Story and photos by Ron Kowalke with Angelo Van Bogart
Two Mustang fastbacks were spotted in the yard, both
of them with floor-mounted manual transmissions.
Visitors will stumble upon this early-1970s example
before seeing the V-8-powered 1970 model a short
There is nothing more enticing to a couple of office cubicle dwellers than a road trip. Add in that this particular road trip was to tour a salvage yard full of potential treasures and the “excite-o-meter” started red-lining days before the trip. That this particular yard has been non-operational for a long time and the pair of desk jockeys would be the first in to chronicle the inventory absolutely shattered the “excite-o-meter.”
Just before this issue went to press, Old Cars Weekly Editor Angelo Van Bogart and Auction/Technical Editor Ron Kowalke were allowed to tour a long-dormant salvage yard in Tomahawk, Wis. According to Jeff Schroeder, who is handling the yard’s re-organization from storing salvage vehicles to a scrap metal recycling receiving center, the business was once known as the North 50:50 Auto Empire. Schroeder estimated that the yard opened sometime in the 1940s, based on its inventory that dates back to the ’Teens.
A number of 1950s MoPars inhabit the yard, including
this 1955 De Soto Fireflite Sportsman two-door hardtop.
Including the Hemi engine still under this car’s hood,
we counted two early Hemi engines on the grounds,
but there could be more.
A remarkably complete 1966 Caprice four-door hardtop
appears as though it was driven into the yard. It will
take a lot to drive it out, however.
Schroeder said the yard has had multiple owners over the past several decades. The most recent was an Illinois businessman who occasionally sold select parts on the Internet, but did not allow many customers into the yard.
The salvage yard was sold recently to Scott Siegel, who currently runs a scrap metal recycling business just east of the Old Cars Weekly office in Iola. Siegel said he wants to clear out all the vintage vehicles in the yard by this fall, so he can expand his metal recycling operation to include Tomahawk. What vehicles remain in the yard after that will be crushed.
Pre-1957 Rocket Oldsmobiles are somewhat plentiful,
especially early-’50s models, such as this 1952 Eighty-Eight
This big and rather grand car retains its inline engine
cowl, front fenders and disc wheels, but little else to
identify it. The round radiator shell and cowl offer
clues it was once a racy car.
Schroeder told Old Cars Weekly that the Tomahawk yard is comprised of 25 acres of heavily wooded property. His best estimate is that there are currently 600 vehicles parked on the property, including cars, trucks and a few 1960s-’70s motorcycles and snowmobiles. The cars range from the ’Teens to the early ’80s, while the trucks are mainly ’40s to ’60s. When Old Cars Weekly toured the property, approximately one-third of the vehicles were still not viewable due to the thick brush and trees that surround them from the yard being shuttered so long.
Schroeder, an avid old car enthusiast, said one of his biggest thrills as he works cutting brush and trees to make aisles to all the vehicles is that he’s constantly finding more desirable cars and trucks.
Fastbacks are in heavily attendance. Besides this 1950
Buick sedanette, there is another three-holer nearby
in the form of a 1949 model.We can’t say we’ve ever seen a 1964 Mercury convertible
in a salvage yard, but this bench seat car sans engine
was pretty complete. A hood still rests on the top bows,
but weather has gotten around it.
While Siegel wants to sell the vehicles whole rather than allowing parts to be taken off, Schroeder said if customers want to purchase a car or truck and strip off parts and leave the rest, that’s okay.
During Old Cars Weekly’s tour of the yard, tripping over loose parts such as rear ends and transmissions lying on the ground and covered by ferns was a constant problem. There are also mounds of doors, hoods and wheels and vehicles packed with loose parts of which Schroeder said customers can negotiate to purchase on an individual piece or multiple-buy basis. There are several outbuildings and cargo trucks and buses on the property stuffed with mechanical parts and body panels that are also for sale. One Chevy Corvair 95 van near the entrance to the yard is also packed with Model T and Model A Ford parts, according to Schroeder.
One of the largest selections of loose parts was found near the south perimeter of the property. Heavily wooded, these parts mainly date back to the 1920s and ’30s and include frames, cowls, body panels and running boards. Most of the major manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, etc.) plus some independents are represented. Someone willing to crawl around and move brush and cut ferns is likely to find much more. What has been lying on the ground is quite rusty, but individual pieces remain donor quality and many of the wheel assemblies, especially disc wheels, are sound.
A “grocery list” of what Old Cars Weekly discovered in the yard includes a Hudson Hornet coupe (although its Twin H Power components were missing), a 1955 De Soto Sportsman hardtop with a PowerFlite Hemi V-8, several 1956-’57 Chevys (including several two-door sedans and four-door hardtops), several 1950s and early-’60s Cadillacs (including a pair of convertibles and a trio of hardtops), several panel trucks and Chevy El Caminos (one a ’60 model), a pair of early-’70s Ford Mustang fastbacks, several “James Dean” Mercurys, a ’69 Dodge Charger, a Metropolitan convertible that was cut in half but had intact top bows, several Ford body shells from the ’30s, several Kaiser sedans, a Crosley station wagon and interesting trucks such as a 1940 Plymouth PT-81 pickup and a ’52 Dodge dairy delivery truck that appeared complete.
Late Great Chevys have taken up residence among
the trees, and there are mighty fine examples that
include both two-door hardtops and convertibles. This
1963 Impala Sport Coupe has lots of parts to share.Do you like your first generation Firebirds with or
without a top? Regardless, both types are in the yard.
Schroeder will continue to defoliate the thick growth totally covering several hundred more vintage vehicles in the coming weeks, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what might be added to the growing inventory list.
Due to his re-organization duties, Schroeder said customers will only be allowed into the yard by first making an appointment. Also by appointment only, he will allow car clubs to tour the yard and allow picture taking for a small fee per individual. Anyone showing up to gain access to the yard without first making an appointment will not be allowed access. No tool boxes will be allowed in the yard until a vehicle is purchased. Parts removal from every purchased vehicle will also be supervised.
A word of caution is in order for those wanting to tour the yard. During Wisconsin summers, ticks are a severe problem in areas with thick woods and deep grass, especially deer ticks whose bite can transmit Lyme Disease. Due to the yard’s heavy foliage, spraying apparel with a tick repellent and wearing long pants, a shirt with full-length sleeves and a hat is recommended prior to entering the yard. Heavy-soled shoes or boots are also recommended due to the amount of sharp objects randomly lying on the ground and hidden by ferns and deep grass.It’s easy to get turned around in the trees at this salvage
yard, but there are two (possibly three) 1957 Cadillac
coupe/Coupe deVille models in the yard. There are a
number of examples from GM’s premium brand.
To make an appointment to visit the yard, call Jeff Schroeder at 715-853-1717 or Scott Siegel at 920-407-0097. If you want to send a written list of vintage cars and/or trucks desired, write to (and include a return phone number): Jeff Schroeder, N 1952 Old 47 Rd., Bonduel, WI 54107.
For those attending the Iola Old Car Show on July 8-11, Tomahawk is approximately a 90-minute drive northwest from Iola. Call to make an appointment to tour the yard before making the drive.There are several James Dean Mercurys (and late-1950s
Mercs) in inventory, but this rusty and flathead-less
’51 is the only coupe spotted. However, others could
be hiding among the foliage.
You may also be interested in:
Along with many Cadillacs, there are a number of
MoPar muscle cars, but most are entry-price-level
models when new, including this Dart Sport. There’s
also a a Duster 340 in Petty Blue, but it’s not nearly
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