Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Buy Junk Cars makes for good business

One man's junk car is another man's dream car.
 I buy junk cars. Don't we all? If you cruise along Highway 79 through Tarrant, Alabama you can't miss the island of misfit cars at 'I Buy Junk Cars'. Owner Steve Argo has been in the junk car and automotive repair business at this location for nine years. I pass by regularly and marvel at the ever-changing landscape of discarded vehicles. A white Porsche 944 caught my eye on a recent weekday, so I stopped in to get the lowdown on what appears to be a junk car dream job.

Steve Argo, owner of ‘I Buy Junk Cars’ in Tarrant, Alabama.

ONE MAN'S JUNK
  Argo lives a junkyardlife. He is a
hard-working man who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. His business is hauling cars that are abandoned at apartment complexes or forsaken on the roadside. Many of the vehicles he encounters have been sitting in yards for years until the owner or city decides it's time to remove the rusting relic.  
 "All the cars are in need of some repair," Argo says. "The owners usually find it easier to buy a new car, rather than put money in the old one." 
 Often, some dusty but outdated imports arrive from the over-the-mountain (wealthy) crowd. Callers from Mountain Brook or Vestavia, who ask Argo for a few hundred bucks to haul away their old Jaguar, Mercedes or Porsche. I'm not kidding. 
  Many of the cars he hauls from rental properties have had their title pawned. This inevitable headache requires Argo to send in paper work and make calls to lien holders. Sometimes he is reimbursed a repossession fee and the price he paid for the vehicle by a lien holder. Occasionally they don't want the car at all. Argo often times gets stuck amid the red tape. He currently has about 60 vehicles at another location waiting for paperwork to clear.

$150 CORVETTE
  Argo advertises and has a phone number on the side of his building. On more than one occasion, some too-good-to-be-true junk cars find him. Recently a guy pulled in and said he had a Corvette that he wanted to sell for $150. Argo thought, "Yeah right, a Corvette for $150." He followed the man to an apartment building and there sat a black, manual transmission
1986 Corvette. It ran but needed a clutch and some bodywork. The owner was moving to a new town and had to unload his neglected Vette. 
 Argo didn't flinch when I offered to double or triple his money on the spot. No dice.
 Another good deal turned into Argo's daily driver, a 2003 Chevrolet Impala for $250. The Impala needed a fender and a door, but had only 54,000 miles on the odometer. The owner left it at a repair shop but never got the work done. The repair shop wanted it out of their lot. Argo was more than happy to help.

WAITING LIST FOR JUNK DREAMS
  The hard work involved in dealing with junk cars that are truly junk probably outweighs the glory of landing a vintage collectible. Argo has a waiting list of buyers looking for specific makes and models of vehicles.  These are buyers hungry for one of Argo's 'good deals' on an older American classic.
 I mentioned that I would like to be on his list for early model Firebirds and Trans Ams when Argo said, "My favorite is the 1979 Trans Am."
 I'm willing to bet that Argo will remain at the top of his junk Trans Am list. No need for me to even try to get on the top of that list. How about a Tri-Five Chevy? ’69 Camaro? Deuce coupe?...
 Argo grins and doesn't say a word. 
 I know better than to ask for the top picks on everyone's dream car short list.

NO CRUSHER FOR THE CLASSICS
 Argo is a true car guy who hates to see classic cars ruined. He often hauls rusted-beyond recognition junk cars and bashed-up, late model tin cans to the scrap yard but refuses to crush late 1970s and earlier vehicles that could be candidates for restoration. "I'd rather store the classic American cars until I find somebody willing to fix them up,” Argo says. “They just don't make them like they used to.”

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This well-worn 1984 Porsche 944 was spotted outside 'I Buy Junk Cars' in Tarrant, Alabama.
Interior of 1984 Porsche 944 seen at I Buy Junk Car's lot.
Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife
Email junkyardbull@gmail.com