Someone got it this far. Then, nature did what it always does: Its green tendrils reached out. With leaf and limb, it drew the machine close.
Peeking from all this foliage is a first-edition Dodge D100 pickup. The D100 marked a styling departure from the mid-‘50s Job Rated machines – wider, not as tall, a better ride. It came in two styles: the fleetside beds, called Sweptline, and the stepside, aka Utiline. Under the hood was a 318, the smallest V8 in the Chrysler line, or the 225 hemi, a nearly indestructible 6-cylinder power plant.
The D100 was a Dodge mainstay from 1961 through 1993. This machine appears to be a ’64, though it’s hard to say. It has the remains of the hemi under its rusted hood.
These trucks did it all — hauled groceries, firewood, feed, dirt, construction materials, furniture, you name it. At least one took hormonally driven boys to Myrtle Beach. It carried a guy and his date to the prom.
The river runs west, then north for a ways, past Stockton. It flows across land flat as a pool table, with mountains in the distance. On clear days, those peaks appear a lot closer than they are. Natives know this.
What else they know: The land is filled with old heaps. Did the Okies discard them? Probably, yes, some. Others arrived later. Cars and trucks with bashed-in headlights turn blind eyes to the highways that took them to where they now rest and rust. The wind whistles through their shattered glass. Lizards doze in their shadows.
Old River, Calif., 2,420 miles west of Atlanta.
(Photos by Senior Junkyard Correspondent Harold “Tex” Colson)
Once you start looking, you see them everywhere — in barns, cornfields, alongside mountain roads, in driveways angling off city streets. There’s the faded pickup that delivered prescriptions from a long-closed family pharmacy; the derelict sedan that once hauled scabby-kneed boys to Sunday school; the tattered ragtop that in its prime turned as many heads as its driver, inscrutable in her sunglasses and silk headscarf. They’re living hunks of history, found art in its purest form. Inside them live a million long-lost stories.
It’s well known that America was hardly ready for a global conflict when one crash-landed on its lap on Dec. 7, 1941. Our nation had to gear up, and fast, for a war that would spread across oceans and continents. That included building trucks.
Dodge responded with the WC, a series of half- and three-quarter-ton trucks that saw service in every theater of World War II. Through August 1945, Dodge built more than 250,000 of the olive-drab haulers.
Then, that war ended, Dodge retooled again and created an even better machine. In 1951, it rolled out the M37. It was based closely on its World War II predecessor. Powered by an inline 6 engine that produced less than 80 horsepower, the trucks were our military’s wheels of choice.
Dodge produced the M37 through 1968. Not long after, the government began auctioning the retired vehicles – WCs and M37s — to fire departments, lumber companies and other businesses that needed mechanized oomph. Some are still running. But not these two. What conflicts did they see?
Mattawan, Mich., 750 miles north of Atlanta. (Photos by Roving Junkyard Correspondent Marva Brackett Godin)
It was running when I parked it, No. 144: The Loadmaster.
This old hoss carried melons from the farms of south Georgia to the freight yards of Atlanta. It trundled bundles of bright leaf to warehouses in Greenville and Rocky Mount. It carried pumpkins from central Michigan to trucking terminals in Kalamazoo. It took hardhatted men into the heart of the Iron Range.
The Chevrolet Loadmaster was ubiquitous. The heavy-duty big brother of the Thriftmaster, the machine debuted in 1947. Chevy produced this 1.5-ton truck with only limited changes until early 1955.
Based on a few design clues, this Loadmaster was built between 1947-1950. There’s no telling how many years it ran, or what it carried, or where it went. It’s safe to say that it worked, and worked hard, until it came to a rest in a thicket of hardwoods 30 miles east of Lake Michigan.
Mattawan, Mich., 750 miles north of Atlanta.
(Photos by Roving Junkyard Correspondent Marva Brackett Godin)
The Chevrolet Fleetline bowed in 1941 … just in time for Chevy executives to shelve the automaker’s family-car-for-all and turn their attention to making tanks. Plans for a roomy, inline-6-powered car with three speeds on the column languished until the end of World War II. By 1947, Chevrolet was going full-tilt making an array of different model cars and trucks.
In 1948, it built this Fleetline. The machine had fenders that began in one ZIP code and ended in another. Note those fancy chrome strips!
Rock Hall, Md., 730 miles northeast of Atlanta.
(Photos by Senior Junkyard Correspondent Harold “Tex” Colson)
The little car bowed in American in 1958. It was a boxy thing, underpowered and underwhelming, a reminder that most European cars could not compete on our superhighways. In time, we came to know the line for three distinct models: the Kadett, the Manta and the GT – the third a dead ringer for a baby Corvette.
But the German auto maker produced other cars for other markets, including a line for Europeans who wanted to know what it felt like to drive something big and powerful. In 1964, Opel unveiled the Diplomat, an homage to the chrome behemoths of North America. The Diplomat looked like something from Detroit, with its wide stance and generous chrome. It even offered the 327 V8 – yes, that 327. It was a deal with GM, its parent company.
The last Diplomat rolled off the assembly line in 1977. This model, which appears to be from the early 1970s, is abandoned in a parking lot at an export nursery where our correspondent worked in the spring of 1984.
Boskoop, the Netherlands, 4,400 miles northeast of Atlanta.
(Photos by Junkyard Correspondent Marva Brackett Godin)
Chevrolet turned its back on the tri-fives of the mid-‘50s and concentrated on a new machine – the Impala, a car as massive as its namesake was sleek. After one year, Chevy changed the design and produced a longer, lower car. Its trademark feature: twin rear fins that arched like angry eyebrows. The model had its fans – detractors, too
This ’60 Impala, outfitted with rusty Cragars, ain’t seeing no more USA – nor, apparently, is its younger sibling, an ’87 Monte Carlo.
Macon, 65 miles south of Atlanta.
(Photos by Junkyard Correspondent and Seasoned Journalist Steve Visser)
It was called the “people’s car,” or volkswagen. Its origins date to the late 1930s, when a restive Germany and its fanatical leader dreamed of world conquest. In the early and mid-1940s, the rear-engine vehicle was part of that global war effort. In the late 1940s, the people’s car renewed life as civilian transportation. By the early 1960s, the VW – people called it the “beetle” — began showing up on American roadways. By the end of that decade, it ruled the roads – some painted in factory colors, others featuring flowers.
This VW appears to have been made around 1964; its flat windshield dates the machine to that era. It’s a wagen waiting for people in Blairsville, 99 miles north of Atlanta.
We’d settled into post-war prosperity. American factories churned out the greatest product in the world, steel, and that material rendered up an astonishing array of wide cruisers.
Some, like Cadillac and Lincoln, steered toward folks with money. Chevrolet and Ford were cars for those who one day would move up to a Caddy or Lincoln. Plymouth?
Well, grandma drove one. The principal parked his in front of the school. With a limited number of trim styles and a standard six-cylinder engine, the car wasn’t going to win races – or set hearts racing. Plymouth was reliable, not reckless.
But they got you where you were going. This 1950 Plymouth Deluxe clearly got someone to the back yard, where it stopped and now collects leaves in its bumper apron. Maybe those tree stumps keep it from rolling away?
Grant Park, two miles east of downtown Atlanta.
(Photo by Junkyard Correspondent and Seasoned Journalist Steve Visser.)