Jeff in the Junkyard: Vermont Visit

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A few weeks ago, we profiled a craigslist ad about a Vermont salvage yard that was clearing out its old inventory, allowing any visitors brave enough to venture into this isolated stretch of the Green Mountain State to take home a potential project for $500. Well, this has been fully lodged in my brain for weeks now, and after having my wife refuse multiple times to drive four hours north and sit in a hotel while I went off and explored (crazy, right?), I grabbed a buddy and we drove up on Friday night. The yard owner said he had 1975 BMW 2002 in his collection, and I was determined to drag it home.

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Once again, my trusty E36 M3 did driving duties. I don’t think there is any better way to fall in love with a car than to use it every day for all kinds of tasks. This car has been my ongoing companion on these junkyard trips, never missing a beat and hauling home all sorts of filthy treasure. I treated it to new control arms and bushings a few days prior to the trip and it tracked straight and true, all the way up to middle-of-absolutely-nowhere Vermont. It’s a long story, but after arriving at the hotel in Barre at 11:30 at night, I realized just what a small town it was since there wasn’t a single restaurant or diner to be found. Eventually – well past midnight – we found an Applebee’s. Not my kind of food but I didn’t care. It may as well have been a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse given how hungry we were.

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Now, onto the good stuff. Disappointingly, the gruff woman behind the counter denied ever having spoken with me about a 1975 BMW, so I left empty-handed. But there were plenty of other potential gems, depending on what type of project you’re working on. I’m going to leave the guessing game up to our readers, but let’s start with the former carpet cleaning van. There were still carpets in the cargo area and the plexi-glass vent windows were something I had never seen before.

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This Datsun roadster tempted me as a potential project car, since it was in the $500 section of the yard. The factory hard top and vintage luggage rack on the trunk gave me the impression this was a pretty complete car. However, there was just enough rust visible to dissuade me from a purchase, especially when you factor in the transport costs getting it home. There are too many other “good” examples out there to justify the added cost and potential for rust repair, but I still hope this one doesn’t get crushed.

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Despite seeing lots of rust, there were a fair number of cars that still looked reasonably complete. If nothing else, this would make an excellent parts car for someone, as all the trim was in place along with factory hub caps. In the background, you can see a very clean AMC wagon, if you’re into those. I do have to give the yard credit – despite letting lots of good cars rust into the ground, doors were kept closed for the most part, and many cars still had good glass, helping to preserve the interiors.

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At this point, the sun disappeared and a huge, dark cloud swept around the mountains, bringing with it a torrent of snow. This did not make hunting any easier, and frankly, the whole trip was becoming downright miserable. But we were still among some great vintage cars, even if they were getting rustier as we made our way deeper into the yard. You can see the rotten door sills and fenders in this picture, a common plight for vehicles that had sunk into the Vermont mud.

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After a bit, the snow stopped. The temperature dropped 10 degrees, but the snow stopped. That made it easier to spot classics like this Cadillac hiding among the trees and brush that had overtaken many of these cars. If you are searching for a classic Caddy grille, look no further than this example.

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If you are looking for a wagon project, get yourself to Vermont! I counted no fewer than three Pontiac Safari wagons, and there were a number of Chrysler products as well. There was also a decent Ford Falcon wagon that looked perfect for a winter project. Although many were missing the various side trim trim pieces they originally came with, examples like this one still had good chrome and glass. I’m assuming the back window has just dropped into the door, but I didn’t check. My hands were a little too frozen by this point.

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While the overall import selection was small, what was there was pretty intriguing. This old Volvo PV444/544 sat next to a very rusty MG roadster, and parked not too far away was a Hillman and Mercedes 220. I’m not sure these two are useful for anything other than parts, as rust was a prominent feature of both cars and anything parked along the fence line seemed too far gone to save.

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There was also a huge selection of trucks, but this was even further back in the yard, which by this point we had circled twice looking for the elusive 2002 (which, I’ll remind you, we were later told did not exist). The trucks were a bit pricier, with a range of $500-$1,000 for prices, instead of the flat $500 for any vehicles in the clearance section. For our truck experts, what do you see in the this picture?

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I’m almost compelled to send some of these pictures in for the annual Hemmings calendar, but I suspect they know all about this yard given their Vermont office headquarters. The cars ranged in age from the 1930s to 1970s, so give Gates a call if you’re on the hunt for a project. But take my advice and pack a sandwich along with some thick gloves and boots. And a podcast or two, because after about two hours on Rt. 89, you’re going to want some distractions beyond counting mile markers. I’ll be back next week with another round of photos.

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Comments

  1. Andrew P.

    Did you see any Volvo Amazon’s while looking around?

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      I did not – I thought I have spotted an 1800 wagon but it turned out to be an AMC Pacer. :-(

      • Andrew P.

        Thanks anyways.

  2. Todd Zuercher

    I see a 61-63 Ford truck – probably a Unibody. The one behind is of the 57-60 body style.

    Your E36 is a pretty fancy junkyard cruiser. I frequently drive my 318is to the local yards.

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Ha. My E30 and E28 are my trailer queens. The E36 is a salvage-titled theft recovery out of California, so it gets the dirty work. It’s also fantastic on the highways.

  3. Howard A

    Aside from a few, all parts cars. I’d bet someone would want that Datsun hardtop. ( had 1 on my MGB, it was great) I suppose the ’55 Packard could be redone, although, I’m sure there are many waiting on a certain part to make their own restoration complete, as these were pretty rare. The Volvo is a 544 ( one piece windshield), and the trucks are ’64-5 Ford (yellow) and the red one looks like a ’57 Ford.( or ’58 if 4 headlights) I doubt any of these would be Hemmings “calendar material”. Only the finest ( and therefore, most expensive) cars make that. Maybe their “abandoned autos” one. For me, winter “yarding” is the best time. You can see through the trees and NO FREAKIN’ WASPS!!

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      …or spiders…or snakes…etc. And yes, the “Abandoned Autos” is the calendar I had in mind. A must-have in any garage.

    • 64 bonneville

      Howard A the chrome on the 55 Packard would be worth the $500 buy in. Although not as popular as the pre-war Packard 120s’, much of this trim would also be good for somebody restoring a Carribean convertible Also the font and back bumpers are difficult to find, so these would make excellent looking cores for rechroming.

  4. Duffy Member

    Looking for a 1959 Pontiac 2 door hardtop or a safari wagon. Every one else is also. Project would be fine, give me a shout. Thanks

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Duffy, I do not work for Gates so I would call them directly. There were a few Safari wagons I counted. I’ve asked my buddy if he got a picture of the one I am thinking of.

  5. jim s

    yes winter is a very good time to go to the junk yard. just check your new purchase for hibernating wildlife that will come back to life in a warm building or spring. seen more the one vehicle leaving a yard with mice bailing off of it.

  6. Alan greene

    I to went. After seeing your article three buddies and myself made the 2 hrs trip. We were not disappointed. We spent nearly 5 hrs there. It was great not only looking for great picks but simply the nostalgia aspect of each treasure. We were fortunate enough to find a complete 409, bellhousing to fan. 3 348 and 409 short blocks and several sets of heads. It was a great day in many aspects. The most being the comraderie of the trip.

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Alan, glad you did well! I think if I had not driven so far and had the expense of a hotel, I would have felt better about things…but hey, if you don’t go, you don’t know.

      We also met the infamous Bruce Cliche a few miles down the road!

  7. Marty Wilke Marty Member

    Jeff,
    Thanks for the nice write-up.

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Thanks for reading. ;-)

  8. Jason Houston

    I’m still looking for my 1962 Mustang 4-door hardtop.

    • Wabbit

      I have one of those, it’s out in the pasture that I keep my unicorn in.

  9. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Nice job, Jeff! I don’t suppose the Hillman was an Imp?

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Jamie, I’ll leave the model ID to you…sure looks like it, though!

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Yup! That’s it, Jeff. Dang. Oh well. Wish I were in a position to do something about it. I’d take the other two as well…as you’ll see when my “what’s in my barn” post comes up, I’m the home for weird and wayward British cars..

  10. Vince Habel

    62 Studebaker Daytona.

  11. John

    It looked like there was a Dodge a100 in the original series of pics. That would be sweet

  12. piper62j

    Some good stuff there..

  13. Ronniecarlo

    I have a question for anyone reading this. It does not have anything to do with the wonderful cars rusting away in Vermont as there is a Vietnam vet just down the road who has an impressive collection himself. But I know they’re are a lot of very intelligent readers here. I an EXTREMELY new to EBay. I recently won an auction on a set of Ttop glass for an 80s Monte Carlo. Due to my ignorance,I missed “for local pickup only. The seller states he has no way to package them.Can anyone tell me if there is a place in Station Island where he can drop them of to be packaged and shipped to me in central Texas? HELP!!I know I have the right forum here. There are a lot of knowledgeable gear heads here.

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Ronnie, FedEx and UPS will package items up for you but you’d have to work out payment with your seller – and he would have to be willing to take it to his local store to have them do it. If you aren’t getting anywhere with him, it’s best to just get a refund ASAP and start looking again. The last thing you want to do is let a lot of time pass by and have him lose interest in helping you out.

    • Gary

      Ronnie, just a thought about your situation on packing and shipping, if your seller could find someone local to at least package the items they could be shipped from Greyhound Bus lines, I have used them several times for large oddball size packs and it is a better deal over UPS or FedEx any day. Also you could look into a “U-Ship” company from your end, they will go pick up and package and ship to you door to door and actually not too bad on $$. My wife used them in the recent past to ship a cradle from CA to NY and cost was lower than any other carrier we found. We would use them again anytime. Also as Jeff has mentioned do not let too much time lapse from the sale date on eBay, get the item or contact eBay for a refund from seller.
      Good luck with getting your goods or your refund!

      • GreaserMatt

        I’ve shipped fenders and floorboards on greyhound with great success; never glass though…

    • Matt A.

      There’s a UPS store on Hilton Head Island, not far from Station Island. (I assume you mean South Carolina.) They do both packaging and sending.

      Another thought is Greyhound Express. It says there’s a bus station in Beaufort, SC, about 20 miles from Station Island, and one in Abilene, TX. You could get the UPS store to package it.

  14. Ronniecarlo

    Thanks Jeff for the tip.I have sent him a few emails but not much luck.I an currently attempting a Trip conversion on the only gutted Monte Carlo I have.I searched for the glass for sometime. I saw these and immediately bid without reading the entire ad.By the way when I mentioned the neighbor who had a nice collection that is slowly being sold,allow me to post a tid bit.. Lol

  15. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Jeff,
    Very enjoyable writeup. That lead pic of the Desoto is definitely calendar quality….very nicely done…and so are others. I’ll look forward to your next installment. The only thing is, every time I see a yard with interesting and worthy nearly-whole old cars, I start to think how these yards should have been built with giant roofs over them to keep the elements off the cars. It’s a pipe dream but I still have it.

    BTW, that pic of your white M3 gave me a start because it looks almost like my own car.…same wheels and color except it looks like yours is a 2-door while mine is a 4-door. I know why you say it never misses a beat. Mine is the same…most reliable car I have ever owned and great on the highway.

    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Thank you for the note. I agree that these vehicles should be moved/kept inside. This yard even had three giant “domes” that were largely empty, save for some recently inventoried vehicles. Seemed quite ironic.

      The M3 has been a very good car. I would prefer a sedan but this was a case of right time, right price. I find it humorous when people immediately assume BMWs are expensive to maintain – this car has saved me considerable $ over a comparative car payment.

      Those wheels are on my snow tires and are one of the few non-OEM aspects of the car, as they are the AT Italia replica Contours, very heavily corroded from years of salt. I keep the OEM LTWs in the garage during the winter months. ;-)

    • Howard A

      Hi Dolphin, I agree, however, we have to remember, these yard owners are not classic car collectors, and to them, it’s just another scrap car. The problem comes in when they decide to sell the yard, (or pass away) and the next person sees gold in those relics, but usually, by then, it’s too late.

  16. Matt C

    Great trip report!

  17. MikeH

    Jeff–
    You should never drive your BMW to a salvage yard. If the guy in charge sees it, the price goes up by at least 50%. You need a pickup, old enough to not be valuable, and wear old clothes. Of course, now days everything is computerized and the prices are set, but back in the day—.

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