By Leroy Drittler
In 1946, Jerry Wellbaum’s dad founded Wellbaum Tire in downtown Monett, Mo., at 115 N. Central Avenue. Not only did the shop sell tires, but it also sold cars and completed mechanic work. By 1976, several salvage cars had accumulated behind the tire shop, so Jerry bought a piece of property west of town on Highway 60, moved them out there and opened up a salvage yard.
The tire business was also a franchisee for OK Rubber Welders, a tire recapping shop that stayed busy until radial tires made recapping passenger car tires a thing of the past. Wellbaum recalls that in 1963, a customer needing tires didn’t have the funds for a new set of tires, but was able to talk Wellbaum’s dad into trading four fresh recaps for a Ford Model A two-door sedan. The recaps were selling for $9.95 each. Wellbaum drove the Model A for several years and now has it stored in a nearby building alongside a half-dozen project cars that he works on as time permits. Those project cars include a ’39 Ford coupe with a Chevy V-8 that he’s owned for 25 years, a couple of Mustangs and Chevelle and Impala hardtops. Wellbaum says he likes big engines and as proof, he keeps a 440-cid V-8 out of a ’69 Road Runner on an engine stand. He also has several 409-cid Chevy engines that he is installing in his various projects.
The salvage yard had been temporarily closed for inventory until recently. It is again open while being reorganized and the vegetation cleaned out from around the vehicles. Salvage yard manager Fred Savage is in charge of getting the work done, which was approximately 40 percent complete during our visit. A lot of trees have been cut and half of the yard has been bush-hogged. The vehicles are being moved to the cleared areas where they can be accessed. There are several oldies still almost completely covered with brush, vines and briars, and several are in a wooded area and have trees growing up in them. Savage is very friendly and also has alove of old vehicles, owning several himself.
There are approximately 90-100 vintage vehicles mixed in with a lot of vehicles from the 1990s through the 2000s. Most of the oldies are American cars, but there is a row of British roadsters from the late 1960s and early ’70s lined up near the highway. Another row in the yard contains a dozen or so Camaros and Firebirds. After inventory is completed, the oldies will be photographed and put on the yard’s website.
Wellbaum is ready to retire and hopes to have more time to work on his project cars. He recently sold the salvage yard and tire business to his son, Brandon, who is also enthusiastic about old cars and says he will not crush the oldies. The businesses, which also includes a 24-hour wrecker service, has four employees.
Most cars in the yard can have parts removed from them, and most of them are for sale if visitors want the whole vehicle. Parts can be shipped, and shipping can be arranged for whole vehicles. The yard is open Monday thru Saturday from 8 to 5 and unescorted browsing is allowed, but only yard personnel will remove parts. If visitors stop by the yard in the summertime as I did, be sure and have plenty of insect repellent. The ticks and chiggers were roaming freely, and the mosquitoes — especially in the wooded areas — were very thirsty. When inquiring about the old cars, talk directly to Brandon or Jerry Wellbaum.
West 60 Auto & Parts
566 West Highway 60 (physical address)
P.O. Box 307 (mailing address)
Monett, MO 65708
417-235-6188 or 417-235-7515