I go to the West for the incredible scenery, history, freedom – and the old cars. These old Fords and Chevys can survive for decades out in the desert. The cars are beginning to disappear; some get swept away in flash floods, some become valuable for parts or even restoration and some get shot full of holes. The National Park Service has a bad habit of hauling them off as junk, not recognizing they are part of the history and scenery. I try to preserve them for posterity, if only as images.
To support my thesis, I offer this iconic image of an abandoned 1949. A Chevy, with Temple Mountain in the background, both are prominent landmarks in the San Rafael Swell, Utah. The Chevy is full of rocks from a flash flood but still has its 6-cylinder OHV engine. Temple Mountain has suffered some indignities too: it was heavily mined for vanadium, then for Uranium during the atomic frenzy of the 40’s and 50’s. The barred-off dog holes are now empty of Uranium and full of Radon gas. Plenty of mining artifacts still litter the area; these are now old and mellowed enough to have become Industrial Archeology rather than junk. As an engineer, I enjoy poking around this stuff and figuring out the operation.
For a side trip, the Swell is one of the last accessible scenic areas (in the Canyon lands region), it is still BLM land and not under NPS “protection.” I had rented a Ford Explorer in Denver with my grandson, Sean, and the Swell was our first destination after over-nighting and supplying in Moab. Moab is a small funky town with a lot of 60’s type characters. I can recommend Eddie McStiff’s brew house pub for beer and pub grub, the Slick rock cafè for music and the Apache Motel for accommodation – John Wayne stayed there while filming. The lack of NPS protection in the Swell means you can drive anywhere on the dirt roads, which range from graveled highways to bighorn sheep tracks, and you can camp anywhere sensible, light a fire if it gets cold (it did, and we did), and forget about applying months in advance for reservations. It takes weeks to explore, but we stayed a couple of days, hiked Bell and Little Wild Horse slot canyons, and had a good time before moving on to the White Rim trail. There is a lot to explore in the Swell, so I expect I shall be back.
Utah has plenty of old cars, but here in Chester we have the nearest thing to an old West junkyard. Select Autos has a yard full of cars ranging from the 40’s to 70’s muscle. They seem to favor T ‘birds, not the porthole variety, but a few years later. Select Autos is on Jeff Davis highway opposite the DGSC entrance. Owner Bob Trent hauls them in from all over the USA. There is even a derelict Jaguar Mk 9 in the back for those wanting a serious challenge. The lot is definitely worth a visit, if you are a fellow junkyard junkie.