I was in the Phoenix area last April so I could meet up with a couple friends and drive with them to Radwood Vegas. We had a day to kill and we heard about a unique junk yard with a bunch of pre 1980s American Iron. This was our type of sight seeing.
A petrified forest of classic American cars can be found just north of Phoenix. Some readers might be familiar with this place from Desert Car Kings. However, money-making, car-flipping shows aren’t really my jam, so I’d never heard of it until that morning over breakfast. My friend, Brad, noted that they never crush anything, and only have stuff from the 1930s to early 1980s—color me intrigued. Never ones to shy away from a good salvage yard trip, even on the first triple-digit day in Phoenix. We took a ride over to explore on a Friday afternoon.
Brad and I strolled in, wide eyed and overwhelmed with the amount of old American metal we were confronted with. The staff we spoke to was friendly, more so than what I’m used to at salvage yards. I’m sure they get visitors regularly. We were told that it wasn’t a pick and pull yard and those facts were also backed up with a bunch of signs. If we saw something we wanted, just take a picture of it and they’d do their best to pull the item. Otherwise it was two bucks to walk around; fair deal.
The very front of the yard has whole vehicles you can purchase neatly parked in rows you can easily walk through. Unlike some yards, the cars aren’t just haphazardly tossed onto the property. Inside the main area, the rows of cars were neatly stacked, and organized mostly by make and model. Many of them had paint marker notes written on them saying things like; “Solid body,” “full drive train,” “6 bolt LSD.” There is a small joy in seeing what appears to be a chaotic place actually organized with care.
One man’s junk is another’s treasure. A non car person would call a place like this a junkyard and that really is a misnomer. “Junk” implies that something is useless with no value to anyone. A place like Desert Valley can be more accurately called a salvage yard. Coming from the east coast, salvage yards are generally filled with late model wrecks, rusty and broken, soaked with water and oil. So, seeing a yard filled with nothing newer than maybe 35 years old was impressive. Most rust was merely surface flash rust, and it was hard to spot anything that was truly rotted.
While this yard is total ruin porn, these rusty hulks of cars are useful. It may be depressing to see these former machines withering in the Arizona sun. However, it’s not for nothing though. The parts pulled from these cars keep other beloved cars on the road. These cars would otherwise be crushed and recycled into new soulless CUVs. For that reason, I’d rather see them rest in the desert, slowly picked of all that’s useful.
Junkyard exploration is a great joy of being a car enthusiast and this is one of the coolest I’ve seen. It’s worth checking out; maybe you might even find your next project car. I would recommend visiting in the morning. We visited on a Friday afternoon on the first triple digit day in Phoenix. It was quiet, but volcanically hot. Best not to forget to bring sunblock and water. Also wear pants, closed toe shoes, and hat for the sun.