Chrysler Corp. is well represented in the yard, including this pair
of Imperials, both of which are in complete condition. (Above) This
1952 sedan features the Hemi 331-cid V-8, while (below) this ’62
four-door hardtop is a rare model.
When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was spend a week straight in a big salvage yard, opening car hoods and sitting behind the steering wheels of hundreds of old cars.
Now fast forward some 50 years.
Having the luxury of time to fulfill my dream — and still having the desire to do so — the cars that were new when I was young are now at rest. Many of these older cars are waiting to be discovered at Rustic Auto Parts, which is located in a beautiful rural setting in northern New York. The yard is located a few miles west of Interstate 87, near the small city of Peru.
Peru is located approximately 2-1/2 hours north of the state capital of Albany. It is a drive that offers spectacular views of the Adirondack Mountains to the west (including New York’s highest peak, the 5,344-foot Mount Marcy) and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east.
Michael Relation is the owner of Rustic Auto Parts. He started the business in 1974. As the yard’s proprietor, he is both interesting and knowledgeable about the vehicles in his yard, and is willing to share what he knows with customers.
During my visit to his business, Relation explained New York state’s law whereby any vehicle 1973 or newer must have a title to be sold complete and intact. Without a title, said vehicles can only provide parts. Those vehicles 1972 and older can be sold intact without titles.
Relation said his yard is comprised of 20 acres. His current inventory numbers approximately 1,500 vehicles, down from a high of 3,000 in year’s past. While he has crushed many of the yard’s vehicles over the past few years, he also admitted to being concerned about the impact crushing will have on the future of the old car hobby.
The yard is well organized and accessible. The terrain is flat and uncrowded, with ample room to maneuver. Vehicle groupings are arranged in rows, and feature sections for Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, foreign, pickups and orphans. Within these sections, makes and models are grouped together, with newer vehicles separated from older. Only the oldest tenants of the yard are overgrown with bushes and small trees.
Among the rows of vehicles, there is a variety of cars and trucks and parts. Most, but not all of the yard’s vehicles are 1950 and newer, with emphasis on sedans and station wagons. Relation also keeps a few larger trucks in inventory, and has approximately 35 school buses, all filled with bus parts.
Relation has acquired the parts inventories of several regional salvage yards that went out of business. Many of these parts go back as far as the Teens and Twenties.
All current manufacturers and many from the past are well represented in the yard. The lone exception to this is muscle cars.
Relation said he welcomes all questions and inquiries concerning the inventory of Rustic Auto Parts.
Interesting cars that I spotted while touring the yard included a 1953 Buick Roadmaster sedan with rare factory air conditioning. It was among the 10 percent of cars covered by overgrowth and nearly invisible during the summer months.
I also spotted a ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 four-door hardtop — equipped with the 292-cid V-8 topped with a two-barrel carb — that was identical to the one my Dad bought new in October 1956. Dad’s car was pretty, but I was appalled by its anemic acceleration. That Ford couldn’t get out of its own way! I remember reading the Motor Trend “Road Test” of the new ’57 Ford in which the 3,800-pound Fairlane 500 powered by the 292 with two-barrel carb did 0-to-60 mph in 12.1 seconds. Absolutely nothing is that slow today (and no other V-8 was that slow then). The 312-cid V-8 with the four-barrel carb would have been much more responsive, but my Dad actually would have preferred the 223 six-cylinder. I had to whine to get him to order the small V-8.
Also in the Ford section was a 1960 Falcon (its first year) similar to the one in which I won a quarter-mile trophy (that I still have) in the “L Stock” class at Alton (Ill.) Dragway in 1961. I defeated a ’50 Ford equipped with a flathead V-8 by three car lengths.
Other noteworthy cars sighted included a 1950 Plymouth that was similar to my first car that was sold to me by an uncle for one dollar when I was 15, and a ’67 Chevy Chevelle Malibu hardtop equipped with the 283-cid V-8 that would make an excellent restoration project. I also owned one of these Chevys, but mine came equipped with the 327-cid/325-hp V-8 mated to a four-speed transmission.
Along my journey through the yard I spotted a pair of late-1940s Crosleys that reminded me of my mother’s friend and neighbor who, in 1950 in her Crosley, was able to drive out of our neighborhood using the sidewalk when city sewer lines were being installed under the street. No other car was small enough to escape.
There were also a surprising half-dozen bullet-nosed Studebakers, a row of Volkswagen Beetles and a row of 1958-’60 “Squarebirds.” I also discovered not one, but two Imperial convertibles that Relation said were rare, with fewer than 600 produced.
The “across the pond” contingent included a pair of Renault LeCar models, a Morris Minor and several Datsun 280ZX coupes, one of which was extremely complete and restorable.
Keeping track of the yard’s inventory is done manually, according to Relation. “The computer is in my head.” Customers are allowed to bring tool boxes into the yard and remove parts on their own. Relation said he will consider shipping parts, but on a case-by-case basis.
Rustic Auto Parts is open all year round, except for the first two weeks in July. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon.
To contact the yard, call 518-643-8839 or use postal mailing address: Rustic Auto Parts, 85 Conners Rd., Peru, NY 12972.
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