Jeff in the Junkyard: The Left Behinds

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As some of you have likely noticed, it’s been ages since I’ve posted about my junkyard expeditions. Part of this is my fault due to pure laziness – I’ve had the pictures but haven’t felt like I had anything good enough to share. This is largely attributable to the fact that I’ve hit a bit of a wall with local yards, which means I need to start looking at places beyond my preferred two-hour travel time, and those trips are harder to plan for. That said, a small yard in Connecticut didn’t have much in the way of BMW parts but did have some vestiges of what the yard used to inventory in previous years. 

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The yard is Nichols Auto Parts in Clinton, Connecticut. Its selection of 1980s BMWs is fairly limited, but they had an old 3-Series and a 2002, so at least there was something for me to look at. Most everything else was 90’s-era and newer GM products, but you could tell that at one time, this yard kept a lot of old metal around. This makes sense, since Nichols was one of several Connecticut-area salvage facilities that was sold to a scrap metal processing company in recent years. This Saab 96 was pretty much bare but still had some good panels to give.

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This is the ebb and flow of the salvage industry anymore: buy a yard, make it a U-pick, decide it’s not making enough money and then shut it down. In the process, a yard that for years was a resource for local gearheads and DIYers becomes bereft of cars older than 20 years and simultaneously loses its reason for being. Late-model American auto parts are not hard to find on sites like eBay and your local craigslist. Finding a near-flawless bench seat like the one that was inside this Dart is quite a bit more difficult.

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And of course, salvage yards have to make money. I’m not naive; that’s the basic goal of any for-profit business. My gripe more lies with the fact that over the years, major chains like Pick-N-Pull have acquired local yards that were some of my favorite stomping grounds for near-death experiences spent crawling over twisted hulks and vintage metal, looking for that elusive part. If a major steel organization hadn’t acquired them – and eventually shuttered operations because it didn’t make enough money – those yards might still be in existence. Off the grid and useful to those of us self-sufficient enough to go exploring.

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I have a feeling this car will catch fellow Barn Finds writer Jamie’s eye. You don’t see too many Morris Minor Travellers in any form on the road, much less one that’s sitting quietly in a you-pick yard with lots of good parts still left. This one was definitely the oddball of the group, but parked next to the Saab 96, it’s not hard to imagine that these two came in as a pair once the previous owners’ estate was settled. The worst part is, given the remoteness of this yard and its limited advertising, nobody in the Morris community likely knows about it. Hopefully, this post will help spread the word.

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This formerly jadegrun (that’s “jade green” in non-2002 speak) was owned at one time by a BMW CCA member, based on the stickers in the window. As a squarelight and an automatic, it’s not surprising to see it end up here despite being free from major cosmetic damage. It was surprisingly un-rusty and the paint job was fair for what was clearly a quicky repsray over a somewhat desirable color. Honestly, if it hadn’t been repainted, I’ll bet it would have found a new home when the previous owner got sick of it. This was the most fruitful part of my morning, as I snagged the driver’s side grill for my brother, whose project 2002 has some damage to the grill mounting points on the same side. For $5, the price was right.

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This sad Firebird had clearly seen better days, and I don’t know if it had much left to give (notice the complete nose cone to the bottom right of the photo – that looked like a usable part to someone). When I mention in the title the descriptor of “The Left Behinds,” I’m referring to the fact that these older vehicles were clustered together in one tiny section of the yard where the occasional tall bush or bramble patch indicate these were all overgrown at one point and the new yard owners simply left these cars there while the rest of the lot was cleaned out and turned over to mostly late-model vehicles.

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These British buddies didn’t have much left in the way of parts, but the TR6 did have a fairly minty front bumper. Interiors were gone in both the TR6 and the MGB, and the body panels weren’t anything worth writing home about either. You can see the Triumph could still offer up its windshield and some original wheels but not much else; do any of our British car fans see other parts that could be worth saving? The original light blue paint that’s poking out reveals what must have been a very pretty car at one point in time.

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Here’s the final vintage rig I spotted in the back of the lot, a rusty and weather-beaten Scout. The variety of Baja stickers in the back glass gave some indication as to the interesting history it may have had; sad to think it ends in a no-name yard stuck alongside the train tracks in coastal Connecticut. Supposedly, the town of Clinton is sticking a sewage treatment plant in next to the yard and the property will soon be for sale, presumably because the town will want to buy some additional land. My guess is this won’t even be in operation this time next year, but hopefully I’m wrong. In the meantime, if you see something you need, get yourself to Nichols!

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Comments

  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Jeff, yes I like the Morris and the TR6 especially. That light blue is “French Blue” and it does make for a pretty car. Straight (unbent) TR6 steel wheels are difficult to find, and I’m sure there are plenty of connectors and do-dads left on both cars. The fender from the Morris would be useful for a find I was looking at yesterday, but to be honest I’d have to look at resurrecting the whole car first! Thanks for sharing this great post and pictures!

    • William L Wurthmann Member

      Where is this remote yard?

  2. Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

    Thanks Jamie. I looked up a few Google images of French Blue cars and man, that is a pretty shade. Aren’t the Morris’ fairly rare in that wagon-style configuration?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Over here they are rare, period! The issue with the travelers like that is that the wood is actually structural in the rear, not cosmetic. There was a good episode of Wheeler Dealers where they rebuilt one and you can see the amount of wood that goes into it. On the bright side, there are suppliers (in the UK) that will sell you a complete kit of wood to do it with…but they aren’t inexpensive!

  3. jim s

    it does not take much of a reason anymore for a yard to disappear. when scrap metal price start to up again that will put even more pressure on them. glad to see you were out going thru one.

  4. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    Jeff, if you are a Connecticut native, you must have heard about Winnakers, it was in Salem.

    When I first moved here twenty plus years ago the place floored me. Tons of good looking 40’s era cars sitting there.

    The place was well kept but has since been liquified of all the cars and scrap.

    Eventually the usual junkyard issues came up, family squabbles, taxes, towns wanting the business to go away.

    Too bad. Nice people, wish I could have done more business with them.

    Impressed that they let me walk around on my own, offered to sign a waiver, he trusted me, wish I had brought a camera. Lincoln V12, an Adenauer Mercedes, there were some pretty rare cars.

    Nichols is about 15 miles from me, a trip is now scheduled, Thanks

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Ross, keep us posted on your visit. It’s not a large yard but if you are that close by, may as well check it out. Wish the other yard you spoke of was still in operation; I’m sure I would have enjoyed it mightily.

  5. charlie

    I was there in the summer of l957 when I was 16 with my cousin who had a ’41 Pontiac fastback 6, NOT a great car, looking for a tail light lense and a few other trim parts, and there was a complete (except for side curtains and no 2nd row seat) ’32 or “33 Ford Woody wagon with an Xmas tree in the back and a V8 for $25. Red sheet metal, yard guy claimed it had been driven in a few weeks before on a borrowed battery which had been removed, but, we could jump it if we wanted to hear it run and drive it around the dirt yard. I knew my father well enough that he would never allow me to own it, let alone truck it north of Boston where we lived, but I can still see it, and feel how I longed for it back then, it would have been a very good car to start the hobby with. It was a great yard back then, no worries about insurance, and they let two teenagers roam the yard and pick off parts (with our own tools) and the prices were just fine.

  6. Ch. Jns

    Junk yards with older cars are difficult to find, especially near large cities. I live in the largest city in TX and have found several older yards in smaller towns or in the country side. Found several just driving around smaller towns with time on my hands. Raised in WV in the 50s & 60s, there were numerous junkyards with 30s, 40s & 50s cars, now they are all gone due to the owners dying, city buy-outs, price of metal and the EPA!

  7. Keith

    Sad to see these junkyards are becoming a thing of the past. Growing up in Montana in the 1990’s there were quite a few good junkyards around. One, in Billings, had 500+ cars from the 70’s on back, many of which weren’t so far gone that they could rebuilt. I went back there a couple of years ago to find 95% of the yard gone and really only a few Corvair hulks and a couple shells of cars from the 30’s left.
    The most amazing yard I ever was way out in eastern Montana. I believe it was (unofficially) called Big Sky Auto Salvage, near Rosebud. Miles (and I do mean MILES) of cars. I still have photos of that place, and if I had to guess I’d say they easily had over 3,000 cars from the 70’s on back. My brother bought a 49 Caddy with 11,000 miles off them for $1000. No joke. I bought a ’60 Olds 98 coupe and a 60 Dodge Phoenix off them (running and driving) for $500 each. I google Earthed the place recently, it’s completely gone now and is farmland. No idea what happened to all those cars.

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Big Sky is legendary. I would love to visit it someday, if it’s still in existence.

      • Keith

        Glad to hear someone else knows of the place! Just from Google Earth it doesn’t look to be around anymore. Planning a trip out there later this year, hopefully I’ll find that it’s still there.

  8. Jerry Retkofsky

    If you happen across a 1940 chevy master 85 2 door please contact me.. Looking to restore the one my grandfather gave me for a graduation present in 1972..Thanks much, Jerry

  9. mtshootist1

    well, there are still two, count em TWO salvage yards in Livingston MT, both right off I-90, one on each end of town. I’ve picked around one of them trying to keep an 87 Celebrity running, but now it sits in the front yard, thanks to one of my granddaughters hitting a boulder with it. Alas.. 238,000 miles on the original four banger engine, and I was shooting for 300,000.

    • carsofchaos

      Yes those 2 yards I am aware of, and the occasionally post cars on the local CL.
      If you keep heading west until you’re just west of Bozeman, there used to be quite a salvage yard way up on a mountain. The last time I was up there though, there were a bunch of “No Trespassing” signs and we got chased off before we even got to the gate.

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