Story & Photos by LeRoy Drittler
Throughout many years of road tripping through western Arkansas, I would pass a body shop/used car lot with an old car or two out front. The business is located on the northeast corner of the intersection of State Highway 22 and State Highway 109, which is also the location of the Arkansas Champion Western Soapberry tree. Designated by a plaque at its base, the Soapberry tree provides much-needed shade on the lot during hot Arkansas summers. More often than not, I would stop at the shop and further explore, usually finding a couple more salvage cars, parts cars or builders behind the body shop. In the last year or so, the old car inventory has increased by about tenfold and most of the old vehicles are now parked across the highway in a previously vacant lot.
Mark Varnell says he’s been in business for 31 years at this location. He used to work on customer cars in the body shop, but has retired from those duties. Varnell now uses the shop to work on some of his own projects that include a 1947 Ford sedan, a ’66 Ford truck and an ’86 Chevy pickup that he’s turning into a hot rod. During my visit last year, Varnell said he would like to slow down, sell everything and completely retire in the near future.
Even though some of the collection of old cars appear to be salvage cars, Varnell says no parts can be removed from any of them. He will sell the complete vehicle either as a parts car or a project car. If you need your purchase shipped, you will need to make the shipping arrangements.
When asked how and where he acquired the old vehicles, Varnell says several of them came from local people who just wanted to get rid of them. They would load them up and bring them by and Varnell would make an offer to buy them. Others came in a package deal. A few of the vehicles are failed projects because the previous owner ran out of money or interest. Some of those failed projects appear to have needed work that far exceeded the skills possessed by the owner.
The old vehicle inventory does not lean towards any certain make or model, but does include a wide variety of cars and a few trucks. There are about ten imports available; the oldest vehicle is a 1920 American LaFrance fire truck. Some of the vehicles were driven in and parked, but they haven’t been started since. Others will run and drive, and among these projects is a straight 1956 Lincoln Capri that is loaded with options including factory air conditioning.
The business is located at 13201 State Highway 22 in the small community of Midway, which is six miles west of New Blaine and six miles east of Subiaco (hence the name Midway). Business hours are 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. Note that Varnell’s mailing address is different.
Mark Varnell’s Auto Sales
13201 State Highway 22
Midway, AR 72651
11057 Old Military Road
Subiaco, AR 72865
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