Henderson’s Used Cars & Salvage: A Southern Missouri Staple

The road I was traveling, Highway 60, was appropriately named: “Trail of Tears.” On a journey through southwestern Missouri this past summer, it was late afternoon, the time when most salvage yards close for the day. I pulled into the driveway of a yard that I was told earlier that day contained a stash of muscle cars. Like a lot of word-of-mouth leads, this one did not pan out; the muscle cars were long gone, and the yard’s remaining inventory was all modern. It was a letdown, but tears were not an option.

    As per my usual routine when at a yard, I asked the owner if there were other yards in the area that might have vintage vehicles. I was told there was another yard about 15 miles in the direction from which I’d come, but that the crusher had paid a visit not long before and what remained in the yard was unknown. Drat! Maybe tears were appropriate.

    Following the first yard owner’s directions, I figured it would at least be worth a look. It was after closing time, and if anything vintage could be seen from the yard’s fenceline, I could stay overnight and follow up with a visit in the morning.

    As I backtracked toward my destination of Monett, Mo., I searched my reference book for this yard, Henderson’s Used Cars & Salvage, but it was not listed.

    Upon arrival, the rows of vehicles that could be seen from the highway were neatly aligned, and interspersed among the rows I could see the fronts of a few 1950s and ’60s cars peeking out. Heading down a sideroad looking for the entrance, I found a home fronting the yard, so I entered the driveway. I was hoping I could at least make contact with the owner to set up an appointment to tour the yard the following morning.

    As I exited my car, Betty Henderson, wife of the yard’s owner, Ben, came out of the house. As I explained about wanting to return the following morning to tour their yard, she was kind enough to point out the path to the yard’s entrance and invited me to walk through the yard and take notes and pictures at my leisure. Ben was out chasing brake parts for an RV he was repairing with his grandson Aaron, and he would be back to speak with me when I was finished touring the yard.

    At that point, there may have been tears of joy, but I’ll blame looking into the sun to assess how much daylight remained for photography purposes.

Beware of the cow

    As I toured the yard, I was occasionally greeted by cows munching on what grass existed on the pathways between the rows of vehicles. The yard is impressively maintained, and Ben Henderson, according to his wife, is somewhat of a stickler for keeping the doors, windows and hoods of his yard’s vehicles closed to ward off weather damage. Also, the walkways between the vehicles were free of stray parts that could cause tripping or pierce a shoe. (Been there, done both in other yards!)

    What I saw at first glance from the highway outside the yard played out as I made my way through the entire 40 acres that comprise Henderson’s Used Cars & Salvage’s approximately 2,000 vehicles. The cars from the 1950s through mid-’70s were sighted frequently enough to make this yard a viable source for parts for old car hobbyists. A random vehicle from the prewar era also popped up, with senior honors going to a 1937 GMC commercial taxi. According to Ben Henderson, it was purchased years ago, but the new owner has yet to retrieve it from the yard.

    Henderson’s salvage yard is also well stocked with domestic pickups ranging from the 1950s to the ’80s.

Long view of salvage business

    Upon Ben Henderson’s return to the yard, I was surprised his business did not show up in my salvage directory, as he explained he’d been in business in Monett for over 38 years. At age 70, Henderson showed no signs of slowing down. It was close to 8 p.m., and he was still working with Aaron to finish the RV’s brake job – no small feat when the RV is the length of a football field.

    “I’m a one-man operation,” Henderson stressed, so his yard offers no parts shipping. Customers wanting parts need to travel to the yard to conduct business.

    When asked about the rumor that the crusher had been by, Henderson confirmed that he’d recently cleaned out 500 vintage cars from the yard to take advantage of the high scrap metal price. He added that the cars crushed were in the yard the longest, and had donated all of their usable parts.

    Henderson estimated that over the span of almost four decades in business, he had close to 9,000 vehicles come and go. He actually began his salvage operation by parting out cars on his father’s farm. The business was moved to its current location in 1968. Soon after, Henderson purchased a 1972 Ford wrecker to use in the business, and he still drives this same tow truck daily.

Lots of change over time

    “The older stuff is just about a thing of the past,” Henderson admitted to Old Cars Weekly when asked if he still finds vintage vehicles to stock his yard.

Even with that being the case, he said, “I get more calls for the old stuff than new. I get calls from all over the United States for the old stuff.”

    In addition to his inventory of older vehicles, Henderson maintains several outbuildings that are filled with vintage parts. While no computerized inventory exists as to what parts are available, Henderson said calling or e-mailing and leaving a detailed message as to what part is being sought will get an answer, either way.

    The hours of operation at Henderson’s salvage yard are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 7 a.m. to noon.

    To contact the yard, call 417-235-3719 or e-mail parts requests to bch@wildblue.net. The yard’s mailing address is Henderson’s Used Cars & Salvage, 2147 FR 1070, Monett, MO 65708.

COMMENT