Junk Yard Tour: Madison, Illinois

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The Barn Finds faithful have not been treated to a formal salvage yard tour since Jeff took us to a yard hidden deep in the forest somewhere along the eastern seaboard, in May, 2015. We appreciate your patience, and we think you’ve waited long enough for another tour. Today we’re headed to the heartland, this yard is in Madison, Illinois, which is basically a near-suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. We’re just a few miles north of the city of East St. Louis, but relax, it’s much safer here. I braved the cold so you don’t have to. So get a fire going in the fireplace, fetch your slippers, tobacco pipe and smoking jacket once again, and prepare for another armchair salvage yard tour. There is a lot of ground to cover here. So right this way towards the Cool Stuff.

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Speedway Salvage is huge, with thousands of cars. It’s a big-city, high-volume self-service yard. Their name comes from the close proximity to Gateway Motorsports Park, a former local venue for NHRA and NASCAR events. Speedway Salvage’s bread and butter are the typical ten or fifteen year old wrecks bought at impound lot auctions, with plenty of discount parts sales to the DIY crowd, to maintain and repair their daily drivers.

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But as large as Speedway Salvage is, they’re bound to run into some vintage iron every now and again, and some of the cars I found here today were just that. The first one I spotted was this 1967 Fury III convertible. It’s a fairly recent arrival, and still has a lot of desirable convertible-only parts on it, which will generally sell fairly quick. It also still has at least one high-performance bright red-painted brake drum.

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The convertible parts such as the folding top mechanism, the back seat and interior quarter trim panels (as of last Saturday), were still on the car. I also spotted a mid-50s Chrysler sedan, which may still have a few good bits left on it.

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Not a Mopar man? Don’t worry, we’re only getting started.

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Maybe this Mercury convertible is more your thing. The body on it is good enough, at least by Midwestern standards, that I had to wonder why it’s here. But the debris piled inside tells us it’s been here for awhile, waiting for the right parts-buyer to come and relieve it of some of its nearly rust-free body panels.

 

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Also in the vintage Ford section, is this 1966 Custom. Similar to a Galaxie, but this is a less expensive model, that didn’t come with as much fancy trim. This car also has a lot to offer in the way of decent sheetmetal. But GM is more your style? No big deal, we’ve got you covered.

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For starters, how about a ’64 Biscayne? This one is rough with almost no floors left in it, looks like it’s been here for awhile, but believe it or not, still has a few usable parts left on it. Don’t ask me how I know that.

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Also worth pondering, is this 1965 Buick. It looks like a higher trim model, but I didn’t observe which one. Hopefully it’s not a Wildcat. We know that our more knowledgeable readers will tell us what it is.

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This Buick Special was parked a couple of rows away, near two early Corvairs, one of which is shown here.

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Check out the many offerings over in the Pontiac Fiero aisle. In a yard as large as Speedway, there is something for nearly everyone, including a white Jaguar XJ convertible.

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Speedway Salvage also has a large area with lots of Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, and plenty of BMW cars, although they didn’t have any older specimens on the day I visited.

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Overlooking the BMW section and facing southwest, we can see downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch, just a few miles away.

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This gold 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood still has items to offer, and looks like it was probably a nice, well-preserved car before showing up here.

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A vehicle we don’t see too often anymore is this mid-50s Studebaker Commander. The V8 engine is still in it. We’ve reached the end of the line on this salvage yard tour. Right here is where some of the classics-that-never-will-be, come to die.

 

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On the way out, I snapped a photo of part of the gi-normous stack of these squashed classics-not-to-be. I could make out a few oldies, but most were unidentifiable.

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Scrap prices are way, way down as of late, and as a result, many yards are refusing to sell their metal for basically one-fourth the price it was bringing a few years ago. So they’re keeping everything, stacking them by the thousands, waiting for the prices to recover. Does anyone care to speculate as to when that might be? In the meantime, let us know in the comments below if you’d like to see more salvage yard tours here on Barn Finds.

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Comments

  1. JW

    I spent a few summers in southern Illinois as a child with relatives in Alton & Washington Park. I had no idea this junkyard existed but then again I was only 8 to 11 years old at the time but I got my first ride in a new 64 GTO owned by a cousin which ignited the musclecar fire in me. Cool documentary on the junkyard keep them coming.

  2. Jesper

    Uhh. That big red thing, in the end, we dont like :-(

    • Josh Staff

      No we don’t

      • Wayne S.K.

        Ditto… :(

  3. Tom Hall

    I think there’s a TV show here somewhere – ala Chasing Classic Cars…American Pickers…though there’s probably not enough salvage yards left with interesting stuff for more than a season.

  4. Gary I

    I hate salvage yards for the fact that salvage has never been the objective, only profit from scrap metal. In today’s yards they yank the drivetrain on what they know will resell and crush the rest. You won’t find parts for old cars hanging on walls or stored in semis, only stacks of crushed cars. It has gotten easier with most restorations to just get in the catalogs and order new parts.

    • Marty Member

      Gary, Interesting point. I know of a salvage yard out in the country that specializes in older cars, not scrap metal. The problem is that so many of the cars he has have been sitting outside for decades, and there isn’t much left of them. The elements here in the Midwest have absolutely killed them. It’s still possible to leave there with good parts, but generally not sheetmetal or interior stuff. That’s certainly why the catalog people do such good business.

  5. AMX Brian

    If its old or cool yes, stay away from the red thing. On the other hand, I would be happy seeing Prius’, Camry’s, Corolla’s, Pilots, Azteks, CRV’s and any smart cars crushed to free up room for better cars.

    • MH

      I have a 13′ Camry and it’s the best car I ever had. I’m not one for imports but I know it will outlast all other cars.

    • Chuck F.

      and the Nissan Cube and Juke

  6. fred

    Tom Hall- there is a show on Velocity channel, it’s called Junkyard Empire…but it failed to reel me in like Pickers and Pawn Stars. Maybe others would like it though.

    • Barzini

      I wanted to like Junkyard Empire and Desert Valley Auto Parts but they both lacked the ability to tell compelling and authentic stories the way Chasing Classic Cars and the better shows do.

  7. Jeff Staff

    Thanks for carrying the torch, Marty! I have to get another post ready to go soon. That Jag convertible is actually a fairly desirable car but likely too costly to justify keeping on the road. Great post!

  8. William H

    Love to go on junkyard crawls. Though most yards are populated with late model cars that all look the same, you do come across some nice finds in the older sections. There are (or were, not sure if they’ve closed down) a few yards in Waco, one getting it’s start in the early ’40’s. My father would take me there when I was much younger to help him look for parts for his project cars. We actually pulled many whole cars out of there and put them back on the road. I made many trips there as an adult for the same reason but haven’t been back in many, many years. It’s only a few miles away, I just I never seem to be headed in that direction. I think I will need to make a trip to see if anything’s left.

    • gene

      A few miles?? come on get up and GO

  9. jim s

    i wonder how long they will be able to store crushed vehicles before someone complains and the powers that be get involved. is that a roadmaster wagon parked beside the 65 buick? keep the junk yard tours coming please. thanks.

  10. AMC STEVE

    A bunch of junk

  11. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Great post, Marty! Love the way you walked us through the yard! That must have been a fun day :-)

  12. Midwest Jeff

    I was at Speedway Salvage a few months ago and saw the 66 Ford. Glad to see it is still there. My dad had a 66 Ford Custom (yeah, he was pinching pennies back in the day.) “Custom” ordered the car—chose cherry red paint and three on the tree manual transmission, but, he splurged for factory air. Love the square tail lights. Big bench seats in the front and back hauled our family through several summer vacations. I have wanted to own a 66 Ford ever since. Saw a 66 Ford Galaxie convertible for sale at a dealership several years ago, but I had just plopped a down payment on a home, and I just didn’t have enough cash to pull the trigger. Anyway, you are correct. The 66 Ford Custom at Speedway Salvage was almost rust-free. Would be the perfect parts car for anyone trying to restore an old Galaxie.

  13. Moparmann Member

    Unfortunately, most junkyards (Excuse me!) “automobile recycling centers” near metro areas are fast disappearing. More often than not, they have a rotation order that only keeps bodies in for a short period, after they’ve been stripped of drivetrains etc. The real joys are to be found “Out In the Country” (Three Dog Night!) where you may just find trees growing through cars, as well as unmolested, intact cars with the majority of them skewing toward the 1940’s through the 1980’s. I know of at least two that became surrounded by subdivisons and driven out of business due to land values increasing, city/county regulations, and/or homeowner complaints! But YES! Keep these tours coming!! :-)

    • JW

      Moparmann you are correct about salvage yards and another one is local dragstrips. I grew up in Aurora, Illinois during the 60’s and my friends and I attended Oswego dragstrip which was out on the edge of town with cornfields around it, well subdivisions grew around it and complained until they shut it down and now I live north of Kansas City and the same thing happened to KCRI a couple years ago. I feel the grandfather clause should be invoked here as these tracks were here first but Progressives don’t feel that way it’s all about the money. OK my rant is over.

  14. Dan

    Is there map that shows locations of junk yard, so I can plan a trip visiting them, while my wife shops

  15. Brian

    keep the junk yard tours coming. Have ran across several in Alabama the are more like hoards. The owners won’t let anyone in.

  16. Another Bob

    In 1984 I was in the Yellowknife junkyard and was amazed by the early 60’s rust free cars they had up there. Not sure if steel is ever reclaimed do to the shipping costs?
    If anyone is up there, snap some photos in the Spring when the daylight returns.

  17. Howard A Member

    Junkyards have always been the bane of most classic car owners, but the truth is, once a car hits the junkyard, it’s probably there for a reason, and retrieving whole cars is rare. These are just parts cars, and most, once the good stuff is gone, are usually ready for the crusher. I used to enjoy walking through yards, as it was a car show, of sorts, to me. I always wondered about a particular cars life, and how families grew up with them, and then tossed when used up.( or worse, a crash that changed a families life forever) Most of the junkyards in Wisconsin are gone, replaced by “auto recycling facilities”, dealing mostly with front clips and drivelines. ( 2 of the most popular items now)
    As far as Gateway Motorsports Park, they still have NHRA drag racing, usually at the end of Sept. (Sept. 23-25 this year) although, they were off the schedule for a few years. If you happen to go, stop and say hi to Funny Car driver, Tim Wilkerson, his home track. He’s a great guy and will almost always take a minute to shake your hand and thank you for supporting NHRA.

    • Wayne S.K.

      @Howard
      I’m curious if you ever saw that little ALL 60’s Ford junkyard in LaCrosse on the North side by Caledonia Street? It had a chain link fence around it and a little shack, but no one was EVER there. I was always chomping at the bit to get in there and check out possible projects. This was probably some 15 years ago. However, now my legs no longer work and I doubt the administration at the apartment building in which I live would let me use their garage even if I could. :D I’ll never forget all of the cool old Fords that were there though. Just wondered if you ever saw it…

    • Mike

      They still run the Infinity Races and Craftsman Truck races there, I went to the Infinity Race last year.

      • Marty Member

        Mike, Did you catch the NHRA Top Fuel dragsters there a few years back? My first time, I consider it an incredible experience to have plugged my ears and stood as close as possible to where they launched. It’s one of those kinds of life experiences that video just cannot capture the essence of. Awesome!

  18. roger jones

    When I look at all these cars and think back growing up and even driving these Classics to and from school and to town , I also think of just how lucky I was.
    The real reason for that was America was and always will be the Greatest Car Manufacturing Country on earth and every car made here was a classic.
    If it were not for all that Japanese crap flooding the market and killing our legitimate
    Automobile industry , The American car production business would not be in such serious financial straits.
    You just Gotta Love those “ALL American Classics” second to none.

  19. Mark E

    I visited the old junkyard in my home town. Unfortunately it was sold to an internet salvage yard company. A car would come in, whatever desirable parts were removed and smashhh, automotive pancakedom! >_<

    Amazingly, in the 45 mins or so I spent there looking around, EVERY vehicle crushed was a minivan, the majority being Chrysler products…

  20. roger jones

    Chuck:
    I hear You.
    Just some of the cars I had honor to drive to school were 2 different 1937 Fords, a 1947 Pontiac, a 1947 Oldsmobile , a 1951 Oldsmobile, a 1955 Chevrolet and they were all classic.
    The ones made here under false pretences , made in America by the Japanese for American consumption always will be Junk, Crap, and Garbage.
    Help save our American Heritage and Buy a Junk Yard.
    Thanks for listening, Chuck
    Roger Jones

  21. Steve W

    Hey Jim,
    That most certainly is a Roadmaster wagon. Still own a 92 blue on blue. Clock shows 180k but that stopped working 10 years ago. Would load up the kids and roof rack and ride on air for a thousand miles. Kids now say they’re going to bury me in it.

  22. Jack

    I think that Buick is a Wilcat. The only thing that makes me say that is its a 2 door.

  23. Bob Lichty

    Sure if you find older content yards, always good to see and also know if they are a good source for parts. Seems like we are always looking for something. Only problem my eternal optimism, I think every car I see can be restored.

  24. Gsuffa BillW Member

    I found my 1987 BMW 635csi coupe in an old-timey salvage yard in Missouri. 200000 miles on the broken odometer, it was left for dead because of the automatic transmission losing forward gears. I paid $750, put in a 5 speed from a 535 donor, and drove it off and on for 15 years. And now I’m using it for parts to resurrect another car. With a dead automatic transmission.

  25. Mark

    The ’65 Buick looks to be an Electra (four “ventiports” on the front fender) with factory AC. What do you have against Wildcats? I have a ’64 convertible that turns a lot of heads :)

  26. Spanky57

    65 Wildcats have a circular emblem centered in the grill..This is an Electra..Wilcats were also offered in a 4dr hardtop..Wilcats also in 2dr form, shared the GM corporate “fastback” roofline with Chevy’s Impala. My Grandfathers last brand new car was a ’65..401 nailhead with a turbo 400..And I have had the pleasure of driving that car! Always found it funny folks thought Buicks never were performers until they put a turbo on the V6 Regals to give rebirth to the GS! That Wildat lived up to it’s name! I live in another suburb of St. Louis and have ventured across the river many times to Speedway..Marty, too bad you weren’t with me in the late 70’s- early 80’s..The inventory of older classics would’a blown your mind! Thanks for the time trip!

  27. Charles

    My Dad had a close friend who owned a salvage (junk yard) in the 1950s & 60s. It was totally arranged by make; Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, etc. and parts; engines, rear ends, transmissions, carbs, seats, etc. were stored in pole barns. He kept file drawers cataloging parts and would note when a engine or part was sold. With the system, he could tell you if he had what you needed. By the way, the man was a millionaire!

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