I’m a scrapper. It’s hard and dirty work, but the pay is good and the benefits keep me going. Some people get paid the big bucks to put things together. I’m here to take them back apart. I’ve always been fascinated by mechanics, internal succession, how things work. Since I was a kid, I was always getting in trouble for dismantling TV remotes, my younger brother’s toys, things like that. Used to want to go into mechanical engineering, maybe even something in medicine – surgery, or what I called human engineering – but my grades just didn’t pull through. Mom got sick, I dropped out to help; not a very uncommon story. Anyway, I like what I do, and I do it well, so there’s really no reason to dwell on “missed opportunities” and all that jazz.
I’ve got my own junkyard out on the very outskirts of Livonia, a burb town about 30 miles west of Detroit (where I get most of my business). Huge plus, cause I love collecting what others call trash and there’s nothing but open space out here. Customers will sometimes bring by an old TV set or vintage workout bench or something else along those lines. Like I said, benefits. I live here in a little shack I built on the edge of the lot and have my workshop set up smack dab in the middle. Even though it’s pretty rural in these parts, my work can get pretty loud, and I like to keep a low profile.
Most of the jobs that come in are intact; still running, but unwanted. Sometimes they’re brought in by a customer, sometimes I go out and haul them. Charge a little extra for pickup service, but no one seems to care. If I’m lucky, I even get to take some of them for a ride. Just last week I had a ‘96 Mercedes come in. Real beat up, she was; obviously plenty of miles on the ol’ odometer. I didn’t mind, though. Interior was gorgeous, smooth, almost creamy. Fine as velvet. Sorry to see that one go. Wish I could let that engine roar one more time, but duty calls. Customer wanted all the metal parted from the exterior, paint stripped down (quite a few layers), and the headlights removed. Never really understood some of the requests that came in, but I don’t question them.
The days are getting longer and hotter. Summer is just starting to wax over a sleepy Spring, which means a boom in business. This is Detroit, mecca for the broken. When the weather’s nice, you can find a lot things on the street, left to peel in the sun and wash out with the moon. Even some of the newer models. It’s crazy to me that people just up and abandon what they worked so hard to acquire in the first place, but who am I to really judge? I went out this morning and hauled in a ‘93 Dakota, ‘98 Sienna, and a classic but very rusted-out ‘69 Shelby. Some great finds there. Not too too much call for parts that old, but you get the outliers in any field.
A few minutes ago, I got a call for a special order: complete strip down and part out for an ‘04 Montana. I’ll admit, I hesitated for a second. I’ve never worked on anything later than a ‘99, but I like a challenge. When the customer dropped her off, I was pretty shocked. Twelve years old, but almost mint condition. I’m used to working with the beat up and abandoned, but she was fresh as a daisy. After I got her into the shop and secured up on the slab, I flipped on some tunes (it’s an Allman Brothers type of day), laid out my toolbox, and got to work.
Once I got the hood opened up, I could see a few problems. She was leaking fluids pretty badly. Engine seemed to be doing just fine, but as soon as I started poking around the wipers went nuts and the headlights began flashing. Must be a wiring issue.
Due to the solidity of the frame, I’d have to cut this one apart. I grabbed my reciprocating saw from the shelf, and out of nowhere one of the ties slipped and the horn started going off, and I mean absolutely *blasting*. A quick slice from my pocket knife and the wire to the horn was taken care of. The headlights and wipers were still going wild but hey, you can’t win ‘em all. I started in on the front half of the frame; I’d worry about the engine later. More fluids than even the multiple tarps could handle. Shit. Tonight the shop was definitely going to need a deep cleaning.
After about two hours, I was finished. Stripped and parted out, just like the customer wanted. I even managed to salvage some interior parts (“trash” to most) you usually lose in the process. They’ll look great in the collection.
I’ve always loved taking things apart, but it’s always disappointed me that there are some things you can’t fully put back together again.