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Car junkyards are for more than RIP; they also keep you going

While talking with a person not long ago about his “new” Honda Accord, we asked him how many miles the “new” baby had on the odometer and he said with a straight face, about 485,000. Not believing it, we looked and it was that figure on the 1988 Honda.

So, where, we followed up by asking the locality of the 1990 Mazda he was driving, the one with the 389,000 on it, he explained. “Oh, I sent that up to my son and his bride and their baby because they needed reliable transportation.

Cars can last a long time

This turned us to thinking about something an oldtimer in the auto business once told us (he was the designer of the 1920 LaSalle or something like it) who had settled in Boston and who made his life’s work, after retirement, building perfect replicas of the brasses he worked on, right down to the hand-turned brass lamps and sculpted glass road lights and the hand-built T-head four that took an electric drill and special mixture of nitro-methane to fire.

The oldtimer’s claim – backed up by others in the business that we’ve talked with through the years – was that there wasn’t any reason that a car could not last a lifetime, if you took care of it. For example, if you bought a 1925 Model T, there should be no reason it is not on the road right now running errands and such. (Well, there are a few reasons it can’t happen, as the newer gasoline formulas would never work in a 4:1 compression engine like the T used and there was not way one could lubricate the upper engine block without the use of tetraethyl lead that the T-head Model T depended on, but other than that parts galore are available in the classified sections of Hemmings where you can find transmissions, tires, wheels, seats body panels, even frame pieces of you’re so inclined.

Then, today, while we were flipping trough Twitter we ran across an interesting piece about “When Cars were Cars RIP.” The author went on to explain that he was both intrigued and puzzled by the cool things he saw on the AMCAR Guide.

Intriguing car site

To quote the author of the “Gargling Cars” blog: “Trawling the net for cool stuff this morning, I happened upon a decent ca site called AMCAR Guide and a particular page featuring some “junkyard Beauties.” Compared with the cars of today, these machines are wonderful, charming and exciting to look at and it’s a sham they eventually meet their end…”

Continuing, he noted that “compared with the cars of today, these machines are wonderful, charming and exciting to look at, and it’s a shame they eventually meet their end. However, there’s something beautiful about junkyards like these – the way the clunkers now sit, battered and bruised, their bent grilles now twisted smiles, their broken headlamps, tired eyes.”

Of course, that writing was elegiac, at best, as the author was offering his paean to near-past junkers. For my taste, it was a little flowery, but it did get me thinking about what I was told about just how long a car could stay on the road. The answer came from a book from the 1970s that is still in my library that described just how to keep your car on the road forever.

Replacing failed party inexpensively

For example, when the transmission failed, for example, you could always go down the street to a junkyard and find one in a junker with 60,000 or 100,000 miles on it, purchase it for pennies on the dollar and have a mechanic slap it into your 1995 Rolls Canardly.

The same is true of the universal or the upper steering rack. You can find them pennies on the dollar and have a mechanic piece them in carefully and you’ll probably get another 200,000 miles out of these parts before they had to be replaced again.

Junkyards are the place to do it. In fact, reading about a local pennysaver, the cover encouraged people to come over and buy some of the cars they had restored from the many pieces on their lot site. It’s really worth a trip.

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