Muscle-Car Spotting in a Michigan Junkyard
This yard contained plenty of Detroit iron.
Finding a junkyard that still has old cars 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.
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, an online tool I use to pin leads, potential story locations, and other tips for future adventures. 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 they were mostly newer cars. 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 Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible nearly buried in spare wood and other miscellaneous stuff. This place could be much more interesting than I first thought.
Walking the short road to the main yard, we passed a variety of minibikes, 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 Ford Mustang GT fastback with the rear end hanging over the pond. That did not do the poor car any favors. The owner was kind enough to point out that if I tried any funny business I would end up at the bottom of that pond. I kept walking.
Just off to our right entering the yard was a 1967 Pontiac GTO and a 1970 Chevy 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.
I saw all sorts of cool cars scattered about in the yard. A 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle up on top of a bus. A four-door Pontiac Catalina. A 1970 Ford Mustang SportsRoof 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 Mustang Mach 1. 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. I got down from the tow truck and just shook my head.
We kept on walking, passing a Mercury Cougar and another GTO. This one had a small-block Chevrolet engine under the hood. With headers and aftermarket intake and carb, it looked like someone's fun car at one point. Another rare car near there was a 1970 Chevelle SS 396. This one didn't have an easy life. It was pretty much a complete wreck but still wore the SS 396 badgeswith honor. You could still make out the SS stripes on the decklid.
Just across from there was a 1970 Chevy Malibu sitting next to a 1969 Mustang 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 Dodge 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 he ever had. It was quite a trip back in time with him.
We made our way to the last section of the yard, where the really good cars were, starting with a pair of 1966 Mustang fastbacks sitting side by side. They weren't GT cars or anything super rare, but they were nearly complete fastbacks. 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 revealed the original engine with nearly all the original components.
My eye was on a car we had walked past just before the Z28. This 1967 Camaro SS convertible was rough, but what made it interesting was where it came from: Berger Chevrolet, the famous Grand Rapids, Michigan, supercar dealership. It came with a 396 with an automatic transmission. Red car and red interior, it still has the By Berger emblem on the tail panel. 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 dying out, I just look at The Map, hope it's not true, and plot my next adventure.