Vintage Auto Salvage Yards

For a classic car restorer or enthusiast, restoration is an exacting business. For a correct, accurate restoration, original parts are the only thing that will do. For pre-1980 Detroit cars, that particular job has been getting harder and harder. Owner's clubs and eBay have made some of those parts more accessible, but just imagine trying to run down a windshield wiper motor for a '66 Oldsmobile or a taillight bezel or rear deck valance for a '68 Plymouth Barracuda. For years now, it's almost been easier to run down parts for long-extinct makes like Packard, Hudson or Studebaker; at least there are parts networks through owner's clubs that can help an enthusiast locate and buy miscellaneous parts for such long-gone cars.

The crushers claimed most of that old American iron years ago, as salvage yard operators saw more money in the scrap metal itself rather than parting out the cars. And as time goes on and the two-door, muscle car and convertible models become scarcer, even pickup trucks, station wagons and four-door sedans are becoming valuable and desirable for restorers.

Luckily for the classic car enthusiast, there are salvage yards that cater specifically to their needs, with hundreds of acres of pre-1980 cars and trucks that are in various stages of completeness. In some cases, a yard will sell the entire car in partially restored, rolling-body or full-restoration condition. Other cars might be sold part by part, or sold in partial, unrestorable condition.

States like New Mexico, Texas or Arizona are home to plenty of great vintage auto salvage yards; Southwestern cars are much less prone to be attacked by rust and the elements. The flip side of that, however, is that the hot, arid climate of the Southwest is more likely to wreak havoc in the form of sun damage to upholstery, rubber, upholstery and dashboards. Salvage yards for vintage cars are now networked together through salvage auctions, so that the days of road tripping for hundreds of miles to find salvage yards with the right cars are nearly over. By the same token, not too many people are still trying to finesse a crusty farmer whose '68 Chevrolet pickup has been languishing in a barn for decades because "he's planning on fixin 'er up someday."

Of course, you may wind up paying pretty good money for some of the rarer parts. But then again, there was a time not that long ago when no one would have thought a '73 Chevy BelAir sedan would be a desirable collector's car. Like everything else, it's a matter of current trends among collectible cars. In some respects, this is a better climate for restorers of classic cars and hobbyists than we've ever seen before. Once it's easier to locate the parts themselves, you can turn your attention to issues like how to make the hidden headlights on that '68 Cougar work properly, or how to route all the vacuum lines and wiring on your '70 Buick Electra so that the power windows, locks and mirrors all work just as well as they did when they rolled off the lot.