Monday, September 23, 2013

Auto auction brings deal seekers to wrecker yard

Want to buy a car? Don't have much cash? No problem. Grab a few hundred dollars and get ready to bid on an abandoned, theft-recovered or impounded vehicle. Many local towing and wrecker services hold auto auctions that are open to the public. Their storage lots fill up fast and must be emptied several times each year. Cars are sold to the highest bidder and the price you pay depends on who shows up and how much you are willing to spend. Recently, ABC Towing Inc., located in Trussville, Alabama, provided me a chance to drive or tow away a deal.

Jimmy Schatz, center, wearing white framed sunglasses, is the owner of ABC Towing Inc. and ringmaster of the auction.

Look early, do your homework
  I learned about the auction in the "Public Notice" section of a local paper. I arrived an hour early to look over the 59 vehicles up for bid. On the auction list were models manufactured by Ford, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Mazda, Hyundai, Honda, Kia, Toyota, Jeep and even a Mercedes.
  A quick scan of the lot made me think there were more than a few diamonds in the rough, but some of the cars were in less-than-stellar condition. The trunk of a forgettable 20-year-old foreign car was home to a box full of potatoes. The ancient potatoes, moldy but sprouting new growth, had been in the trunk for a long time. I didn't think twice about passing up this beauty.

Put on your game face
  The “good” vehicles got more than their fair share of attention from tire kickers. Many of my fellow bidders tried to keep a straight face when inspecting possible treasures among the abandoned, abused, wrecked or impounded vehicles. These shrewd buyers tried to limit the attention they were giving to a "good" car. Hoping their fellow bidders would overlook the vehicle they were eyeing.
  I attempted to play along with their auction antics. After a generous inspection of a 1990 Camaro Z28, I muttered “pile of junk” loudly for the pleasure of anyone within earshot. 

These auction vehicles were seized by law enforcement, abandoned on roadways or theft-recovered and unclaimed by insurance companies.

Put up or shut up
 Jimmy Schatz, the owner of ABC Towing, is an imposing figure with a muscular build and razor shaved head. Schatz becomes an auctioneer when ABC Towing decides to clear out their storage lot every 60-to-90 days.
  Schatz danced through the cars and marched down the auction list in less than an hour. An eclectic crowd of bargain seekers, scrap dealers, young and old, huddled around each numbered vehicle as Schatz called out the bid.
  While leading a throng of deal-seekers, to the first vehicle on the bid list, Schatz warned that they should be prepared to buy if they were brave enough to bid. Many heed Schatz’s warning. 
  Bidders with nervous feet shuffle away or turn their backs on cars when the bid reaches beyond the limits of their pocketbook or the fixed maximum dollar amount they set in their mind.

  Randy Carroll was a first-timer at the ABC auction. Carroll is a car guy, but he wasn't too serious about buying anything. Carroll owns a 1955 Chevy Bel Air and not too long ago he sold a mid-seventies Chevrolet Monte Carlo for $50, just to get it out of the yard. Randy was surprised that a scrap dealer was bidding $300 for anything on the lot. Burned or flattened. Carroll wished he had sold his Monte Carlo for more money.

Barbara Truelove got her truck back. The auction price wasn't as cheap as she thought it would be.

Rescue mission
  Barbara Truelove was one of the serious bidders. She came to the auction on a mission to buy her Ford Ranger back. Truelove’s Ranger ended up at ABC Towing due to a series of unfortunate events. Truelove recently bought the Ford and let a relative borrow the truck. Truelove’s relative was stopped by a county sheriff and cited for driving without a license. The sheriff had the car towed and impounded by ABC Towing. 
  Truelove could have paid the fees and got it out of impound but she waited, thinking she could buy it at auction for a few hundred dollars. She bought it back, but for much more. $1,800. Ouch! Truelove paid the price because she couldn't afford to let the truck go.

Winning bidder, Ralph Belding, revs up his $400 1988 Lincoln Towncar.

Fired up 
  Down on the lower half of the ABC storage lot sat a blue 1988 Lincoln Towncar. Ralph Belding knew it was just what he wanted. Belding planned to upgrade the fuel delivery system of his 1967 Mustang fastback by using the Lincoln’s EFI. Belding was the winning bidder, at $400.  
  After the auction, Belding fired up the Lincoln’s big V8 engine. The fuel injection was purring just fine.

Bring your wallet
   If you want to check out the auction scene, keep your eyes peeled and mark your calendar. Auctions are usually announced weeks in advance. Be prepared to work on or haul your “new” junk vehicle home.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

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This sexy 1988 Lincoln roared to life for bidder Ralph Belding.

The ABC Towing Inc. auction sold vehicles as old as 1983 and as new as 2007. This 1987 Saab was not popular with the bidders, selling for $300.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

1983 Hurst Olds Cutlass crushed dead by tree

Classic 1983 Hurst/Olds killed by tree. This is why you do not leave your car parked outside. A giant oak tree landed across the midsection of one-of-only 3,001 Hurst/Olds built for the 1983 model year on the Cutlass platform. The down-on-his-luck owner offered the uninsured remains of the complete H/O including the flashy Lightning Rod Shifter for sale on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars last fall. 
  The car, despite being pinned beneath a tree, sold fast. Unfortunately, I was the third person to call about the Hurst/Olds located in a wealthy suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. 
  The first caller, a "junk car buyer," turned the car down because he didn’t have the heart to scrap the car, plus he didn’t want to pay the $500 asking price. The second caller, a savvy Olds aficionado, jumped on the deal. He knew the Hurst/Olds-specific Lightning Rod Shifter was worth $400. The remains of the smashed, black beauty was like money in the bank. As luck would have it, I received an up-close look at the H/O when the new owner decided to cash in via Craigslist. 

This 1983 Hurst/Olds 15th Anniversary Edition endured the brunt of a fallen tree. The strength of the A-pillar and T-tops were no match. 1983 H/O spotter's take note of the black grills, hood blister along with the black and silver paint with red accents.

Eyes on the prize
  Several months after the H/O sold, and still kicking myself for not landing the deal, I went surfing on the web for a set of Olds Rally wheels for my 1985 Cutlass project. I spotted an ad listing several 1983 Hurst/Olds parts on Craigslist and had to investigate. 
  "Could this be the same car that I just missed out on?" 
  I had to find out. I called the number on the ad and set up a time to look at the chrome 15x7 H/O Rally wheels and the rest of what I hoped was the crushed 1983 Hurst/Olds.

Disturbing view through the T-tops of this 1983 Hurst/Olds. A fallen tree delivered a fatal blow to the roof and doors.

Have chainsaw, will travel
  "How often do you have to cut a car out of a tree after you buy it?"
  That was my first question for the owner when I saw the crushed Cutlass. The man smiled, knowing that I knew the origin of his Hurst/Olds jackpot, then he filled me in on all the details of his purchase.
  The smashed Hurst/Olds was hauled out of Mountain Brook, Alabama, one of the 10 wealthiest neighborhoods in the U.S. The black G-Body sat beside a rundown home in need of serious lawn maintenance. The car remained crushed and exposed to the elements under the tree for more than a year before it was offered for sale. Neighbors, in their million dollar homes, and/or the city wanted the Hurst/Olds eyesore removed. 
  The seller was more than happy to get some cash and clear out his yard. The buyer was also thrilled to own the rare, rust-free 1983 Hurst/Olds, but first he had to get busy with his chainsaw before he could celebrate.

A good view of the roof collapse, due to a fallen tree, and two-tone Black and Silver paint scheme found on all 1983 Hurst/Olds.

The 1983 Hurst/Olds had 128k miles on the odometer when it was crushed by a tree. A factory tachometer is among a host of analog gauges on the H/O.

Hurst/Olds parts car
  The ’83 H/O was still equipped with most of its factory options intact when it landed at its new home. Here's a rundown:

  • 307 Rocket V-8 engine (180 hp/245-lb-ft torque)
  • Dual snorkel air cleaner
  • Rear axle 3:73 ratio performance (limited slip) rear end
  • Lightning Rod shifter
  • Chrome & Argent 15x7 SSIII Rally wheels
  • Deck lid spoiler
  • Bucket seats, 6-way power on driver side
  • F41 firm ride & handling suspension

Everything has a price
  My visit to the Olds parts seller was an eye-opener. Owners of Hurst/Olds, a name synonymous with the muscle car era, know they are in exclusive company. But, that exclusivity comes with a price because parts are difficult to find. When you do happen upon a stash of Olds 442 or H/O parts, you have to pay up or be ready to go home empty handed.
  I offered $150 for the set of chrome SSIII Rally wheels that the seller listed for $300. "No deal," I was told. The pitted wheels needed too much work for me at that price. The seller also offered to sell me the entire car for $1,800 or just the rear end for $500. A desirable performance upgrade that I could use on my Cutlass project. I had to pass.
  One more thing caught my eye. A 1985 Cutlass 442 was parked in the driveway beside the H/O. The owner, a wheeler-dealer of all things Cutlass, said he would make me a deal. 
  I could have driven away for $3,000 in a 4-4-2 in need of some TLC. The offer was tempting, but I had a Cutlass at home that also needed work and a new owner. 
  "If only I had gotten to the flattened H/O first," I mumbled, as I climbed into my car.

Final thoughts
  I drove away with a new appreciation for guys who specialize in one make or model. This seller knew everything about 1978-1988 Cutlasses because he had cut his teeth on an original 1968 Hurst/Olds. He was well-versed in the value of parts and online bids. He enjoys making a profit playing with the cars he loves. We should all be lucky enough to buy a crushed Hurst/Olds someday.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

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GM brochure photo of a new 1983 Hurst/Olds.

During the 1980s Oldsmobile Cutlasses were everywhere. Even then, you knew that the Hurst/Olds versions were special. Gold chains and muscle shirts were standard apparel for H/O drivers.

Oldsmobile SSIII 15x7 Rally Wheels were chromed with Argent painted insets (center spokes) on 1983 and 1984 Hurst/Olds models and featured a red pinstripe and snap-in center caps.

1983 marked the 15th Anniversary edition of the Oldsmobile-Hurst marriage.

This Olds Cutlass aficionado posted his parts car 1983 Hurst/Olds on Craigslist.

1983 Hurst/Olds VIN number tells you that this car was equipped with the 307 Rocket V8 engine (eight digit is #9).

1983 Hurst/Olds decals featured distinctive type-in-shadow design. A set of new reproduction decals sale for $300.

1983 Hurst/Olds did not have the traditional Cutlass hood ornament.

Classic 1983 Hurst/Olds with rust-free floorpans, good quarter panels and original paint. Doors and T-top roof have been modified by an oak tree courtesy of Mother Nature.

Mold and mildew cover the burgundy (Dark Maple) interior and rear seat of the 1983 H/O Cutlass. A tree fell across the center of the car, exposing the interior to the elements.

Classic 1983 Hurst/Olds with rust-free floorpans, good quarter panels and original paint. Doors and T-top roof have been modified by an oak tree courtesy of Mother Nature.

The Hurst/Olds rear deck spoiler, or wing, helped set it apart from the 187,000 Oldsmobiles built in 1983 wearing Cutlass badges.

Black grills, hood blister and a 15th Anniversary Hurst/Olds badge still adorn this battered 1983 H/O.

Oldsmobile created a stir on the streets with the 1983 Hurst/Olds, right, and 1985 4-4-2, left. Both models had anemic power, but hey, we’re talking 1980s here.

This is a rare pair of Olds G-bodys, 1983 Hurst/Olds, left, 1985 4-4-2, on right. 3,000 Hurst/Olds were built in 1983 and, oddly enough, only 3,000 Olds 442s were built in 1985.

Compare the smooth side of the 1985 Olds 442, left, to the bulging sheet metal on the 1983 Hurst/Olds, right, that was crushed by tree.

1983 Hurst/Olds featured a non-functional hood scoop or blister.

A black and silver 1985 Olds Cutlass 442 sits next to a black and silver 1983 Hurst/Olds that was flattened by a tree.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

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