3,500 Crushed: Large Montana salvage yard closes

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The cubed remains of the former inventory of Freman Auto Wrecking in Whitehall, Mont. The yard was closed in early May, and the estimated 3,500 vintage vehicles that comprised the yard’s inventory were crushed.

The cubed remains of the former inventory of Freman Auto Wrecking in Whitehall, Mont. The yard was closed in early May, and the estimated 3,500 vintage vehicles that comprised the yard’s inventory were crushed.

 

Story and photos by Ron Kowalke

Collector vehicle hobbyists lost a large supplier of donor-quality parts with the recent closing of Freman’s Auto Wrecking, one of the northwest’s largest salvage yards located in Whitehall, Mont.

According to the yard’s website, the business was established in 1980, and specialized in vehicles ranging from the 1940s to ’75, in addition to containing select body panels and parts for cars going back to the ’20s. Inventory at the time of the yard’s closing in early May was listed at 3,500 vehicles.

Yard owner Neil Freman elected to crush most of the inventory, with the exception of about three dozen cars. Freman spoke candidly to Old Cars Weekly, stressing, “The yard just wasn’t making enough money. I have other businesses that are profitable, so what’s the point [of keeping the yard open].” Freman added that closing his yard was a continuation of a trend in Montana. “There used to be a dozen yards near here [with vintage vehicles], and now only two or three are left.”

 

This 1950 Cadillac hardtop was stuffed with scrap metal in preparation to be fed to the crusher. It was one of the estimated 3,500 vintage vehicles that were scrapped when Freman Auto Wrecking in Whitehall, Mont., closed recently.

This 1950 Cadillac hardtop was stuffed with scrap metal in preparation to be fed to the crusher. It was one of the estimated 3,500 vintage vehicles that were scrapped when Freman Auto Wrecking in Whitehall, Mont., closed recently.

 

Freman blamed the downturn of the economy for some of the yard’s recent lost business, but also said old car hobbyists share the blame. “No one wants to pay what this stuff is worth.” He estimated the value of his 3,500 vehicles to be approximately $2 million.

When asked why he chose to crush out when the price of scrap metal has been flat of recent times, Freman pointed to the rows of crushed vehicles stacked nearby and responded, “That scrap pile is $200,000 in my pocket.”

The select cars that Freman withheld from crushing include mid-1960s General Motors convertibles (including a GTO), early- to mid-’60s Cadillacs and several Lincolns from the late ’50s. Freman told Old Cars Weekly that these cars will be listed for sale on Craigslist at a future, yet-to-be-decided date.

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