Down at the AVD.
In this age of Cash for Clunkers, there is constant reinforcement of the idea that cars of a certain age are beyond their useful life. This is nonsense. Old cars offer some tangible advantages over newer cars. For example, purchasing an older car can be financially prudent. Choose wisely and not only can one afford to pay for a used car outright (avoiding monthly payments, interest, and expensive full-coverage insurance), but a consumer can usually step-up to a car that would be financially out-of-reach, if it were new. Old cars are also environmentally friendly. Even an old car with a tired engine and unfriendly emissions will never pollute or have more negative environmental impact, than building the new car that replaces it.
Now, unless you own a 2002 Toyota 4Runner (which apparently never break), your older car will need parts and repairs from time-to-time. If your car is old enough (older than ten years) and/or from one of the smaller manufacturers (Audi), then parts might start to become expensive and scarce. Eventually, the manufacturers stop supporting particular models and the parts become unobtainium. This is when you need to find a good salvage yard. If you are in Austin and need parts for your Audi, that salvage yard is Austin VeeDub.
Austin VeeDub has an 8-acre yard filled with European cars, like VW, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Volvo, Mercedes and Saab. They have recently reorganized their yard so that each marque is grouped together and cars are easier to find. VeeDub has a warehouse with many parts already stocked on shelves and they will also pull parts from cars for you, but the real fun is to go into the yard yourself.
Here are a few tips: you will want to dress in work clothes, appropriate shoes, and you might want to wear gloves. Obviously, you will need to bring your tools. Finally, bring a camera or a cellphone with a camera. If you pull a part, you will need to record the stock number of the car, which is usually written on the car or one of the windows. It's easy to just take a photo of the number. Also, you can take photos of cars or parts that are interesting, or that you think you might want to come to get later.
I had to get a part for my friend's Coupe GT today, so after signing-in at the parts desk, I walked out to the Audi section of the yard. There are actually two Audi sections. One for the newer cars and one for the older. The newer section consisted mostly of B5 A4's (maybe a dozen), a couple of TT's, a couple of A8's, and an allroad. The older section had 80's, 90's, 100's, 200's, one 4000, one A6, and three Coupe GT's, one of which was a very interesting white over red leather interior.
Except for the driver's seat, the interior was in very good shape. A little leather care and some re-dying and the interior would be as good as new for someone who wanted to upgrade their Coupe GT or UrQuattro to a rare factory color. This car also came with an upgraded dash, digital gauges (if you are into that sort of thing), and a body-colored factory spoiler.
This brings me to my final point - salvage yards are also a great place to find upgrades for your car. Sport steering wheels, stereos, and CD changers are plentiful. If you look carefully, you can find HomeLink visors, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, and factory spoilers that make easy upgrades. Today, I found a full-sized passenger mirror from a 100 that will replace the half-size suicide mirror that is on my S4. Once you start looking through the cars, you can engage your imagination and look for those little details that will make your car special to you. It's like a treasure hunt (except with the possibility of tetanus or maybe a snakebite).
If you have had a lucky find in a salvage yard, let me know in the comments.
Austin VeeDub, 1111 Old Bastrop Hwy, Austin, TX, 78742, (512) 385-2462.