Booster Masthead

Restoration Blvd.
October 2006

Columnist — Allen Wright

A Knight To the Rescue of Auto Parts Facing A Crushing Fate

A few weekends ago, Ecology Auto had their 50% off sale for everything. It was lucky for me: both my son and my wife were out of town. It was lucky for them because in the course of three days a 1964 Chrysler was stripped.

A lot of other cars were stripped as well, of course. It was a bit sad to see a once mighty 1964 Chrysler four-door, 413 V-8, power everything, get taken down to the unibody. I debated long and hard about getting an engine short block and transmission (Torqflite) for inventory. Snuggle Bunny, aka my understanding bride, is pretty good about the axle housing, a spare Torqflite, a spare gas tank, and the two steering columns already in inventory. Not to mention the windshield glass in the attic. If there is ever a shortage of GM and Chrysler rims and tires, I am ready. The garden shed has eight in stock.

Good judgment took over and I left the Chrysler engine block and Torqflite at Ecology for another old car guy. I did, however, pick up a wagon full of stuff that's easily hidden including a '63 power steering pump, a radio, and stainless interior tob bows. The tob bows will look great on the '62 Fury and will be fairly correct. For $20 at a half-price sale you can get a ton of good stuff.

If you have ever watched the car crusher in action at Ecology in Long Beach, it is a sad sight. When I go to the pick-a-part type of place, I think of myself as a white knight rescuing perfectly good parts from destruction. And why not rescue them? We all know that every vehicle on the road is running on used parts. As you drive off the dealer's lot in your new Lexus you'll be running on used parts after a mile or two.

Let me digress for a while. I am very surprised at the number of 2001-2005 cars in the pull-your-part yards these days. Most are not wrecked and I have to assume expensive engines or other components put them there. At the Anaheim yard, there were three Jaguars and a dozen BMWs. These auto salvage yards also sell complete cars that really don't look that bad. Looking at the BMWs, it appears that their paint system is much superior to say, Ford of the same vintage. Ford's clearcoat goes sour pretty fast and they have a white glazed look.

If I were Ford, I would have a 10-year high-gloss paint put on my cars. After all, Ford says, "Quality is Job 1." Cars driving around with a factory paint job that has failed due to sun and the elements makes you wonder: if the manufacturer is cheap on the paint, what do they do on the engine?

Enough Ford bashing — let's move to GM. I have noticed that many GMs in the junkyard have front end damage. Can I deduce that GM has bad brakes? Or just inattentive operators?

The front-wheel-drive Chryslers don't seem to have too much body damage. It looks like engine failure. This is my conclusion using my junkyard logic, "Dr. Watson, I do believe those front-wheel-drive Chryslers have engine difficulties."

Finally, the imports. Again, it's not scientific but just my observations. It appears that many imports have an engine compartment that looks like a campfire was held inside. They caught fire, somehow, on fuel or electrical. After you burn up your engine compartment, your vehicle has pretty well had it.

When I had my service station and I was checking the oil for the customer, I often saw fuel leaks. There were also mechanics and people that thought they were mechanics installing fuel delivery setups that would make an OSHA inspector pass out.

A safety comment at this point: fire extinguishers are cheap. Keep at least one and maybe two in your vehicle. An underhood fire is expensive if left to burn for awhile. If you can knock it down quickly, your wallet won't suffer as badly.

I have been going to auto junkyards for years and every once in a while I find a unique one. For years, I have been hearing about this remarkable place outside of Portland, Oregon that is devoted to old Chrysler products.

Every year, I join my wife on a business trip to the Bend, Oregon area. And this year, I realized I might have been driving right past the junkyard without even knowing it. So this year, I persuaded her to include in the travel plans a stop in Sandy, Oregon.

We stayed in this romantic, cute bed and breakfast called The Ivy Bear. You guys know these kind of places with the cute stuff in the room. The Ivy Bear even had duck wallpaper and homemade cookies in the room. Duck wallpaper always makes women hot — or maybe it's the chocolate cookies.

It was also right down the street from the Chrysler/Mopar junkyard called Wildcat Auto Wrecking. Believe it or not, it is on Wildcat Road. Sandy is about 30 miles outside of Portland and Wildcat Auto is about 15 miles outside of Sandy. No one that I know from Portland — or other parts of Oregon — had ever heard of Wildcat Auto. Even the owner of The Ivy Bear had never heard of it — but he had moved to Sandy last year from Bakersfield, California.

My wife and I took off on the grand adventure of finding Wildcat Road and Wildcat Auto Wrecking. I saw a towing company and asked one of the drivers if they knew of Wildcat. Not only did they know, they also gave me exact directions. We test-drove the route that evening and the rural area around Sandy is beautiful. Most lots are pretty large with everything from a mobile home to large custom homes. We found Wildcat Road and Wildcat Auto Wrecking. Their business sign was nailed to a tree.

The next day, without my bride, was off to Wildcat early. The place was huge, covering at least five acres of mixed terrain including some woods and an open field.

In the woods, I found a complete rear clip for a 1963 Plymouth cut carefully with a hot saw. There were Plymouths, Dodges, DeSotos, and Chryslers a-plenty.

Looking for a specific part? They had trailers full of Chrysler stuff. There was a fender section with lots of fenders. Hoods? Maybe 50 or more. Doors? There were lots of doors: two-doors, four-doors, and the two-door hardtop doors.

If you have dream to restore an old Chrysler, this is the place for you. Resting out there is a '59 Dodge Coronet two-door hardtop that could be rescued and a DeSoto Adventurer that was made in 1959. There was plenty of stuff to look at — and then go back to the Chrysler books when you got back home to verify your sightings.

Wildcat Auto is on my top five list for old Plymouth stuff. Wildcat throws nothing away as there is someone out there who always needs something. This is why I rescue stuff as I can from the junkyards.

In the case of the 1964 Chrysler at Ecology that was stripped, the book says it was a 413-360 horsepower fed by a single four-barrel carb. There was a 390 horsepower available with a crossram 413 with two Carter AFBs.

The stuff I rescue is mostly from 1962-1964 Chrysler cars and lots of it is interchangeable. If my new used part is better than my old part on the car, I usually swap it out. Now I have a better or more correct part on the old cars.

What do I do with my excess inventory? It take it to the Mopar swap meets. There is someone out there — as Wildcat Auto knows — that always needs something. The trouble is inventory in is generally more than inventory out.

As of this writing, the 1964 at Ecology is long gone and will soon be shipped to Asia to make SsangYong Motor Cars. The little group of parts that I rescued has joined the growing hoard of used parts in stock at my house.

The bad part about having a garage full of used parts is they take up space. The good news is the parts never make any noise. They stay in their place and they always seems happy to include more used parts in their storage area.

I am convinced that my auto parts rescue efforts from Ecology are a good thing for the restoration hobby. The old cars simply have more personality than the new ones and the simple-to-understand parts are a big part of that personality.

Originally published in the October 2006 Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright 2006 by KAL Publications Inc.

Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.