The Automotive Circle of life


I just came off the road from a week of driving around and looking at fabulous antique tractors and cars. I just love that thrill of driving over a hill and seeing a sea of gleaming chrome and stainless all lined up.

It’s history waiting to come alive, just horsepower at a standstill.

When I first started selling the old salvage yards at auction, one of the crushers said, “Yvette, why you working so hard to save that old stuff? You are the Salvage Princess rescuing these old cars and tractors.” Well the name stuck, and we have been able to save a lot of old iron from the crusher.

The world is trying to get “green” and recycle-repurpose. But these old yards are the perfect example of recycling at its finest. What society may see as an eyesore, collectors see past the rust and damage and envision a project, how they can rebuild her, or take the parts that they need for their project back home.

Now I grew up on a farm, and Dad built Nordstrom’s Auto recyclers, one of the Midwest’s biggest salvage yards. Dad would drag them home, take parts, build a new vehicle or rebuild one of the wrecks. Nothing went to waste. But when the car had all parts out, then it went to the crusher to begin a new life as another vehicle or iron product.

Now many of these antique cars and tractors have fallen to the shredders because these girls are big and heavy and perfect targets for the iron buyers and crushers. They are doing the math: 4,200 pounds X $ iron price.

Hate to admit it, but there is a place for them. But it is after the collectors, hobbyists and even artists are done getting their projects, taking their parts, and cars are being taken to be rebuilt back to new or come to life again as a “Hot Rod” or “Custom.”


I spent many days riding with Dad to salvage yards around South Dakota looking for a hard to find part for his project. I’ve done it myself, looking for parts that are not reproduced and the only way you can find that part is on an original car.

As the number of yards are disappearing, we are seeing the number of classics when we do an older salvage yard auction going down. That is because the parts and older cars are getting harder to find. I enjoy saving those older salvage yards and watching the collectors talk, remember and plan.

There is a place for the crushers in this automotive circle of life, but it’s after the collectors have taken their parts, projects and there is nothing salvageable left. Then they can be recycled to come back to life as maybe a new Mustang or the new Stingray. Amazing to think, maybe there’s a little Plymouth in that new Camaro?

I love that movie Christine from Stephen King, when at the end she’s crushed and is in a cube and the radio comes back on, even after crushed. Well, it’s true old iron never dies, it just comes back to be resurrected, repurposed, parts and eventually recycled.

So till then, let’s work hard to save those old yards, and the automotive history that they represent. Remember when you drive by them, they aren’t dead, it’s horsepower waiting to be resurrected.

See you at the Auction!

Yvette VanDerBrink-Auctioneer
The Lil Nordstrom’s Gal

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