Take a minute to think about how much the old car hobby — as well as life itself — has changed in the past half century. Little is the same as it was 50 years ago, but one constant has been L&L Classic Auto. This salvage yard located in Wendell, Idaho, has been a major parts source serving hobbyists that entire time.
Having been in business for more than 50 years, yard owner Larry Harms estimates his inventory has grown to “somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 cars.” He added that 85 percent of his cars and trucks are vintage (1979 and older), with the starting point in the 1920s. According to Harms, the majority of the vehicles in his yard range from the 1940s to ’60s, but there’s also a depth in ’30s Ford coupes, Tudors and Fordors. He further breaks down the yard’s offerings to being 70 percent cars vs. 30 percent trucks.
The inventory arranged over the 160 acres that comprise the yard is unique. While walking among the randomly clustered vehicles, stopping and doing a double-take becomes routine. Inventory includes rare cars, muscle cars, coupes, an original postwar hot rod, sedan deliveries and even a Citroen DS19 sedan whose love-it-or-hate-it styling stands out parked among a row of domestic cars.
Harms has segregated “project cars” from parts vehicles in several sections of the yard, explaining that parts removal from those project vehicles is forbidden. “We only put the project cars on our website (www.llclassicauto.com),” according to Harms. He stressed that titles exist for most of the vehicles in inventory, or a title can be obtained if one does not exist, although he cautioned that it takes “a couple of weeks.”
Among the hundreds of project vehicles noted while touring the yard were a 1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee hardtop, a rare ’53 De Soto Firedome convertible (1,700 built) and the aforementioned original hot rod roadster. The roadster appears as if it drove off the silver screen from vintage “B” movies such as “Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow” or “Hot Rod Gang,” and has been parked ever since.
Examples sighted of rare vehicles in exceptional condition included a 1954 Mercury Monterey Sun Valley hardtop (9,761 produced), its chrome and tinted Plexiglas half top appearing like new. More modern, and a perfect restoration project for a youngster just starting in the hobby, was a 1977 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon, originally marketed as a mini Econoline van. Aside from a damaged grille, this Pinto retains its mod graphics, porthole-in-a-panel rear treatment, styled wheels and roof rack.
Having a period-original hot rod in his inventory seems only natural, as Harms is a former hot rodder/drag racer. He proudly showed a 1961 photograph of his 1930s Ford pickup he converted to a hot rod and raced both on the street and strip. “I ran a 12.88 [elapsed time] and 113 mph at the Pocatello (Idaho) Dragway in 1962,” Harms recalled. “That was really moving back then.”
The background for that 1961 photo was Larry’s Body Shop in downtown Wendell, where Harms got his start in the salvage business. Having accumulated cars and trucks through his body shop work, Harms said, “We took up half a city block in town and had over 300 cars.”
Outgrowing the downtown site, Harms said he opened the salvage yard at its current north Wendell location in 1967. He used the first letters of he and wife Linda’s first names to title L&L Classic Auto, which remains today. During our visit in May 2014, Harms had four employees, including yard manager Ron Ewing, who’s been in that position for 22 years.
The yard’s terrain is mildly hilly. Aisles are well defined, but there are rocks jutting from the ground that can cause tripping. Also, Harms employs free-range cattle to roam the yard and keep the grass down. Aside from tripping on rocks, watching where you step is critical to avoid stepping in dung.
Harms stated he tries to group same-make vehicles together, but there remain enough other-make cars and trucks randomly inserted into rows (such as the aforementioned Citroen) that searching thoroughly is essential.
Harms also said he and Ewing have a good handle on the yard’s loose parts availability, as there is no computerized listing for this segment. There are numerous parts piles scattered throughout the yard, so the thrill is in the hunt as rigorous searching may uncover some forgotten treasure.
Customers must sign in at the office before being allowed into the yard. Parts removal is done only by L&L Classic Auto employees, and only after a price is agreed upon in advance. Harms added that parts shipping is available to destinations “all over the world.” He said Wendell gets little snow, so the yard is open 12 months a year. Tours of the yard can also be arranged by appointment.
L&L Classic Auto is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mountain Time). Saturday hours can be arranged by appointment. Visit the yard’s website address at www.llclassicauto.com to view project vehicles for sale.
L&L Classic Auto
2742 SH46 (mailing address)
Wendell, ID 83355
More scenes from the L&L yard...