The complete story

What out-of-state vacation would be complete without a trip to a salvage yard? Not having seen any yard stories in Old Cars Weekly from the state of Rhode Island – the vacation destination of my friend Janell and I – our Rhode Island adventure began with a couple of yard leads taken from an out-of-print yard locator reference book.

A message on the windshield of  this ’52 Dodge Club Coupe reads “Not for parts – Do not touch.” Possibly someone’s future restoration candidate?

    Knowing that the information in this 15-year-old book would more than likely be obsolete in many cases, it only took a visit to our first stop for that to play out.

    That initial stop was to Bill’s Auto Parts in Cumberland, R.I. What was once a haven for old cars has now been updated. The yard, at one time, held hundreds of cars from the 1930s through the ’70s. Unfortunately, they have long since been fed to the crusher.

Sporting the optional grille guard, this 1953 Buick Super sedan appears to be a complete car.
  The only remaining clue to what once was in the yard was an aerial photo taken many years ago. Yard owner Jim Pinault explained, “We updated several years ago. We only carry newer parts now, since the yard was cleaned up.”

Offering lots of donor parts or an ambitious restoration project, this 1961 Ford Thunderbird hardtop looks handsome, even parked in a salvage yard.

    Telling Pinault that we were in search of old cars, he kindly gave us directions to North Smithfield Auto Recycling, about a half-hour away.

    It was a scenic drive into the rolling hills of northern Rhode Island. Once there, the counter person explained that North Smithfield contained the largest collection of vintage cars in the state.

    When I asked if we could enter the yard to take pictures, he suddenly turned wary. “You aren’t law enforcement are you?” he asked.
After assuring him we were not, he charged us $5 each to tour the yard and take photographs.

    The five bucks was well worth it. There’s something peaceful about walking around a salvage yard, especially on an unseasonably warm late autumn afternoon.

    The yard wasn’t quite as large as the counter person made it out to be, but if you consider the small size of the state, it was big. As for the number of older vehicles, it was a smaller collection of various makes, a little shy of what I’d term impressive. What did stand out was the number of old cars that remained complete or near complete, with several lending themselves as worthy restoration candidates.

    Looking at the old cars in the yard only acted as a reminder of my younger days, when many of these cars were still being driven on the street. For a few hundred bucks, you could have bought many of these cars out of a neighbor’s front yard.Yes, a walk through a salvage yard is truly a trip down memory lane!

    To contact North Smithfield Auto Recycling, call 401-766-5422 or use postal address: North Smithfield Auto Recycling, 1859 Pound Hill Rd., N. Smithfield, RI 02896.

This group shot shows lots of General Motors cars, including an extremely rusty 1953 Chevy and a ’70 Pontiac Firebird fronting a ’56 Chevy two-door sedan, late-model Camaro and a Chevelle.