Sunday, November 24, 2013

Junkyard Adventure: Thompson’s Auto Parts

South Alabama junkyard smiles. If you find yourself lucky enough to be passing through the southern tip of Alabama, you must stop at Thompson’s Auto Parts in Midland City. Located just north of Dothan, Alabama on Highway 231. Roland Thompson, owner and operator, was kind enough to let Junkyard Life tour the yard with a camera and ask about a thousand questions. 
  Thompson guided me through his shop and showed me a few of his current projects. Thompson is obviously a skilled body man and mechanic. Only when I could be restrained no more, he turned me loose to my own devices. 
  What did I see? A southern Alabama classic car heaven is all.

1971 Chevelle SS stripped of carpet and showing off solid floor pans.

Chevy heavy

  Roland Thompson is primarily a Chevrolet guy. One thing that caught my eye was a fabulous green 1971 Chevelle SS. All the Q&A I could play with it, pointed to it being of genuine Super Sport pedigree. Round gauges, cowl hood, optional spoke wheels — it was all there. The carpet removed for all to see the floor pans, which seemed in great shape to me.

1961 Chevy Impala.

1971 Chevy wagon with SS grill.

Ready for paint
  Immediately catching our eyes was this 1971 Chevelle wagon with a lot of body work done to it. We love wagons. Add this 1961 Impala, a solid 
2-door hardtop, (in about the same stage of bodywork) and you would have stopped too. If Junkyard Life nerds are going to be passing by, you can’t just leave things like this in view.

1970 Chevy Monte Carlo, needs hood.

1971 Chevy Monte Carlo, hood available. 

Monte Carlo feast
  Thompson’s has a vast array of first generation Monte Carlos. Do we like Monte Carlos? No, we love them. There is nothing about these cars we don’t like, other than they are not ours. It’s a good thing Thompson sells whole cars, as well as other hard to find parts, because these Monte Carlos are too nice to part out.

Big block Chevy car in Thompson’s junkyard!

Where else are you going to find a complete 1966 SS 396 El Camino?

With the big block rat motor still at home? Check! A quick look reveals factory AC, power steering and power brakes. This car is something special.

1970 Olds Cutlass S.

Factory Halo Top made a fashion statement when new. 

Top this
  This 1970 Cutlass S was in remarkable shape. Notice the factory, weird, vinyl top that GM referred to as a Halo Top, because the car appeared to be wearing like, a halo instead of the full length version. I took lots of pictures of this car in different camera settings and it did not disappoint.

Second gen Trans Am fever at the junkyard.
A pair of 79-81 model Pontiac Trans Ams on hand. These two hard-top models had lots of great parts, like the tail light design and splitter pipes I cannot resist.
One of the Trans Ams oddly enough had this strange Buick wheel. We love odd and someone is bound to be looking for this.

This poor 1970 Pontiac was rescued after teenage car cannibals tried to emulate a targa top — with a saw! No anesthesia even.

A 1955 Chevy panel truck with a now ironic lettering that reads “Modern Cleaners — As Modern as Tomorrow.”

This mid-fifties Ford wagon was the subject of a lot of different camera angles. They all turned out great. I wonder where this car has been. Suburban housewife? Adventure traveler? Route 66? Hand-me-down teenage transportation? Two dollar per car load drive in night? Junkyard Life has questions like that.

Buy parts or whole cars
  Thompson’s Auto Parts deals heavily in Chevelles, Chevy II’s, Monte Carlos and really is a true Chevrolet fan. If you need something hard to find, give them a call. They sells parts and entire cars. Thompson also has sources and friends that share his enthusiasm. There are more cars tucked away on the yard. 

I spied this 1955 Bel Air 2-door post sedan in the weeds. This shoebox Chevy reminds me of our ’55 Hot Rod project. Roland digs Tri-fives too! He showed me a beautiful 55 150 that they worked on, that made Power Tour this year.

1955 Chevy Bel Air baby!

1971 Chevy Monte Carlo sits in the weeds at Thompson’s junkyard in south Alabama.
How many green first gen Monte Carlos did GM build? 

Seating for two in the trunk of this 1970 Monte Carlo.

Bigger is better
  One more Monte Carlo shout out. These two may be rough, but offer lots of hard to find trim and various other parts. I didn’t see an SS454, but knowing Roland Thompson, there may be one hidden in the yard somewhere. I imagine the green one in younger days, gleaming with those factory pin stripes highlighting the bold body.

Thompson’s motto 

“We buy antique cars and trucks, the good, the bad & the ugly—
running or not!” 
  So, if you have something interesting, give him a call at (334) 983-9053. They may just have it in there somewhere!
Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

1955 Cadillac! How did it survive dramatic scrap price surges.

Junkyard Life Reminders and Tips:
  1. Never ever ever, just walk into a junkyard without permission. No exceptions. Even if you “know” them.
  2. If you get denied permission, don’t get huffy with the yard guard. Understand, they have to deal with theft and legal issues. Always be nice.
  3. Be sure to mention the project you are working on. They can steer you in the right direction.
  4. If you find something you want or need — always talk with them before you go removing parts.
  5. If you do remove the part, assure the business that you will NOT hack up everything that needs to be removed to get what you need. 
  6. If you do break something, tell them and offer to buy it. This is their business and they will appreciate the offer.
  7. Thank them for letting you look around. They don’t have to do that. It makes for a good relationship and raises your chances of doing good business in the future.

Happy Hunting!

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Ron at or Jody at 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sad ending for one 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo

Scrap yard scorecard: Car Guys - ZERO, People Who Would Sell Their Best Friend For Scrap - ONE. Automotive rescuers, restorers, enthusiast alike — we have failed. Once again the Junkyard Life crew and all our brothers will breathe an exasperated sigh and shake our heads at the thought of us finding this once-awesome 1974 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. It’s not a treasure hunting victory by any means. I wish I would have found it anywhere else. This golden girl was found at the local scrap place. Why do I even drive by there? And, it only got worse as I got deeper into my Junkyard Life investigative stupor.

How Could It Get Worse?
  Good point. It was already bad enough, being it was a proud 1974 Monte Carlo lined up to be crushed. We love Monte Carlos. We love what GM called “Colonnade” bodies. The new-for-1973 design, carried on until 1977 before the body style changed. These over-bumpered beauties were the result of strict government standards in the name of safety, emissions and fuel consumption. 
  The bigger, heavier, bolder design took a while for the hot rod guys to get used to them, but now is now and at least we love them. We are not alone in our guilty Colonnade pleasure. The last Monte Carlo story we wrote received a lot of response and feedback. Our readers have a passion for the forgotten years that have not hit the collector circles with Barrett-Jackson price demands. Thankfully, that means, for now, we can still find them reasonably priced. That is, unless they are turned into Shasta cans and aluminum siding, such as the fate of this poor car.

If the back seat of this ’74 Monte Carlo could talk, it would say, "keep me out of the crusher!"

Power locks and manual windows adorn the white door panels of the ’74 Chevy.
Guts and glory
  This ’74 Monte Carlo featured an almost basic interior. A bench seat and a column shifter were fairly common. Optional, would have been bucket seats and an automatic still, but shifted from a neat-o, floor console. Extra cool would be the famous “swivel” bucket seats! Monte Carlos were one of the few cars that offered them. Not so common, were a couple of extra cost options I spotted. Tilt wheel and power door locks. Strange that we keep finding these odd combinations of manual windows, but power door locks. Crank, crank-crank-click.

120-MPH speedo on this ’74 Monte Carlo. Giant gas gauge looks comical.

This Monte Carlo still runs and has the keys in the ignition. Junkyard gold – not for long.

Gauges and questions
  This Monte Carlo has a basic dash with a huge fuel gage and a 120 speedometer with no trip odometer. I know Pontiac’s Grand Prix offered a trip meter. Does anyone know if Chevrolet offered one as well? Notice the keys are in the ignition. That lends the story a pass for using bad words. Why?

A complete, original SBC is housed under the ’74 Monte Carlo’s hood.

A/C brackets, belts all in place just like grandma ordered it.

Complete and running
  It ran! The Monte Carlo has a complete small block with all the hoses, all the belts, even the AC belt was on it. The engine was complete from air cleaner to oil pan. The nice guy who ran the yard told me it ran. He really was nice, although doing what he does, he may be the devil. He let me look at the car and I am thankful for that. Ready for more bad news?

Vehicle Emissions decal reveals 400 Small Block possibilities on the 1974 Chevy.
Vehicle Emissions decal reveals 400 Small Block possibilities on the 1974 Chevy.
Sticker shock
  It may be a Small Block 400! My picture didn’t turn out well, but it had that vague “350-400” declaration on the fan shroud emissions decal. It also appears to say ‘2-BBL.’ A 400 engine could have had a 2-barrel carburetor in 1974. 
  “That’s okay, right? We have plenty of SBC 400s around, don’t we?” 
  Monte Carlo enthusiasts prevailed that year. What they didn’t pay — in attention to the oil embargo — they paid at the pump. Chevrolet enjoyed record sales of the beautiful Monte Carlo despite rising gas prices.

This 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo was registered last year. It was a crime for it to land at the scrap yard.
This 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo was registered last year. It was a crime for it to land at the scrap yard.

Not rusty, vinyl top removed
  This car was equipped with a vinyl top but it didn’t have the detrimental rust effect those tops usually bring. I venture to guess this car was kept inside most of its life. I failed to check the paint codes. I guess I didn’t want to know. I bet it rolled out of the dealership with Chevrolet’s famed Rally wheels, though not on the car now. 
  Talk about falling into the wrong hands. This car would be an heirloom in my family. We don’t engage in this blasphemy. Sure, it was beat up a bit but I think that damage was done after landing in this graveyard of cars.

1974 Chevy Monte Carlo has a clean design, wide-mouth grill with 66 squares above the bumper.
1974 Chevy Monte Carlo has a clean design, wide-mouth grill with 66 squares above the bumper. 

Ron’s Monte Carlo Trivial Factoid
  You can tell the ’74 Montes from the ’75s by the grill. The Monte Carlo emblem was located in the grill on the ’75’s, and located above the grill, like this example from ’74. This grill was in great shape, by the way, as it should be. The car was registered up until last year
  I really doubt the crusher guy cares much about the grill in the ’74 models.

Scrap yard monsters waiting to devour this 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo.
Scrap yard monsters waiting to devour this 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo.

Don’t look!
  Although I took this picture, I hate it. See the big evil crane thing in the back ground? 
  “Let go of my Monte Carlo, you cannibals!” I screamed in my mind. As if it wasn’t troubled enough. Madness, I say.
  Do what you have to do, to not let this happen. Encourage those inclined to scrap an American classic to post an ad. Let a Junkyard Lifer know. Let someone know. This is a waste of a once-great car. 
  It hurts to be us sometimes.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Ron at or Jody at