As a fan of things old, I always enjoyed trips to junkyards even if I lacked a need for parts. I am not talking about the modern auto recycling yards which house cars for a month or two before sending them off to the furnaces. The junkyards to which I refer are the boneyards – smaller, family-owned businesses which pick up junked cars, plop them in a field and leave them for us “vultures”. In addition to car parts, one can find all kinds of useful items like radios, owners manuals, body/engine repair books, tools, drinking glasses, silverware, camping equipment, and other articles abandoned along with the cars. For the most part, I leave these items where I find them, though I am guilty of hauling away a few books, tools, and one box of 50 old flat iron nails; the latter turning out to be useful at my job. While rummaging though the contents of a car, I play the detective in trying to figure out what the owners were like. I once found what appeared to be a complete collection of psychology textbooks for a Master’s degree along with a pair of black stiletto heels and wig.
While it is always fun to find something of use (no not the textbooks, heels, or wig), what really fascinates me in these places is the history. While not quite museum quality, these automobiles still offer a lot of information, not only about what the manufacturers were up to but what modifications the owners performed over the years. If one has the time to get lost in the acres of rusting carcasses, they might find a 1972 school bus, 1958 hearse, or 1963 fire engine parked right next to a 1989 pick-up or 1950 delivery van. An expedition through the yard becomes more of a journey through automotive history, documenting the evolution of car makes and models, shapes, safety features, interior comforts, etc… Some of the stories are not so much fun and are told by the twisted steel, broken glass, and crumpled plastic of wrecks; casualties illustrating that roaring down the open road is not always so pleasant.
Finding the old Volkswagens makes these adventures a little more exciting, especially when they have been stuck deep in the back of the yard and remain unmolested. These treasures used to be easier to find, even in people’s backyards, but as time marches on the number of old VWs has dwindled, either consumed by the elements or hunters for parts. Over the years, I spent countless hours surveying yards and have found it is not always the finding something that matters but rather it is the hunt itself, the boneyard that materializes when a new road is taken or the excitement in not knowing what might be behind that decomposing tow truck, that makes the adventure.