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Inside the Treasure State Junkyard Trove Known as Rustless in Montana

A photographic trip to an old-pickup paradise.

Contrary to popular belief, classic trucks rust away in California, too. For yours truly, as a career body man in California, patchin’ up pickups was all in a day’s work for years. Still, all the while, I knew that others in other states were battling harder in the war on rust—in Montana, for example. But since packing up the shop and moving to that state, I’m surprised to find that hulks in the woods here aren’t really all that rusty. As it’s been explained to me, if they’ve been off the road, they’ve been kept clear of salt—or, worse yet, today’s magnesium chloride—and they do survive pretty well under snow. To illustrate the point, let’s take a photographic trip to a paradise for vintage pickup trucks, the Treasure State trove known as Rustless in Montana.

This corner of Hegle’s yard is only a tease and the total inventory is so vast that, toward the end of this outing, yours truly had truly had enough. No matter what you’re into, Rustless in Montana is an overwhelming adventure—and there’s no shortage of classic trucks.

In Montana’s Glacier County, the quaint little town of Cut Bank has been home to an inaccessible and constantly growing collection of old cars and trucks for years. But you know how these stories go: The part you need is in there, but sorry, stranger, it just ain’t for sale. The passing of time can change things, and health hiccups can change things in a hurry. Usually, when the collector’s kids become stuck with the mess, these types of things tend to end about the same, with everything sold by the pound and hauled off to the scrap heap. In this case, however, the previously private inventory won’t go straight to scrap, and the town’s scrap businesspeople are in fact playing an instrumental role in saving tons of tin that you just might like to know about.

With a small amount of minor surface rust showing through original paint—which could actually be repaired and preserved—this 1967 C10 could be a smart budget build. Since patina is in, it already has the look.

A year or so ago, Merle and Mona Shortman of M&M Iron, Shane Hegle of Hegle’s Sales & Service, and Dave Bell of Bell Motor Co. partnered up to purchase the good with the bad, and the long, arduous task of moving and sorting began. The initial idea was to hold a series of live auctions. When the first did not pan out as well as expected, the plan changed. At the time of this writing, Rustless in Montana is open by appointment to the public. Arranged in rows and covering 40 iron-rich acres, potential projects and parts are plentiful.

Still rolling and quite complete, this 1960 F-100’s horizontal expanses show bare metal where gray lacquer primer has broken down over time. From this angle and distance, rust-prone problem spots like the door corners appear solid.

From ground level it’s impossible to put this in perspective, but Rustless in Montana is kind of like a big, old outdoor orphanage with an overabundance of classic trucks in the mix awaiting adoption. With low-rust cabs, doors, fenders, and hoods standing in line around the outskirts of the acreage, this is an excellent source for real-deal steel—and in no worse condition than we’d find outdoors in California.

Rustless in Montana is overstocked with GM-brand 1/2-ton haulers. Most are longbeds, but that’s OK—we’ll find the fix in our Brothers catalogs. A shortbed conversion isn’t all that difficult, and this honest little 1964 Jimmy deserves one.

On that note, let’s continue with a little photo tour. Know that as we go, there’s an even wider variety of classic vehicles available here and that we’re focusing this time mainly on a small sampling popular pickups. Maybe you’ll see something useful for your current project, or perhaps the beginnings of your next build. If something catches your eye, give Rustless in Montana a call—and if you happen to remember, tell ’em I sent you.

Ford’s 1961–1963 integrated unibody pickups are rare finds today. This one is a 1962, in worn-thin original black. Nearby in the same row there’s another, in worn-thin original white. That one is a roller and a bit more complete but they’re both worth saving.
Equipped with ambulance/barn doors, this no-frills 1968 Chevy Suburban is almost certainly a former fleet vehicle. It’s just a rolling shell on a bent-up frame, but a parts-donor pickup would complete the package. There are several here to choose from, in fact.
By the push-button door handle and front fender shape, this Chevy panel truck is a 1952 or 1953. The Suburban next door looks to be a 1958. Here again, with parts trucks in abundance, these stripped but solid bodies are both attractive prospects.
Even without its original flathead mill, this little 1947 Ford should be snapped up quickly. Not today, however. The trailer in the background is here only for the 1959 Chevy Apache sitting next top it.
Among the less-popular, passed-over pickups we find a pretty honest 1963 Dodge. With engine room to spare, it’s worth consideration. Left unpainted and perhaps with distressed signage, this has the makings of a mighty-fine shop truck.
Since we’re drifting anyway, let’s brain-build another orphan. This short-and-sweet Studebaker is a 1949, and I’m pretty sure that Fatman Fabrication makes an independent front suspension kit for the application.
For those who dare to be different, older International Harvester pickups ain’t bad looking at all. It’s here on the other side of the fence that Shane Hegle’s personal yard is well-stocked with such trucks—and there’s even more to explore than this.

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