High and dry parts, cars at Idaho’s L&L Classic Auto

The sign hanging on the office building not only contains necessary contact information, but also attractive prewar automobile artwork.

The sign hanging on the office building not only contains necessary contact information, but also attractive prewar automobile artwork.

Take a minute to think about how much the old car hobby — as well as life itself — has changed in the past half century. Little is the same as it was 50 years ago, but one constant has been L&L Classic Auto. This salvage yard located in Wendell, Idaho, has been a major parts source serving hobbyists that entire time.

Having been in business for more than 50 years, yard owner Larry Harms estimates his inventory has grown to “somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 cars.” He added that 85 percent of his cars and trucks are vintage (1979 and older), with the starting point in the 1920s. According to Harms, the majority of the vehicles in his yard range from the 1940s to ’60s, but there’s also a depth in ’30s Ford coupes, Tudors and Fordors. He further breaks down the yard’s offerings to being 70 percent cars vs. 30 percent trucks.

The inventory arranged over the 160 acres that comprise the yard is unique. While walking among the randomly clustered vehicles, stopping and doing a double-take becomes routine. Inventory includes rare cars, muscle cars, coupes, an original postwar hot rod, sedan deliveries and even a Citroen DS19 sedan whose love-it-or-hate-it styling stands out parked among a row of domestic cars.

Harms has segregated “project cars” from parts vehicles in several sections of the yard, explaining that parts removal from those project vehicles is forbidden. “We only put the project cars on our website (www.llclassicauto.com),” according to Harms. He stressed that titles exist for most of the vehicles in inventory, or a title can be obtained if one does not exist, although he cautioned that it takes “a couple of weeks.”

 

L&L Classic Auto staff includes (l-to-r) yard manager Ron Ewing, bookkeeper Bobby Coleman and owner Larry Harms. They’re posing with a 1960 Cadillac Coupe deVille, a recent addition to the yard’s inventory.

L&L Classic Auto staff includes (l-to-r) yard manager Ron Ewing, bookkeeper Bobby Coleman and owner Larry Harms. They’re posing with a 1960 Cadillac Coupe deVille, a recent addition to the yard’s inventory.

Among the hundreds of project vehicles noted while touring the yard were a 1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee hardtop, a rare ’53 De Soto Firedome convertible (1,700 built) and the aforementioned original hot rod roadster. The roadster appears as if it drove off the silver screen from vintage “B” movies such as “Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow” or “Hot Rod Gang,” and has been parked ever since.

Examples sighted of rare vehicles in exceptional condition included a 1954 Mercury Monterey Sun Valley hardtop (9,761 produced), its chrome and tinted Plexiglas half top appearing like new. More modern, and a perfect restoration project for a youngster just starting in the hobby, was a 1977 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon, originally marketed as a mini Econoline van. Aside from a damaged grille, this Pinto retains its mod graphics, porthole-in-a-panel rear treatment, styled wheels and roof rack.

Having a period-original hot rod in his inventory seems only natural, as Harms is a former hot rodder/drag racer. He proudly showed a 1961 photograph of his 1930s Ford pickup he converted to a hot rod and raced both on the street and strip. “I ran a 12.88 [elapsed time] and 113 mph at the Pocatello (Idaho) Dragway in 1962,” Harms recalled. “That was really moving back then.”

The background for that 1961 photo was Larry’s Body Shop in downtown Wendell, where Harms got his start in the salvage business. Having accumulated cars and trucks through his body shop work, Harms said, “We took up half a city block in town and had over 300 cars.”

 

A muscle car and rare (6,356 produced), this 1969 Buick GS California Special coupe is cosmetically rough. Regardless, it is solid and complete enough to be restored.

A muscle car and rare (6,356 produced), this 1969 Buick GS California Special coupe is cosmetically rough. Regardless, it is solid and complete enough to be restored.

Outgrowing the downtown site, Harms said he opened the salvage yard at its current north Wendell location in 1967. He used the first letters of he and wife Linda’s first names to title L&L Classic Auto, which remains today. During our visit in May 2014, Harms had four employees, including yard manager Ron Ewing, who’s been in that position for 22 years.

The yard’s terrain is mildly hilly. Aisles are well defined, but there are rocks jutting from the ground that can cause tripping. Also, Harms employs free-range cattle to roam the yard and keep the grass down. Aside from tripping on rocks, watching where you step is critical to avoid stepping in dung.

Harms stated he tries to group same-make vehicles together, but there remain enough other-make cars and trucks randomly inserted into rows (such as the aforementioned Citroen) that searching thoroughly is essential.

Harms also said he and Ewing have a good handle on the yard’s loose parts availability, as there is no computerized listing for this segment. There are numerous parts piles scattered throughout the yard, so the thrill is in the hunt as rigorous searching may uncover some forgotten treasure.

 

It’s difficult to find original, restorable muscle cars in salvage yards today, but this 1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee hardtop is one. However, it falls into the category of “ambitious, cosmetically challenged rebuilder.”

It’s difficult to find original, restorable muscle cars in salvage yards today, but this 1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee hardtop is one. However, it falls into the category of “ambitious, cosmetically challenged rebuilder.”

Customers must sign in at the office before being allowed into the yard. Parts removal is done only by L&L Classic Auto employees, and only after a price is agreed upon in advance. Harms added that parts shipping is available to destinations “all over the world.” He said Wendell gets little snow, so the yard is open 12 months a year. Tours of the yard can also be arranged by appointment.

L&L Classic Auto is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mountain Time). Saturday hours can be arranged by appointment. Visit the yard’s website address at www.llclassicauto.com to view project vehicles for sale.

 

L&L Classic Auto
2742 SH46 (mailing address)
Wendell, ID 83355
208-536-6607
208-536-6734 (FAX)
www.llclassicauto.com

 

More scenes from the L&L yard…

De Soto built only 1,700 Firedome convertibles in 1953. Though this one is missing its bumper and select trim, it’s solid and worthy of restoration.

De Soto built only 1,700 Firedome convertibles in 1953. Though this one is missing its bumper and select trim, it’s solid and worthy of restoration.

In 1954, Mercury added the Sun Valley hardtop to its Monterey lineup. A tinted, Plexiglas half roof allowed passengers a view of the sun and the stars from the car’s interior, and 9,761 of the sun-worshipping model were sold in 1954. This example remains in remarkable condition for languishing in a salvage yard.

In 1954, Mercury added the Sun Valley hardtop to its Monterey lineup. A tinted, Plexiglas half roof allowed passengers a view of the sun and the stars from the car’s interior, and 9,761 of the sun-worshipping model were sold in 1954. This example remains in remarkable condition for languishing in a salvage yard.

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Finding intact five- (and three-window) coupe bodies is every rodder’s dream. Sitting on the ground is doing this General Motors coupe shell no favors. It needs a new home fast.

Finding intact five- (and three-window) coupe bodies is every rodder’s dream. Sitting on the ground is doing this General Motors coupe shell no favors. It needs a new home fast.

This 1956 Chevrolet Two-Ten station wagon has donated its front bumper, but aside from some glass issues, it is solid. Possibly a candidate for a rat rod grocery getter?

This 1956 Chevrolet Two-Ten station wagon has donated its front bumper, but aside from some glass issues, it is solid. Possibly a candidate for a rat rod grocery getter?

Mercury club coupes will be forever linked to James Dean’s 1949 ride in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause.” The vinyl top on this ’51 Merc club coupe marks it as a Monterey model. It’s a bit weathered, but a return to the road is possible given its complete condition.

Mercury club coupes will be forever linked to James Dean’s 1949 ride in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause.” The vinyl top on this ’51 Merc club coupe marks it as a Monterey model. It’s a bit weathered, but a return to the road is possible given its complete condition.

Sporting the new-for-1954 one-piece windshield, this Hudson Hornet sedan lacks only a buyer and some “TLC” to put it back on the road.

Sporting the new-for-1954 one-piece windshield, this Hudson Hornet sedan lacks only a buyer and some “TLC” to put it back on the road.

This late-1930s Ford sedan acts as the staging area for “fat” fenders, including the foursome shown, and another pair out of camera range to the right.

This late-1930s Ford sedan acts as the staging area for “fat” fenders, including the foursome shown, and another pair out of camera range to the right.

This vintage hot rod has the appearance of one of the cars from an old “B” movie such as “Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow” or “Hot Rod Gang.” The accumulated bird droppings and dust show it’s been parked awhile, but something this retro cool needs to be lighting up the asphalt.

This vintage hot rod has the appearance of one of the cars from an old “B” movie such as “Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow” or “Hot Rod Gang.” The accumulated bird droppings and dust show it’s been parked awhile, but something this retro cool needs to be lighting up the asphalt.

An early-1957 model with single headlamps prior to the mid-year switch to Quadri-Beam units, this Mercury Montclair hardtop is rust-free, but has a few cosmetic issues.

An early-1957 model with single headlamps prior to the mid-year switch to Quadri-Beam units, this Mercury Montclair hardtop is rust-free, but has a few cosmetic issues.

The Biscayne model of Chevrolet is well represented in L&L Classic Auto. This 1958 two-door sedan is solid and near complete, and there are several like donor parts cars available to add whatever’s missing to make this example roadworthy.

The Biscayne model of Chevrolet is well represented in L&L Classic Auto. This 1958 two-door sedan is solid and near complete, and there are several like donor parts cars available to add whatever’s missing to make this example roadworthy.

A former sedan converted to a flatbed truck, this rare Durant Model 2 retains most of its hard-to-find components from the cowl forward. It’s parked at the entrance and acts as a draw, visible to passersby on Highway 46, which fronts the salvage yard.

A former sedan converted to a flatbed truck, this rare Durant Model 2 retains most of its hard-to-find components from the cowl forward. It’s parked at the entrance and acts as a draw, visible to passersby on Highway 46, which fronts the salvage yard.

More than one sedan delivery exists in inventory, but the most solid and complete example is this 1950 Chevrolet Styleline Model HJ workhorse. It was formerly in the employ of a contractor, but has held up well through the years and has the perfect amount of patina.

More than one sedan delivery exists in inventory, but the most solid and complete example is this 1950 Chevrolet Styleline Model HJ workhorse. It was formerly in the employ of a contractor, but has held up well through the years and has the perfect amount of patina.

 

Peeking out from this fenderless 1957 De Soto is an early Hemi V-8.

Peeking out from this fenderless 1957 De Soto is an early Hemi V-8.

Piles of parts are randomly scattered throughout L&L Classic Auto acreage. Think of it as an automotive scavenger hunt!

Piles of parts are randomly scattered throughout L&L Classic Auto acreage. Think of it as an automotive scavenger hunt!

Love for the Citroen DS19 sedan is an objective taste, but finding one in a salvage yard is a rare treat. This example is weathered and damaged, but retains donor-quality parts.

Love for the Citroen DS19 sedan is an objective taste, but finding one in a salvage yard is a rare treat. This example is weathered and damaged, but retains donor-quality parts.

There’s a depth of trucks in L&L Classic Auto inventory, including this early-1940s Chevrolet delivery tanker. It’s not hard to envision this example restored with oil company logos applied to its doors and storage tank sides.

There’s a depth of trucks in L&L Classic Auto inventory, including this early-1940s Chevrolet delivery tanker. It’s not hard to envision this example restored with oil company logos applied to its doors and storage tank sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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