Finding a junkyard that still has old cars in it is getting harder and harder. I know of a handful that have disappeared within the past few years. That doesn’t mean they’re all gone, though. I was fortunate enough that a gentleman gave me a tip about a yard in Michigan that still had a ton of cool muscle cars, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
I was in Detroit for a week doing some work, and I had a day free to do anything I wanted. I did what I always do: I looked to The Map. If you haven’t seen or heard of The Map before, it is a web-based map that allows me to pin items onto it. Every lead, story, and tip I get goes on The Map for a future adventure. Some call it a treasure map; I just call it The Map. I looked over The Map to see what I had not hit yet. I saw a variety of interesting leads north of Detroit, so that’s where I headed.
Sadly, most of the spots were either closed, full of newer cars, or had cars that were crushed. But there was one more spot to visit, a place I had heard was “worth the trip.” Pulling up to the yard, I could see a bunch of cars at first, but mostly newer cars, nothing really that old. There was also a collection of other nonautomotive vehicles and projects easily viewable.
After pulling in and being greeted by a gentleman, the first thing I spotted walking into the yard was a 1967 Camaro SS convertible nearly buried in spare wood and other pieces of miscellaneous stuff. This piqued my interest and made me think that this place would be much more interesting than I first thought!
Walking the short road to the main yard, we passed a variety of mini-bikes, motorcycles, and other small motorized vehicles on one side; on the other was a pond with a bit of land between the road and the pond. Between were more random vehicles, but one stuck out above all else, a 1967 Mustang GT fastback with the rear end hanging out over the pond. That did not do the poor car any favors. The owner was kind enough to point out that if I did any funny business I would end up at the bottom of that pond, and we kept walking.
Just off to our right entering the yard was a 1967 GTO and a 1970 Corvette. I popped the hood on the GTO, and there staring back at me were two four-barrel carburetors. This had been someone’s hot rod at some point. And it was complete as well.
Walking into the yard, I saw all sorts of cool cars scattered about. A 1970 Chevelle up on top of a bus. A four-door Pontiac Catalina. A 1970 Mustang SportsRoof just sitting in the weeds. Then I spied something special, but it was not easy to get to. On top of a group of buses was a 1969 Mach 1 Mustang. One of my all-time favorite cars, this was even in the right color. But how to get a closer look at it? I found a tow truck that I was able to shimmy my way up in to get a good view of the car. From afar it was a good-looking car, but up close it was bad, very bad. Even though it had been sitting on top of a bus, it was completely rusted out. The door had been open so long that a tree had grown from the ground, between two buses, and in between the Mustang’s body and door, so it could never close. I got down from the tow truck and just shook my head.
We kept on walking, passing a Cougar and another GTO. This one had a small-block Chevrolet engine under the hood, but with headers and aftermarket intake and carb, it was someone’s fun car at one point. Another rare car near there was a 1970 Chevelle SS396. This one had not had an easy life. It was pretty much a complete wreck but still wore the SS396 badges on the fenders with honor. You could still make out the SS stripes on the decklid.
Just across from there was a 1970 Malibu sitting next to a 1969 Mach 1. The Malibu was a two-door, and the owner pointed out something interesting about the car once you looked closer. Someone had bolted on an original 1970 cowl induction hood, and it was still on the car, in the open position. Blew my mind that it was still sitting there to this day.
For the next hour or so we wandered through the yard, with the man sharing stories about nearly every car we saw. A 1970 GTO over here, a bunch of Camaros over there. It amazed me what the guy remembered. The 1965 Coronet 500 that the driver had wrapped around a tree trying to kill his girlfriend; he later went to jail. The 5.0 Mustang that was the best drag race car that he ever had. It was quite a trip back in time with him.
We made our way to the last main section of the yard, where the really good cars were, starting with a pair of 1966 Mustang fastbacks. They weren’t GT cars or anything super rare, but they were nearly complete fastbacks sitting next to each other. How often does that happen? On the other side of the section was the top car by his reckoning, a basically untouched 1970 1/2 Camaro Z28. A peek under the hood showed the original engine with nearly all the original components.
That was really cool, but my eye was on a car we had walked past just before it. It was rough, but I was so taken aback by it because of where it came from: Berger Chevrolet, the famous Grand Rapids, Michigan, supercar dealership. Looking over this one, a 1967 Camaro SS convertible, I saw it came with a 396 with an automatic on the floor. Red car and red interior, it still has the By Berger emblem on the tail panel. This dropped my jaw. Sadly, the car was nothing but a rusted-out shell. If it had been a special car by Berger, I could see restoring it, but it didn’t even have the high-horsepower 396. The tach was the smaller 5,500/7,000-rpm tach. And it didn’t help that the engine and transmission were missing.
Every time I hear about places like this not existing anymore, I just look at The Map, hope it’s not true, and plot my next adventure.
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