Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cars in Yards: Hunting a 1967 Camaro in kudzu

Buy a classic car – trapped in a kudzu prison.
Find the '67 Camaro in the kudzu?I asked the question, already knowing the answer. "Not yet," said fellow gear head, Ron Kidd, who was waist-deep in kudzu vines. Armed with a machete, floppy hat and camera, Kidd led his friend Anthony and me, on an expedition to uncover some cars for sale just west of Birmingham, Alabama. The cars, which have been sitting for a decade, are part of an ongoing estate sale. "No one could imagine what we are seeing," said Kidd.  

Uncovering this '72 Gran Torino was a challenge despite the kudzu being sprayed with weed killer.
Selling them all
The seller, Johnny Baker, doesn't know what cars are hiding under the leaves. Baker, a retirement-age fellow, is the executor of his sister's estate. Her husband, James Ray, died several years prior and left a large assortment of automobiles. Ray, a mechanic by trade, acquired a lot of cars over the years.  Fords were obviously his favorite make. Baker introduced himself with a firm, ham-fisted handshake. "See what you can find," Baker said. He had an inventory list of more than 40 cars that his brother-in-law owned. "I don't know where the 1967 Camaro is at," Baker replied, when prodded about its whereabouts. "I don't even know where to begin to look for it." 

This 1972 Ford Gran Torino - hauled away by a junkyard for $400.
The search is on
Our search and rescue mission started by uncovering a green '72 Gran Torino that looked pretty decent. But the allure of finding a dream car in the weeds was too much. We headed into the thick mounds of leaves, aching to find something better. "Some of the cars, he pushed down the hill and covered with dirt," Baker said. We wanted to find some classics but the kudzu thoroughly blanketed the dry docked land yachts, leaving no path to maneuver through the clusters of mostly 4-door Mopars, Fords and GM vehicles. We resorted to walking on top of the cars, not knowing what was under our feet. To find out what kind of car we were standing on top of, we had to hack away at briars and the complex maze of vines. 
Ron Kidd ready to battle the kudzu and find a classic car.


Kudzu damages cars, team grows weary
Layers of dirt from years of decaying leaves covered roofs, hoods and decklids on top of the cars. The moisture-rich, natural compost piles caused the horizontal surfaces of most of the otherwise complete cars to rust. The 95-degree heat and frustration of fruitless bushwhacking wilted our enthusiasm.

Seen an AMC station wagon lately?

Junkyard buyer beats tire kickers
By the time we emerged from the brush, Baker had struck a deal with a local junkyard to buy 10 cars and haul them away. "A lot of guys have come out here and kicked tires and climbed around. I'm ready to sell, and this guy is ready to deal," said Baker. Ouch! The green '72 Gran Torino we uncovered was destined for a junkyard that deals in older parts. I wish I had jumped on that one for the $400 selling price. More than a dozen cars remain. Maybe I can still find that '67 Camaro when the kudzu dies this winter?

1967 Lincoln Continental, $1,000 gets it.
It that a VW bug and Karmann-Ghia tucked beneath a blanket of kudzu?
1960 Buick 4-door at the edge of the kudzu forest.
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