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Watts Repair & Salvage: 40 Acres of the Right Stuff

While 40 acres seems like an immense tract of land, when you’re parking roughly 4,500 cars and trucks within that confines, things get a little tight even among the wide open expanses of the "Corn Husker" state.

If the name Watts Salvage and its location, Wymore, Neb., sound familiar, it should. Old Cars Weekly chronicled the muscle car salvage yard operated by John Watts in Wymore in its Sept. 6, 2007, issue.

For this issue, we’re traveling just a few miles down the road to a yard operated by Louis Watts, John’s uncle. This is the yard, named Watts Repair & Salvage, where John got his start in the automobile salvage business. As salvage yards go, it’s an impressive place. After touring his business, my first comment to owner Louis Watts was that I’d never seen so many complete cars in one yard before.

A solid prewar car, this 1938 Buick Special sedan has lots of donor parts to offer, including a pristine grille and headlights.

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One of the reasons for this large amount of unmolested cars is the fact that Watts Repair & Salvage carries an inventory of 4,500 vehicles. While 40 acres seems like an immense tract of land, when you’re parking several thousand cars and trucks within that confines, things get a little tight. When Old Cars Weekly visited the yard in late summer 2007, beyond getting there late in the afternoon and having to sprint between the rows to both get my needed photography and avoid getting locked in after closing time, the journey also called for wading through waist-high grass in certain areas. There is so much inventory in the yard, to do a thorough inspection of its contents is easily a four- to five-hour commitment of time. And I guarantee you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Wow, look at that

I caught myself muttering more than a few times upon glancing down the rows of cars and wondering about a distant vehicle: “That can’t be a (fill in the blank with a rare model)” only to verify that it was upon arrival. Early Hemi Mopars, mid- to late-1930s Ford coupes and two-door sedans, vintage Cadillacs, tri-Chevys and the aforementioned depth of cars that appeared as if they were driven in off the street and were waiting for their owners to return to drive back home all presented themselves as I made my way through the yard.

The remains of this 1956 Chevrolet One-Fifty sedan delivery would make an eye-catching street rod project.

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One of my passions is the early (immediate pre-World War II to around 1975) history of grass roots stock car racing. I always ask yard owners if any old racers reside among their current inventory. I discovered two vintage warriors in Watts’ yard, a late-1930s Ford five-window coupe that was quite bent from a crash, and a 1966-’67 Chevy Chevelle – also with wrinkles – and a common sight at fairgrounds’ dirt tracks in the early- to mid-1970s.

And while I ran out of time, I was able to perform a quick scan of the portion of the yard that contained a large selection of pickups and heavier-duty trucks. At a glance, I viewed trucks that spanned the 1940s and newer. A close inspection would most likely find even older models. From what I viewed, the majority of these trucks offered plenty of donor parts, and in some cases, they were complete enough to restore.

With some of its parts stored inside, what appears to be a mid-1920s Dodge two-passenger coupe would make an interesting restoration project.

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There was also a portion of the yard that contained modern salvage vehicles, but I by-passed that completely. Watts told Old Cars Weekly that this, once per year, is where the crusher is fed from. Obviously, that could change with the price of scrap steel as elevated as it has been of late.

Where it began

While the location of Watts’ salvage yard is Wymore, it actually was started in a different 40-acre field closer to the heart of the city.

Quite a bit of 1930s Ford rust-free sheet metal exists in the yard, a haven for hot rod project cars.

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“It was a hobby [that] I turned into a business,” Watts explained of his 1982 start as a salvage yard owner. Eventually, he continued, city officials were not as enthused as Watts over his business choice. “The city pestered me, so I moved to Wymore Township.”

The yard’s current location is accessed from a series of gravel roads, and its remote location thwarts any “pestering” from local government. The rural setting is actually a plus for more than the obvious reasons of keeping the beautification crowd at bay. It also works well for touring car clubs that might want to visit Watts Repair & Salvage on a day trip. Watts said he accepts visitors, but an appointment must be made ahead of time.

Rules are rules

Watts does not allow customers to pull any parts off vehicles. All parts removal is done by the employees of the yard. Watts also said he does not offer shipping of parts, nor does he have a computerized inventory. His yard’s contents is recited from memory. “I’ve got a good handle on what’s in the yard,” Watts explained.

The main body shell of this 1940 Chevrolet five-window coupe remains intact, as does select chrome trim and glass.

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Watts also stressed that customers are expected to follow normal yard etiquette of closing any doors, hoods, windows, trunk lids and glove boxes if opened. Also, cows roam the yard performing grass containment duties, and cow tipping is discouraged (okay, I made that up, but it’s still good advice).

Hours of operation at the yard are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon.

To contact the yard, call 402-645-8066 or use mailing address: Watts Repair & Salvage, 2784 E. Sage Rd., Wymore, NE 68466.

Other than the surface rust marring its cosmetics, this 1956 Dodge sedan was a complete car and could easily be returned to the road.

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The paint has almost completely faded, but the doors of this 1953 Plymouth sedan promote this car as formerly being in the service of the Yellow Cab Co.

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Yard owner Louis Watts poses with a Dodge Red Ram V-8 that came out of a 1954 Coronet and resides just outside the office door. During Old Cars Weekly’s visit, one of the yard cats was using the engine as a “scratchin’ post” for his noggin.

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One of the “veteran” cars in the yard is this 1929 Plymouth sedan that retains lots of donor chrome and its complete taillight assembly.

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Its passenger-side front fender damaged, this 1947 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan still offers solid body panels and bright chrome.

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A large portion of the yard is devoted to pickups and heavier-duty trucks, including several spotted that date back to the 1940s. Due to time constraints, I was unable to do more than a quick scan, but most of the trucks in the yard offer plenty of donor parts.

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Looking close at the bottom of the front fender, its script touts this 1969 Buick Riviera hardtop as the $131.57 optional Gran Sport (GS) edition.

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