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Salvage Yard Ron: Mystery yard of Matador, Texas

Closed salvage yard in Madator generates interest -- and more questions
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Abandoned in a field in downtown Matador, Texas, this 1972 Ford Ranchero GT pickup is what led to the discovery of the closed salvage yard on the south side of the city. The mystery remains as to what will happen to all the vintage iron currently on the former yard's property.

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Story and Photos by Ron Kowalke

I was extremely lucky on my final two trips during the fall and winter of 2010 to discover many great salvage yards to spotlight in upcoming "Scrap Yard Ron" columns. Even as the price of scrap metal continues to escalate -- especially in the winter months when scrap metal becomes harder to come by due to much of it being buried under snow -- and the crushing of old cars continues at a furious pace, there remain a good number of quality salvage yards that cater predominantly -- and a few exclusively -- to the collector vehicle segment.

I'll be prepping several future columns on yards I discovered in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas to run during the upcoming winter months. My hope is this will give readers whose current wardrobes consist mainly of thermal and flannel some relief from "cabin fever." For those readers who live in or nearby the aforementioned states, when these yards are eventually featured in Old Cars Weekly, please make the effort to at least stop in and say "thank you" to the owners for preserving vintage iron. If, in addition, you happen to buy some parts or a whole car to restore, all the better.

My intention is not to use this forum to preach, but I want to add one more thought to showing yard owners some appreciation. When scrap metal prices shoot up, for yard owners to resist the constant calls from scrap dealers to flatten their inventory for instant cash -- and in some cases we're talking about a sizeable sum of money depending on the number of old cars in the yard -- this runs counter to how other businesses conduct their affairs to remain profitable. My theory is that many yard owners, just as you and I are, remain passionate about old cars and trucks and would think it criminal to crush out. It's a risk from a business standpoint not to crush when scrap metal prices reach historic highs, so the yard owners who take that risk deserve to be commended.

Retaining many donor-quality parts and panels, this 1962 Chevrolet Impala hardtop sits close to the dirt road fronting the yard, and is therefore a prime target for vandals as evidenced by its smashed windshield.

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Leader of the pack
So, you ask, which Colorado, Oklahoma or Texas yard gets the lead-in slot? I'm starting with a mystery yard I discovered in Texas.

The reason is that I need more information on this yard, and I know there are readers who can help.

First, let's start with the basics. The yard is located in Matador, Texas. Matador is situated at the crossroads of Highways 70 and 62 at the bottom edge of what is referred to as the "Texas Panhandle." Its claim to fame from the 1930s on is a landmark named Bob's Oil Well. The original wooden structure in the shape of an oil derrick that sat atop a service station was constructed by World War I veteran Luther Bedford Robertson to attract customers to his Matador business. It worked well.

By the late 1930s, Robertson replaced the wooden replica with a sturdier metal derrick and added a cafe, garage and grocery. Robertson died in 1947. The original metal derrick and service station building remain standing, although closed for business since the 1950s, and have been placed on Texas' register of historic landmarks.

Robertson's replica derrick is situated on the west side of Matador. I was heading east on the city's main street, beginning my return journey to Wisconsin. Of course, I was running behind schedule and facing a long, non-stop drive home. I vowed stopping at Bob's Oil Well would be my final photo op on this trip. That plan lasted all of 200 yards when I spotted a weathered 1972 Ford Ranchero GT parked in deep grass in a field.

A Borg-Warner parts cabinet with great graphics and full of
NOS items is among the contents of the outbuilding seen in
the background in the picture at left.

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Where there's one...
I've always been captivated by the unique merger of performance and pickup. Even though Ford built 12,600 of the Ranchero GT model in '72, it's not a common sight at car events fewer than 40 years later. This particular one, rust free and near complete including a wicked snorkel hood, had suffered minor cosmetic damage and paint bleaching, but none of the vandalism in the way of glass breakage common to vehicles parked for long periods in open spaces.

Not having a "For Sale" sign visible on it, I wondered why someone would abandon a great car like this just off a main street unless they were trying to sell it. As I looked around for more clues, I spotted several roofs of pickups hidden in tall grass parked in the distance. I knew instantly my timetable for returning home was going to take another huge setback.

The actual depth of the panels stacked in this shot is six deep. Fronted by the
hood of a 1957 Chevrolet, the remainder are decklids wearing script of models
including Chevelle, Impala and Caprice.

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GM haven
I drove to the southern edge of Matador and found a dirt road that would lead me to the spot where I had seen the pickup roofs. I never made it that far. Just as I rounded the corner to enter the dirt road, a field full of tall grass hiding many old cars sprung into view. It soon became apparent that what I was looking at was what remained of a former salvage yard.

I say former because from all appearances as I walked through the property, it's been many years since any business was conducted there. The growth that has shot up around the vehicles that remain on site, approximately 50, is the first indicator of dormancy. Everywhere I walked, I was constantly tripping over parts: transmissions, rear ends, brake drums, bumpers, etc., hiding in the growth.

Aside from a kink in the front bumper and being extremely filthy inside, this
1965 Studebaker Daytona Sport Sedan is complete and a candidate for survivor-
class status. Only 1,626 of these Daytonas were produced in '65, and power
was exclusively supplied by a 259-cid V-8.

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I entered one of the outbuildings on the property, whose door had been left open and warped so badly it will never close. Inside, the floor was a jumble of engine blocks, cylinder heads, transmission gears, old bicycles, dirty shop rags and garbage. Several cabinets filled with NOS parts were scattered about the building, also with doors hanging open, and it appeared as if the owner just called it quits one day and left everything as is to spoil.

Just as I questioned why a car the caliber of a Ranchero GT would be abandoned, that question arose again and again as I walked the property. The majority of the remaining cars and trucks are General Motors products. Included in this mix are several late-'60s, early-'70s Chevelles, several first-gen Monte Carlos, a couple of early-'60s Impalas, one Cosworth Vega, a trio of '60s Buicks -- one a convertible -- and a small number of non-GM products including a Mercury Comet Caliente hardtop and '65 Studebaker Daytona hardtop that appeared complete enough that it could be driven away. While not all the vehicles were complete, all of what remained was remarkably rust free and the majority of the chrome was as shiny as the day it was attached on the assembly line.

Another car fronting the yard property and also a victim of windshield vandalism
is this 1960 Buick LeSabre four-door hardtop that otherwise offers lots of donor-
quality panels, glass and chrome. Its interior is a mess.

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One of the aforementioned Buicks actually caused me to stop in my tracks. It was a 1961 Special Deluxe Sport Coupe. An introductory model in '61 offered in two trim levels: Special (4,230 built) and Deluxe (12,683 produced), the unique aspect of this compact is what's under its hood. Power came from Buick's new-for-'61 cast-aluminum block 215-cid V-8. At least, that's how it came from the factory.

What caused my pause while circling the Buick was a pair of Kenne-Bell V-6 decals affixed to each front fender. Kenne-Bell is a California aftermarket performance parts builder with a long history of making cars go faster. That history includes making parts for Buick's early "nailhead" V-8. Not certain what I'd find under this compact's hood, I was hoping it might be some vintage speed parts that would have given this small car some street cred.

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The drivetrain of this 1961 Chevrolet half-ton sidestep pickup has gone missing
(the hood is in the back), but the truck's shortbox with sidemount spare is as
solid a 50-year-old piece as can be found. 

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Well, we'll never know.

Try as I might, I couldn't get the Buick's hood open. After struggling to the point of gashing my hand, I gave up. The car was already a faded red with a white top, so at that point I nicknamed it "Red Cross," because I donated a pint of blood all over the hood release.

With the exception of some of its uprights having some damage, finding
original grillework in this fine of condition on an early-1940s Chevrolet truck
is getting difficult. The truck's cab is also rust free and complete.

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Help me help you
My usual modus operandi in the closing stages of this column is to give readers as much contact information as possible about the yard being chronicled. Unfortunately, aside from the aforementioned description of this yard's location within the city of Matador, that's all I have. I can't even supply the yard's (former?) name. I'm hoping some readers/former customers can submit more information such as the yard's name and when it was in business, possibly an owner and his/her contact information and, most crucial, is the inventory currently on the property for sale. What information gets supplied will certainly be included in a future "SYR" column.

It would be a shame if all these rust-free cars and trucks fall to the scrap metal scavengers.

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A like-new white vinyl top provides plenty of eye appeal on this 1969 Pontiac
Tempest Sport Coupe. A peek under its open hood finds it powered by the (left)
Overhead Cam six-cylinder commonly associated with Pontiac's Sprint package.
The car's interior has been shredded.

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The best indicator of how long some of the loose parts on
the property have been lying around.

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