Jewels in the Junkyard - Junkyard Types
Specialized yards for special cars
In our first installment, we focused on the virtues of scrounging through a salvage yard for resto parts. Digging for automotive treasure in a junkyard can be rewarding and fun, as long as you can differentiate between precious metal and fool's gold. For this second part of the series, we'll show how not all junkyards are created equal, and how to differentiate among them.
Types of Yards
There are many types of salvage yards, but not all of them are enthusiast-friendly. Most yards, particularly ones near big cities, cater mostly to repair shops that need late-model parts delivered quickly to their door. These yards will seldom allow you to wander the lot, and will want to know the exact description and, preferably, part number of what you are looking for. They often set their price at 50 to 75 percent of the cost of a new part, but this can vary by demand or the availability of new items.
A smooth-talking salesperson will assure you the yard has whatever you ask for. For instance, if the local Chevy dealers are backordered on late-model Camaro fenders, the salvage yards seem to know as quickly as the parts counter supervisor, and may jack up their prices accordingly. These yards seldom keep cars long, immediately stripping them of salvageable items and crushing the rest to make room for more cars.
Restorers and rodders will seldom have much luck finding gems at high-volume, late-model parts yards. For rare and unusual parts you will need to get out of the city to where land is cheaper and salvage yards are more likely to hang onto older cars that still have a handful of usable parts attached. As you cruise past salvage yards (a delightful hobby sure to entertain the entire family), make a mental note of ones with pony cars, Fifties-era sedans and maybe a sports car or two. These are the places to start your parts searches.
Let's take a stroll through an imaginary salvage yard in search of a rare left-hand whatzit off a 1959 Fiasco-Bordello sports model (and if you want to buy one of those cars, we have a bridge for sale in Gotham City as well). First call the lot to see if they have any Fiascos in stock. A word of caution: the person on the other end of the phone may have no idea what they have in the yard, particularly if you are looking for an obscure item. Often the phone person is being paid minimum wage (with no supervisor is in earshot), so they may automatically tell you that they don't have one.
On the other hand, a smooth-talking salesperson will assure you the yard has whatever you ask for. When in doubt, go see for yourself. Ask whether you can walk the lot. If the answer is no, try another lot. You want to make sure the part is off the right model, and that you get the best-quality item in the lot. Also, while walking the lot keep your eyes open for other parts you may need down the road, or that you could use as trading material.
Before you leave for your salvage safari, dress for combat. Long pants, boots and gloves are required, plus a hat if it's sunny. You may be slogging through mud and climbing over torn, rusted hulks to get to an old Bordello (the Fiasco type) in the back of a swampy salvage yard, so be prepared for rugged conditions. Watch out for wasp nests and snakes, and don't wear anything too fancy that might indicate that the sky's the limit budget-wise. If it's a self-service yard be sure to take your tools.
Let's say you've struck gold: A battered Fiasco crammed under a skeletal delivery truck in the very back corner of the lot still has its left-hand whatzit intact and unmolested. You verify that it is complete and that all the hardware that goes with it is there. Now return to the office to talk over the price.
There are a number of ways parts are priced in salvage yards. As we noted at the outset, some are valued as a percentage of what a new or replacement one would cost. Other yards have a set price for each type of part that is the same for any car in the yard. A crummy 4-speed manual transmission out of a Chevette would cost the same as a prized 4-speed Toploader from a Mustang. Here it pays to know what you are looking for, as no one in the office is likely to know the specs of anything they are selling. This pricing structure is most common in yards where you are expected to remove your own parts.
Make sure you understand what is included in the price (such as all the attaching hardware and plumbing, or, in the case of late-model engines, the computer and harness) and what warranty is included. Many salvage yards will also expect a "core," or trade-in part. They expect this part to be worn out and/or non-functional, as they will later sell them to rebuilders or as scrap metal. If you don't have a trade-in, you will be assessed a "core charge" (this is a good opportunity to unload hopelessly hammered junk).
Once you have agreed on a price (some smaller lots may be amenable to bargaining, but don't count on it—the counter person is seldom authorized to cut the price), all that remains is to fetch your part and pay. Some yards require their personnel to remove the part for you. They will tell you this is for insurance reasons, but their employees are less likely to damage surrounding saleable assemblies in order to get your part out faster.
Other yards may charge extra for extracting the desired part. If the job is particularly nasty, such as retrieving drum brake slave cylinders, it may be worth it to pay for labor. Otherwise, you will be more careful removing your part than the yard mechanic, and you can also make sure to get all the hardware and fittings that go with it. In self-service lots you will be required to remove the parts yourself, but we'll go into that more in the final segment of this series. Happy and safe hunting!
It's a hot rodder's dream?a salvage yard full of raw material!
VW fans will find good uses for parts from these two Beetles, but watch where you step.
This lot has plenty of gems for British car fans, but first they have to cut their way through the tall weeds.
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