LVAR salvage yard parks Model T’s to street rods

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The sign leading into Little Valley Auto Ranch in Belton, Texas, contains all the important contact information for the business. Simple, yet effective for maintaining customer traffic.

The sign leading into Little Valley Auto Ranch in Belton, Texas, contains all the important contact information for the business. Simple, yet effective for maintaining customer traffic.

Diversity: Little Valley Auto Ranch much more than a salvage yard

Story and photos by Ron Kowalke

In personal finances and in business, diversity is often critical for success. Having only one core product or focus invites failure in lean times. This pursuit of diversity has served Dan Barkley and his wife, Dee, well for 30 years as the operators of Little Valley Auto Ranch (LVAR) in Belton, Texas.

The 10-acre property houses 500 vintage salvage vehicles, but also encompasses a restoration shop and a thriving collector car sales outlet. Three times annually (April, July and November), the Barkleys also open the property to vendors and host swap meets on the grounds. Diversity also plays a part in these meets, as Dan Barkley said, “We get a little bit of everything ­from Model T’s to street rods.”

Since the economy tanked several years ago, the multiple facets of business within LVAR meant the company didn’t need to rely solely on the salvage operation to remain profitable.

“The [salvage] business has slacked off the past two to three years. [Because of that], we redefined our operation,” Barkley noted. He said the salvage lot once contained 800 vehicles, but approximately 300 vehicles Barkley described as “low-dollar stuff” were culled out.

“In the old days,there were lots of cars in backyards.” That’s no longer the case. “The salvage business is different today.”

Displayed out front, this 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle SS hardtop advertised for sale was a calling card to the yard. The Super Sport’s $3,200 price includes a factory tach, four-speed manual transmission and a clear title.

Displayed out front, this 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle SS hardtop advertised for sale was a calling card to the yard. The Super Sport’s $3,200 price includes a factory tach, four-speed manual transmission and a clear title.

No matter how much the salvage business has changed over time, location is still important. It seems that Barkley nailed that part. LVAR’s acreage is adjacent to Belton’s major thoroughfare, Highway 190, so the collector vehicles for sale and staged in rows out front get plenty of eyeballs every day from passersby.

“I bought this place 30 years ago,” Barkley said, “and started from scratch. Geographically, it’s perfect. It’s in the center of Texas, [no more than] two hours from every major city.”
Barkley has titles for most of the vehicles for sale out front, but if one doesn’t exist, it’s not a problem. Continuing the diversification theme, he added, “I have a title company, so I can [always] get a title.”

Weaning from the salvage business the past few years, Barkley’s restoration shop has become the focus going forward. “We specialize in 1950s Chevrolet restorations,” Barkley said of the business he operates under the banner of American Hot Rodz. “I [also] do a few street rods.”

To feed the need for parts to restore all of those ’50s Chevys, LVAR’s salvage lot has a depth of those cars, primarily four-door Tri-Chevys. The lot also has plenty of 1950s and ’60s General Motors cars (especially Buicks), and quite a few ’50s Willys Jeep station wagons. Most of these vehicles are rust free and offer restoration-quality body panels. Throughout the salvage lot and out front, there are also many piles and stacks of rust-free body panels such as doors, fenders and hoods.

Another car for sale out front, this cosmetically challenged 1955 Dodge Royal hardtop, equipped with a V-8 engine, can be had for $2,800.

Another car for sale out front, this cosmetically challenged 1955 Dodge Royal hardtop, equipped with a V-8 engine, can be had for $2,800.

Customers are allowed in the salvage lot, but they must stay on the aisles that run between the rows of vehicles. The lot is flat and vehicles are staged randomly, rather than by any particular make or model. Vehicles are sometimes partially obscured by scrub brush, but overall accessibility is good. LVAR has five employees, according to Barkley, who stressed, “We pull all parts.” He added that shipping parts is also available by appointment.

Car clubs are welcome to tour LVAR with a prior appointment. The business is open year-round, and hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

To view what collector vehicles are currently for sale at LVAR, visit their website at www.americanhotrodz.com. (Additional images also are included below.)

Barkley also admits to having a passion for the variety collector vehicle hobby offers. “I love all old cars,” he said.  “I’ve been in [this] business for 40 years and pretty much know everything.”

LVAR
(postal mailing address)
Little Valley Auto Ranch
1151 Wheat Rd.
Belton, TX 76513
PH: 254-939-8548
FAX: 254-933-2877
E: texasexports2000@cs.com

More scenes from the salvage yard:

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Near complete, this 1950 Cadillac Series 62 sedan parked in the salvage lot is a worthy restoration candidate.

 

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All of its brightwork remains intact.

 

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Little Valley Auto Ranch owner Dan Barkley is a former stock car driver. He got his first checkered flag in this battered #77 Chevy Camaro-bodied dirt racer at the then-named Stars & Stripes Speedway in Killeen, Texas.

 

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There are two picked-over 1959 Chevy El Camino pickups in the salvage lot, and it would take both to rebuild one driver-quality example.

 

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The “O.B.O.” chalked on the windshield of this rust-free 1954 Buick Special sedan means there could be wiggle room on the $1,650 asking price. A clear title is part of the deal.

 

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Muscle cars are part of Little Valley Auto Ranch’s inventory of vehicles. One example is this 1968 Plymouth Road Runner with a clear title and $2,200 asking price. It’s rusty, has bullet holes and is missing its engine, but an ambitious restorer could make it “beep beep” again.

 

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Another potential hot rod project is this 1940 Dodge Luxury Liner five-window coupe that sports aftermarket wheels. Asking price is $2,400 for the solid, complete car.

 

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Other than a gaping hole in its windshield, this 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk hardtop is about as solid as a car can be for a restoration. Only 8,388 GT Hawks were built in ’62, and this one, without engine, has an asking price of $2,800.

 

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Devoid of all of its glass, this 1940 Ford Deluxe Fordor is rust-free and a prime candidate for a family hauling hot rod project, or a restoration project.

 

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Little Valley Auto Ranch offers plenty of loose rust-free body panels, such as this stack of doors for cars from the 1950s through ’70s. The petroliana signs on the fence are part of the automotive décor found throughout the property.

 

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A previous owner professionally converted this 1958 Ford two-door sedan into a pickup by deleting its trunk lid and adding an Australian ute-style box. The license plate reveals the Ford was last registered as a truck in 1986.

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Someone looking for a unique collector car to own would have to seriously consider this all-original 1952 Pontiac two-door station wagon ambulance for $4,850. It’s equipped with a V-8 engine (not running) and automatic transmission, and is complete down to its hubcaps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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