It’s no secret the the days of finding a classic car in a field are all but gone. But, even if you are fortunate enough to find one, there is probably not much left of it that is salvageable. There’s something that makes each of us feel good when we are able to rescue an old car, or even just a piece of an old car. We don’t know about you, but that really gets our blood flowing. There is a real sense of pride that exists in bringing a good piece of whatever back to life and using it again. But, what would you do if instead of finding just one car in a field, you ran across many? So many in fact, that there is barely enough space to walk between them?
Tucked away in one of the least likely places of Northwest Washington state, is a wrecking yard that is still made up mostly of classic cars. More than 100 vintage cars that span several decades occupy this yard as a final resting place. Although there is at least one car from every manufacturer, lucky for us the contents are made up of mostly Chevrolet products. There are plenty of Tri-Fives, Impalas, Novas, pickups, and more. It is impossible to throw a stone in this field without hitting an amazing car. By the way, throwing stones will get you in trouble.
Though there isn’t much left of some of the cars in the yard, there is still a fairly large amount of good salvageable parts, and even some complete, restorable cars waiting for new owners. Even in the wet and rainy climate, most of the cars have fared surprisingly well, considering how long they have been sitting here. The wrecking yard officially opened in 1978, but the story of just how it started is part of what makes this such an interesting place. The owner and founder of the yard, Ron Manning, was actually coerced by the county into making a business out of what he and a few friends were just doing for fun.
Back then, Ron’s father owned 65 acres of wooded land and some heavy equipment that he used while working as a logger. Ron told us, “At one time, [his dad] had a surplus WWII Sherman tank that he used to pull trees.” When he was younger, Ron and his friends made a dirt track on the property so they could race cars. They would race a car until it quit running, and then they would simply push it off to the side of the track. It wasn’t long before the state came in and said there were too many vehicles on the property, and the family would either need to get rid of them or get a license to be considered a wrecking yard. So, Ron got a license.
Nearly 40 years later, Ron’s Auto Wrecking is still a successful business, and is one of the few self-service, bring your own tools, places left in the area. It is also, the only place where you can get parts for both a 1990’s Mercedes and 1966 Nova all during a single trip. While most cars in the yard are for parts only, there are a few complete cars for sale.
One of those is a barn find 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door sedan. When Ron showed it to us, it was one of those rare moments you usually only hear about. He opened the doors of a shipping container and there it was. It still has the original engine, transmission, and interior. Like most barn finds however, it needs a lot of care before it could be considered ready for hitting the open road.
Most complete cars that are on the lot sell for anywhere between $700 and $1,500, but others can be had for more or less, depending on the condition and what kind of car it is. We love rusty old cars, and definitely know how good of a deal can be had. Apparently someone else did too, as three years ago, a local man bought six cars from Ron, and they are all tucked into the back corner so people don’t take parts off of them. The buyer doesn’t have space, so he is paying Ron to store them.
Chevy didn’t change their parts too much over the years, so they are easier and less expensive to work on. – Ron Manning
As you would imagine, someone with so many parts cars also has to have some great projects that they keep under wraps. Such is the case with Ron, but with so many makes and models to choose from, how does one decide? In a nutshell, it’s no challenge for Ron, he is a fan of Chevrolet products. “Chevy didn’t change their parts too much over the years, so they are easier and less expensive to work on,” he explained as we walked into the shop where he keeps his gems.
The first car he showed us was his 1968 Camaro. He restored this one back in 2007, and has kept it under a cover ever since. Unlike most of his personal projects, this one came out of the wrecking yard after resting with the other cars. Already in decent shape, it didn’t take much to get it looking nice. It has a fresh coat of paint, new interior, and was fitted with a big-block crate engine.
The rest of Ron’s current projects were all bought at swap meets or from friends. It is quickly apparent when entering the shop that Ron has a lot of projects. “There is never enough time,” Ron says. He is experiencing the same lack-of-available-time issue that most car enthusiasts face at least once in their life.
The car that Ron most recently acquired is his convertible 1965 Corvette that is currently being worked on. He bought it at a swap meet 3 1/2 years ago, and is working to restore it back to factory condition. Right now, he is in the process of replacing the aftermarket nose with a factory piece.
The second most recent project goes back 12 years, and that is a Chevy pickup project. He started to build it several years ago, using the subframe and suspension from a Camaro. It’s currently got a six-cylinder engine under the hood, but he is looking to get a V8 for it before he puts it back together. Like most of us, he wants it to have more power.
Other projects Ron has going right now are an El Camino, Impala, and two Chevy Bel Airs: a 1955 and a 1957 model. He has owned each of these cars for at least a decade, and the 1957 has been in his possession for more than 25 years. These cars are relatively rust free, and would be somewhat easy to complete — especially when compared to some of the cars out in the yard. But, like any potential project, it all comes down to time. The parts are there, Ron has the skills and equipment to finish everything, the problem is that the days are just too short.
In the back of the shop is a convertible that Ron bought from the LeMay collection some time ago. It’s a rare car, but there is something particularly special about it that Ron made sure to point out, “It’s probably one of the only 1941 Chevys that still has the original floorboards.” There is essentially no rust in the floor, which is astounding for a car that age, as any convertible owner will understand.
Even though we were given a special tour of the facilities where most wouldn’t be fortunate enough to see, we didn’t get to see all the cars that Ron has kept to himself. He says that he also has a convertible Corvair and an old bubble top Chevy hidden away somewhere on the grounds. Ron has one of the biggest privately-owned classic Chevy collections we have seen, if you include the contents of the wrecking yard. Even though most of them don’t run, it doesn’t make this wrecking yard any less exciting.
So, how many projects have you dragged home from out of the woods or a salvage yard? Tell us about what you’re working on, and give us all of the details in the comments section. We’d love to know more about what you’ve got.
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