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Nebraska yard's new owner picks up the pieces

A 2004 tornado destroyed Jim Schultz's Nebraska salvage yard, but he picked up the pieces and is starting over as owner of the former Paneitz Salvage.
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One of several complete or near complete cars and trucks in the
yard, this 1957 Dodge Custom Royal sedan could be returned to
driver status with little work.

On a recent road trip, I stopped in Fairbury, Neb., trying to locate Paneitz Salvage, a yard located near that city that was listed as having 1,000-plus vehicles in inventory, from as early as the 1940s. I was told I was about three years too late.

Mr. Paneitz had retired from the auto salvage business several years earlier. He also had crushed most of what remained of his inventory after many decades in business. The yard has since re-opened under new ownership, so I was curious to see what the “new” yard offered, if anything, in the way of vintage iron.

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Several full-size early-1960s Chevrolets exist in the yard,
including this 1963 Impala hardtop that sports solid body panels
and lustrous bumpers.

When I arrived at what is now named Schultz’s Auto Recycling and Sales, the portion of the 30-acre yard that previously housed the older stock had lots of bare spots. Owner Jim Schultz was not in the office, but one of his employees allowed me to tour the yard and take pictures. I had hoped that Schultz would show up by the time I was finished walking the yard, so I could get the story behind the transfer of the yard from Paneitz to Schultz.

No such luck.

Follow-up phone calls to the yard proved that Schultz is one busy guy. My lone interview with him was also cut short by business he had to attend to, so mainly, the photos on this page will have to do much of the “talking” about the yard’s make-up.

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Kept near the yard’s office, this complete early-1970s Ford Pinto
hatchback appears ready to go.

What is known is that Schultz Auto Recycling currently has about 800 vehicles in inventory. According to Schultz, approximately 40 percent of these vehicles are collector-era cars and trucks. Many of these are “leftovers” from when Paneitz owned the yard. Schultz said he is working towards building up the vintage content of his yard, but that finding the old iron around southeastern Nebraska is getting harder all the time.

What vintage cars and trucks remain are mostly picked over, but a few complete cars and trucks exist. There is quite a selection of Dodge pickups — one of Schultz’s favorites — and Chrysler products, many dating back as far as the 1930s, seem to be the most prevalent older marque.

The yard is well laid out, mainly flat with well-defined dirt roads throughout, and, as mentioned, there is lots of open space from the cars that were previously removed. There are random loose parts and front clips lying about, and from a scenery standpoint, there are at least a half-dozen cars and trucks with large trees growing through their engine bays that will never be moved, but make for excellent photo opportunities.

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A cross between a King Midget and a modern ATV, this home-built
machine was a bit boxy, but sported professional workmanship
in its construction.

Schultz said he will sell whole cars, and has the titles for many of these vehicles. Customers are allowed to go into the yard to remove parts, but all toolboxes are checked prior to leaving the grounds.

Currently, Schultz said he is not set up to ship parts purchased from the yard, but is working toward that end.

Just prior to Schultz having to sign off on our phone conversation, I inquired what he had done prior to taking over Paneitz’s yard. He said he had previously owned a salvage yard for 29 years in Wilber, Neb., about a half-hour northeast of Fairbury. When asked what prompted the move from Wilber to Fairbury, Schultz responded, “The tornado.” Then he said good-bye.

Doing some research on the Internet, I found out that in May of 2004, an F-4 strength twister leveled much of Wilber during its 62-mile-long path of destruction through southeast Nebraska. The tornado was measured to be 2-1/2 miles wide — the largest tornado on record in the history of keeping tabs on these types of storms. My assumption is that the Wilber yard’s contents got scattered to the wind.

Hours of operation for Schultz’s Auto Recycling are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon.

To contact the yard, call 402-729-2958 or use postal mailing address: Schultz’s Auto Recycling and Sales, 56730 Crystal Springs Rd., Fairbury, NE 68352.

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