Saturday, May 30, 2015

1939 Chevrolet Master Sedan: Original classic uncovered behind a barn in Tennessee (video)

Classic 1939 Chevy behind barn in Tennessee, original with 590 miles on odometer.

Behind the barn. This 1939 Chevrolet Master sedan was among the dozens of classic cars and hot rods that Junkyard Life discovered during a three-day tour of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. The owner, a gear head with 20 rusty cars scattered across his East Tennessee farm, mentioned that an old Chevy behind the hay barn was a low-mile, solid, original. We didn’t expect a WWII-era car in time capsule condition. Let’s take a closer look.

Looks like a Cadillac
  Chevrolet redesigned their 1939 models with longer hoods, the headlights mounted on top of the front fenders and coil spring suspension. The flashier grille and hood ornament mimicked Cadillac’s luxury line-up. This was a lot of car for less than $900. The price sounds like a steal, but remember the average annual income was $1,300.

Only 590 miles show on the odmoeter of the 1939 Chevy. The wear on the brake pedal reveals that the actual mileage may be more.
Only 590 miles show on the odmoeter of the 1939 Chevy. The wear on the brake pedal reveals that the actual mileage may be more.

The rumble seat option disappeared from the line-up of 1939 Chevrolets.
A trunk was integrated into the body lines and the rumble seat option disappeared from the line-up of 1939 Chevrolets sedans.

Only original once
  The Junkyard Life crew crawled all over the ’39 Chevy, noting the 590 miles on the odometer and the relatively unblemished body. The car has probably traveled many more miles on the original inline six cylinder engine and 3-speed transmission, but we can dream, right?
  Everything appeared unmolested and was where it should be on this blast from the past. Values on mostly original, 4-door, 5-passenger, club sedan projects of ’39 vintage have stayed surprisingly low. I’ve seen similar cars, in somewhat rougher condition sell in the $2,000 price range. 

Buy what you can afford
  Hot rodders had a field day transforming forgotten, family sedans from the 1930s and 1940s into custom street rods during the 1980s. Those pastel-painted beauties and quality rest mods often sell for $20,000-to-$30,000 and up. Finding an original car is the best way to budget build your own. What’s stopping you? Time or money?
  Coupes can bring more dollars but the 4-door sedan was the do-everything family car. Imagine pulling into the big box store next to a row of new Chevy Suburbans, Tahoes and mini vans? A 1939 Chevy puts the "class" in classic car.
  Keep your eyes open for old cars and I will see you at the junkyard!

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life 

Primered or faded paint covers the 1939 Chevy. It wears well after more than seven decades.
Almost 400,000 Chevy Master sedans rolled off the assembly line in 1939,

It's easy to see why we stopped to have a chat with the friendly farmer in Tennessee.
It's easy to see why we stopped to have a chat with the friendly farmer in Tennessee. He loves old cars too.

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!?  Send emails to

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Barn Find: 1972 MG MGB provides a mom joy, refuge; New owner plans restoration

1972 MGB located in a storage shed in Pell City, Alabama after 20 year hiatus.

A lot of love in the little red rag top. The 1995 license plate revealed the year that Shirley Hardaman parked her 1972 MGB in a storage shed on Logan Martin Lake in Pell City, Alabama. The red MGB spent life mainly as a toy for a mom who loved to get behind the wheel. It would occasionally serve as her commuter car, back-and-forth to Birmingham. Top down fun and miles of smiles were the norm. Life on the lake was good and the little car made it better. When the MG started to show its age at 94,000 miles, Shirley and her husband, Jim, decided a restoration was in order, but those plans were always put on hold. Life got in the way but their love for the little car never wavered. Keeping it always.

  The primary driver of the red, 4-speed MGB, Shirley Hardaman, passed away, at age 71, nearly 2 years ago. The recent passing of Shirley’s husband, Jim, forced the bereaved family to sell the fun, little roadster that was symbolic of their mother’s happiness. Shirley’s daughter, Vicki, struggled to contain her emotion while showing me her mother’s car. It was time to let go.

A new lease on life for this red 1972 MGB roadster is in order.
1972 MGB barn find as it looked after 20 years off the road.

Finding joy
  Shirley’s MGB brought her happiness after enduring many tragedies. Her mom died, in 1950, when she was 8 years old. In 1973, she also lost a daughter in an automobile accident. Shirley lost many other loved ones in similarly tragic ways.
  “Mom had a difficult life and I don't remember many things that gave her joy, before my kids were born, except that little car,” her daughter, Vicki, said. “I don’t tell you that for pity. Only to say that her car gave her some much needed joy. Mom loved that car and it made her so happy.”

1972 MGB has spent several decades in Pell City, Alabama.
The MGB was a place where Shirley Hardaman could find joy.

Plans, and a tough decision
  When Shirley’s first grandchild was born, in May 1990, she promised the red roadster would be his one day. Now, 24-years-old, her grandson was forced to make a difficult decision. Keep the car or sell it? Keeping it meant letting it sit until he could afford a restoration. Selling the car would allow someone to save his grandmother’s car before it deteriorated further. 
  Letting go was the best but most difficult choice.
  Shirley’s red rag top now has a new owner. More top down smiles are in order when the restoration is complete. There’s no better way to honor Shirley’s memory, than to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!?  Send emails to

An MGB was more than 6 inches wider than a MG midget.
An MGB is more than 6 inches wider than a MG midget. More room to stretch out and shift the four gear.

Black interior on the red 1972 MGB roadster.
Driver's seat of 1972 MGB shows some wear in the padding, seat cover still intact.

A closer look at the barn find 1972 MGB is in order. The door was open to get a look inside.
A closer look at the barn find 1972 MGB is in order. Let’s get a look inside.

The 1972 MGB has a full complement of gauges on the dash.

Shirley Hardaman’s 1972 MGB remained original as evidenced by its dash and radio..
1972 MGB’s radio is surrounded by buttons and switches on the center console and dash.

Dirt covers convertible top and plastic rear windows on the 1972 MGB.

Body including quarter panels on the 1972 MGB are solid and straight.

Protecting a vehicle from the elements is key to a vehicles survival and value.
Barn find cars can be found in various stages of neglect. Structurally the ’72 MGB has endured 20 years in storage better than most.

Car rule #1: Do not use the car to stack and store stuff.

Mid-year in 1974, the chrome bumpers were replaced with rubber versions.
1972 MGBs retained chrome front and rear bumpers. Mid-year in 1974, the chrome bumpers were replaced with black rubber versions to meet new safety standards.

More than 399,000 MGB were sold from 1962-1980.
MGBs held title to the most popular roadsters in the US until Mazda’s Miata surpassed them. More than 399,000 MGB were sold in the US.

Its as if the MGB doesn’t want to see itself in the mirror.
Side mirror droops on the 1972 MGB barn find – as if the MGB doesn’t want to see itself in the mirror.

The MGB’s average miles per year dropped significantly because it hasn’t moved in 20 years.
The 1972 MGB’s average miles per year dropped significantly because it hasn’t moved in 20 years. Only 94k miles on the odometer.

MGBs were equipped with collapsible steering columns beginning in 1968.
MGBs were equipped with collapsible steering columns beginning in 1968.

Most convert system to one 12-volt battery, stored in floor behind seats.
MGBs were produced with two 6-volt batteries, stored under a panel behind seats, from the factory.

The 1972 MGB convertible doesn't look too shabby after being parked in a storage shed for two decades.
MG shield and MGB emblem on the trunk of the red 1972 roadster.

For evidence of long-term storage look on further than the license plate on the 1972 MG – 1995.
The tag on the 1972 MGB shows 1995 as the last year it was registered for the road in Alabama.

The 6th digit "C" designates this a 1972 model MGB. Build plate states a 6/72 build date/.
The 6th digit "C" designates this a 1972 model MGB. Build plate states a 6/72 build date. The Abingdon, England company built 523,836 MGB of various models from 1962-1980.

Spline drive knock-off wheels can be tedious to maintain and are heavier than you might think.
The MGB’s spline drive, spoked, knock-off, 14-inch wheels can be tedious to maintain and are heavier than you might think.

A jumble of wire hangs from beneath the dash of the 1972 MGB.
A jumble of wire hangs beneath the dash of the 1972 MGB.

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!?  Send emails to

Monday, March 30, 2015

Did I buy a 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ on eBay?

Junkyard Life writer, Ron Kidd, unwittingly bought a car on eBay.

My 1973 SJ gold mine.
I finally did it! I knew one day I would stumble upon a Grand Prix, one of my dream cars, in time capsule form, with the proper “SJ” pedigree. I finally bought the car to go with the tachometer that I found about three years ago. That’s the way we car guys operate, we buy parts for cars we don’t own (yet), and one day find the car to go with it.
  Presenting my 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ 455 in Valencia Gold. That’s the stuff!
One-year only design of the 1973 Grand Prix featured a distinctive decklid and tail lights. The fuel filler door is beneath the bumper and hard to reach.

  I bought a bucket list car, however, that is not the end of the story. Junkyard Life Brother, Scott Andrews of Indiana, happened upon a story that Jody and I had written on a Colonnade-era Grand Prix. Scott, always a fan of this forgotten generation of Pontiacs, got excited and hit the Internet looking for an SJ Grand Prix of his own. He found one, a beautiful blue 1974 SJ. He blamed the whole transaction on me! So for revenge, he conspired with Junkyard Life Brother, Anthony, and Jody to find me a Grand Prix. 
  Darn them, they did. They found a few but I always turned them down for some reason or another. Just not the right car or the right time, until Anthony got the call. Scott found an incredible 1976 Grand Prix LJ on eBay and told Anthony to make me look at it. I did. 
  Wow! It was spectacular.

Notice my new Ames Pontiac floor mats. Also, note the power window block-off plates. Cool! Say, is that African Crossfire Mahogany? Yes. Yes, it is.

Hold the phone
  But... hello... remember me? The guy NOT wanting to buy one now. So, doing what someone who doesn’t want to buy a car does – I expanded the search and found this one.
  Oh, no! And it’s Valencia Gold! 
  I could hear Scott and Anthony laughing deep in my soul.

You must buy it
  “You have to buy this car!,” said Anthony. “This one! Right here!”  
  I still said no. He convinced me to bid on it. Actually, Anthony bid on it for me. I didn’t even look. Jody kept calling, telling me how many people were watching it. A couple of dozen, at least. That only assured me further that I was not getting the car. 
  Surely, someone had that cheating software that outbids you in the last micro-second of the auction, thus most of us, mere mortals, could not stand a chance. 

Who won?
  Whew! When the bidding crossed the dollar amount that I had capped for the SJ (or thought I did), I relaxed. I was glad for whoever just paid a lot of money, but still a very fair deal, for a car of that caliber. I just didn’t know it was me. I will never forget when Anthony called to tell me what the car sold for. 
  I asked, “Who won it?”
  “Um... You did,” he replied.

Pontiac 455 V8 engine need a clean-up and updated gaskets to look new.
The SJ has a 455-V8 engine, that in spite of low miles and running really well, is in need of detailing, and as long as I am at that, I may as well replace and update wear parts like the pumps and gaskets. My list always snowballs when I put it into words. In my head it doesn't sound that complicated.

Trucking to Arkansas
  My Grand Prix, now known as Valencia, or Val, was in Batesville, Arkansas. The gentleman who owned it, and several other Grand Prix collectibles, met us in Memphis, Tennessee. I then became ‘Valencia’s Lesser Accomplice’ as Anthony likes to call me.  
  So, what is this strange and beautiful Pontiac that has taken residence in the Junkyard Life shop? The car has the SJ package, that included the 455 engine and a rear sway bar. Equipped with rally gauges and the famous horse collar bucket seats. A beige interior that is really more of an “off-white” with a chocolate brown dash and carpets. Deluxe lighting package with a power trunk release in the lighted glove compartment. It has 3:23 gears, so it could use an overdrive. It has the way cool, finned hubcaps, that set off the classic Pontiac styling very well.

Marshall, at Shawn Thorson Auto in Moody, Alabama, took an extra liking to Valencia. Marshall wet sanded and buffed, taking extra care of the original paint. It turned out better than I ever expected. Thanks, Marshall.

Gold mine details
  My Grand Prix has Valencia Gold paint. No vinyl top (cool!) No cruise control (it will). No tilt steering (it will), and no power windows (I’m kind of glad). 
  The ’73 Pontiac does have the optional cornering lamps, which I love. I find myself looking forward to turns on a residential street, so the cornering lamps will light up the signs. 
  It also has some of the best African Crossfire Mahogany I have ever seen. If you don’t know what that is, African Crossfire Mahogany is a Grand Prix geek word meaning the wood grain on the dash and door panels. 
  Bumper fillers and trunk dividers are still intact. I even got the original warranty papers in the deal. This luxo cruiser rides well and runs even better. I am really happy with what I got. This car was well cared for and preserved and I intend to continue the tradition. Plus, I kind of promised the last owner, who promised the previous, who promised the original. So what choice do I have? 
  Who am I kidding, I would have anyway – I love these cars!

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Marshal at Shawn Thorson did such a good job on these wheels, that I am putting together a set of Rally II’s to swap out these occasionally to preserve them. The center piece is a bit faded, but there is zero curb rash on these babies. They really work on this color car. Imagine a set of red lines….

Ron’s Grand Prix Fun Facts:
  1. The Pontiac Grand Prix styling and trim levels, J and SJ, were borrowed from Duesenberg Automobile Co. I don’t know where LJ came from. I think it stood for “Luxury.”  Weird. The last half of my #1 Fun Fact was an opinion. 
  2. The LJ was introduced in 1975. The most distinctive feature was the two-tone paint. It seemed to include tons of luxury features, but the gauges and the 455 still had to be specified. My favorite Grand Prix interior is the burgundy velour from the 1975 LJ. Now that’s a fact. And it's fun.
  3. Stutz, from 1969-1973, were styled after the Pontiac Grand Prix and not vice versa. In the early 1970’s, Stutz didn’t try to hide it, they used Pontiac running gear – but, to be fair, they also used several other American drive trains.
  4. It is rumored that the first 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix off the assembly line was purchased by Stutz for re-styling and shipped overseas.
  5. In 1973, roughly one-out-of-every eleven Grand Prixs were of SJ trim.
  6. We named the car Valencia Julius McMullen because of …wait for it…more fun facts!
  7. My SJ was delivered to the famous McMullen Pontiac in Pontiac Michigan. McMullen was the dealership where Pontiac employees took delivery of the cars they ordered for themselves. They built them, but they couldn’t sell them, so, McMullen handled that for them.
  8. The original owner was a project engineer for Pontiac. The SJ was a company car for him. He bought the company car for his wife when he got the next one.
  9. John DeLorean was his boss for many years.
  10. Early brochures state that a Grand Prix could be had with a Super Duty 455. Sadly, that option never came to be in the Grand Prix. If that would have happened, it would have been geared with a 3:42 axle ratio. One prototype that I know of, (black with a NACA hood) was built.
  11. 1973 was the first year for the headlight dimmer switch housed within the turn signal lever. This did not show up in the Firebird until 1979. Previously, it was activated by a foot action switch on the floor.

These seats are pure Pontiac heaven. Confession time, I knew that cloth was offered in the Grand Prix in 1973, but I have never seen it. I really thought it was just an option in the brochure that didn’t make it to the assembly line. I stand, or sit corrected!

I lost my clock! The tach install went very well. Sort of. But now I have my ideal Grand Prix gauge cluster – the Rally gauges with a 120 MPH Speedometer, a trip meter and the every highly coveted... I waited for it... tachometer.

I actually own the very cool original tag that hung from the turn signal in the dealership to tell owners where the location of the new dimmer switch. I am very proud of weird things like this.

Pontiac treasures from McMullen Pontiac!

Original Valencia Gold paint shines on this 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ.

Similar, plastic-finned hubcaps were also available on 1973 Corvettes.
1973 Pontiac warranty books included.
Ron Kidd and his 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ will be cruising to the Pontiac Nationals soon.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  

Send emails to Jody at or Ron at