexico. These things with the OHV V6 are real troopers, I respect them much more now. Same for Nissan, I love the old school Nissan Tsurus that are the primary taxi platform.

    Montero II in Costa Rica: Mitsubishi has a surprisingly strong presence down there, yet I did not see any at all in Mexico. Mitsu is second only to Toyota down in CR. Seeing people keep gen 1 Elantras and Excels going also made me consider how different reputations are in different countries (Mitsu-based mechanicals).

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    In two trips to Japan I have:
    Visited the Nissan World HQ (twice)
    Taken the Mazda factory tour in Hiroshima
    Gone to MegaWeb to see the Toyota vehicle display and History Garage (twice)
    Taken a day trip to Nagoya to visit the Toyota Museum
    Stopped at a Super Autobacs (meh)

    Not to mention the constant car spotting and getting to sit in and start my dream car – R33 Skyline GTR V Spec.

    Future plans include:
    A day trip to Nagano to see the Prince and Skyline Museum
    Take a trip to Twin Ring Motegi

    I am also a bit of a diecast collector. And the two times I’ve been there I’ve spent hours upon hours hunting toy cars. Last year I spent more money on cars on that trip than I had the entire previous year. I brought an entire large suitcase just for my purchases and filled it and then some.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Years ago did a petrohead specific mini-tour through the UK. Crewe, Coventry and Newport-Pagnell. Got to tour the factories and the museums each marque kept. Went with a friend with journalism credentials to assist in that. Hit the jackpot at Newport-Pagnell and were treated to lunch at the local pub by an Engineer and a designer for Aston-Martin.

    In our trip we also included a tour of a number of the distilleries in Scotland.

    Then rounded it out by hopping across the Channel and conducting our own tour of the Western Front.

  • avatar

    My oldest son loves everything with a motor, my wife and youngest, not so much.
    As a kid my brother and I always went to equipment auctions with my dad. I frequented wrecking yards all of the time with buddies and did roam the country looking for parts. Nowadays, I just don’t have the free time or money.

  • avatar

    Much to my wife’s consternation, I check Row52 before any trip to see what’s in the local junkyards. When in Europe, I’ll bring along my “emergency kit” of a double ended flat/phillips screwdriver, 9/11mm wrench, and ratchet.

    Yes, I have a problem.

  • avatar

    About 15-20 years ago, Autoweek Magazine put out an issue called “Places”, a guide to automotive-related destinations across the continental U.S., divided by regions. (Even places with spurious connections were cited; among them the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland when they still had both Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche and ZZ Top’s ’32 Ford “Eliminator”.) I would imagine, if one of these back issues could be found in a used bookstore, many of the places still exist.

  • avatar

    I love junkyard trips. I love finding something I haven’t seen in years. I like paying $20 for a Mustang cluster and selling to a guy building a Ford Fairmont wagon for a huge profit. I like finding little upgrades for my car.

    Next trip I plan to get some aluminum valve covers from a 2000-07 Taurus/Sable Vulcan, and another 2nd gen tach cluster as mine is glitchy lately. I need a lower trim for my front bumper, and I would love to find a floor shift 1998-02 Continental and rob the shifter out of it. So classy!

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