Ronnie Ramsey of Newport, Tenn., began collecting junk cars and trucks when he was in his early twenties. Since then, he has amassed an amazing inventory of more than 500 vehicles, mostly from the 1940s to the 1980s. During that period, he also worked at a tire recapping shop in Newport, and did mechanic work.
We arrived at Ronnie’s Old Cars & Trucks on a foggy and mild late-winter morning and spent more than five hours trekking through the yard. We accomplished viewing just 70 percent of the yard. We even skipped lunch to photograph as many vehicles as possible in the time we had, so a return trip may be warranted. Ronnie, who is in his mid-seventies, accompanied us every step of the way and gave a running commentary on the vehicles we were photographing. Ronnie loves to talk about his old cars and trucks and has a great memory of where and when he acquired most of the vehicles. He can even remember the odometer reading on some of them. One unidentifiable, rough carcass of a vehicle was described by Ronnie as a ’40 Ford coupe modified with a truck bed and used by a local moonshiner.
If you’re into big trucks, there are several General Motors and Ford cab-overs from the 1940s and ’50s for sale. If you’re interested in Tri-five Chevys, he has several that can be bought as projects, and others from which parts can be removed. There are three Corvettes in the yard, and Ronnie says his oldest vehicle is a 1922 model. Several vehicles were bought at out-of-state auctions, some as far away as Detroit where Ronnie has frequently driven to buy vehicles. Some vehicles will only be sold as complete units.
The yard is dotted with old buses, motor homes and mobile homes, and all are crammed full of loose parts. Ronnie knows which parts are where and how many he has of certain hard-to-find parts. In the back of a pickup, we peeked under some tarps and saw at least four or five engines. Some bigger parts such as doors, trunk lids and hoods have been removed and are stacked alongside vehicles, ready to be picked up. Ronnie says if needed, he can probably ship smaller parts. If you want big parts or a whole vehicle, you’ll need to pick them up in person or arrange shipping.
Yard rules include that no parts can be removed by a customer. Cars are crushed only when every usable part has been removed. When asked about yard hours, Ronnie replied “24-7.” Ronnie and his wife live on the premises and are there most of the time. Ronnie suggests that you call before visiting the yard to make sure they are home.
Like many yard operators, Ronnie has vehicles that he will not sell and that includes a nice rust-free, California-built ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon and a 1936 Ford panel truck that he plans to restore. Another keeper is a Model T Ford that he “almost has running.”
Ronnie’s Old Cars & Trucks 1075 Golf Course Road (physical) P. O. Box 681 (mailing address) Newport, TN 37822 423-608-3764
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