Much of the muscle in Chase’s inventory has been picked over,
but each car retains some donor parts. It’s also unique to walk
among the rows in the yard and see so many high-performance
machines just lying about. This 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
hardtop has been stripped of essentials.
I procrastinated after visiting C.L. Chase Used Auto & Truck Parts in Camp Douglas, Wis., because I felt I didn’t have enough background information to do a thorough job in detailing the history and make-up of the yard. My plan was to return to Camp Douglas at some point and re-interview C.L. (Carl Laverne) Chase to get the “whole” story of his yard, but I just never found the time to get that done.
So, after sitting on this project for several years, I’m going with what I have, and I’ll mainly let the accompanying pictures tell the story.
Let’s just start by stating that Chase is one busy guy. He stresses time and again that customers must always call before coming to the yard. He operates a 24-hour towing service, and with high-speed Wisconsin Interstate Highways 90 and 94 in his backyard, he has plenty of “hook” business. And with running the towing service and salvage yard, he also manages his time to build the custom wreckers in his towing fleet. His pride and joy is a show-quality Peterbilt that has a 100-ton winching and lifting capability. Chase said that he’s gotten calls from all over the United States to right and reposition derailed train cars, and that there aren’t many other tow operators that can handle that kind of mass and weight.
But that’s a story for another time….
The yard contains quite a few “rare birds,” among them is this
late-1930s Nash-Lafayette sedan with optional grille guard.
Anyway, the main reason for the visit to Camp Douglas was a tip I received from an Old Cars Weekly reader named Hoza (pronounced Jose), who emphasized in his e-mail to me that Chase’s yard is a must-see for every old car enthusiast. His reasoning was: ‘As far as I know, he hasn’t crushed any cars from the late 1930s [on]. It’s a wonderland of beauty. And he’s a great guy.’ Well, Hoza, you had me at ‘he hasn’t crushed….’
Knowing that my buddy and fellow salvage yard enthusiast Perry Merckx was looking for a replacement rear end for his 1972 Ford Torino bracket racer, I called him to see if he was game to hunt the yard for a “locker.”
He was, but I think about 50 yards into our foray into Chase’s yard, he was having second thoughts. He was giving me looks that pleaded: “Geez Ron, why don’t you go breathe into a bag.”
I’m sure I was overly excited, but with good reason. The yard, according to Chase, contains more than 5,000 vehicles, a large portion of which are vintage. What was most pleasing to see was the number of muscle cars existing in the yard. Granted, most were picked over. Several were testament to why, when muscle cars were the rage in the late 1960s and early ’70s, that it was not a good idea to sell them to young, inexperienced drivers who felt their youth made them invincible. They weren’t. And the crumpled remains of some of these machines proved that while they were fast, that was of no use in withstanding high-speed impacts with guardrails, trees or roll-overs into ditches.
Wearing a car hood on top to ward off weather-related damage,
this 1958 Cadillac 62 convertible is rough, but is a worthy
restoration candidate. Only 7,825 were produced.
Prior to entering the yard, Chase explained a bit about its history. It was started in 1958 by his father Lloyd. Ten years later, C.L. purchased the yard, and has operated it ever since. He said he has never crushed any vehicles in the yard in that time.
Chase said that maintaining a sense of humor is a necessity when operating a salvage yard. He added, “My motto is: No guts, no glory.” When craning a derailed locomotive back on track, or winching a tractor-trailer up on the highway after it jack-knifed off a snow-covered interstate — while traffic whizzes by inches away at 70 mph — I would guess having that kind of “go for it” constitution is also a necessity.
Walking through the yard, aside from the aforementioned depth of muscle cars, the inventory ranges mainly from the 1930s to the ’70s. Some 1920s examples exist, as do vehicles later than the ’70s. A casual scan of inventory yielded many Mustangs, including several 1960s models, lots of 1950s and ’60s Cadillacs, a good selection of station wagons of those same decades, and multiple examples of Javelins, which is understandable with AMC’s former Kenosha, Wis., assembly plant not far from Camp Douglas.
The yard’s terrain is mildly hilly, and there are stands of trees throughout the property. Much of the cosmetic damage that has occurred to the vintage vehicles in the yard since being brought there has come from these trees’ leaves and pine needles that drop on the cars. Over time, they ferment into a wet “paste” that settles into seams and crevices and promotes rust.
Hoping to get more information from Chase after touring the yard, he, unfortunately, had to leave on a towing call so a few questions remained unanswered.
To contact the yard, call 608-427-6734 or use postal mailing address: C.L. Chase Used Auto & Truck Parts, W10416 Cty. Rd. Centre, Camp Douglas, WI 54618.