The Automotive Graveyard

A flaming chicken with indigestion is somehow much prettier over a patina of light rust. Ooh, and look! Turbo badge!
A flaming chicken with indigestion is somehow much prettier over a patina of light rust. Ooh, and look! Turbo badge!

I saw an ad recently in one of those little “Coffee Mate” flyers that have become so popular in coffee shops of late. It advertised an automotive auction. “Classic Cars!”, it shouted. “Many Beautiful Rare, Antique and Collector Cars!” My interest was clearly piqued.
I looked at my significant other with the look of a child who’s just seen a giant sign reading, “FREE CANDY!”. To her credit, she seemed just as interested as I (although she may have been faking it), and we started to peruse the list of cars. It looked impressive. Many Bel-Airs, Parisiennes, some early-60s pickups. But then, on the list, something caught my eye: A 1990 Audi Quattro Coupe. Be still my heart!
It took surprisingly little convincing, and she agreed to get up early on a Saturday morning with me, and drive all the way out to where the auction was happening. We were met by a cold, damp, windy morning at a farm, not an auction yard. An extremely festive young man handed me a bidder paddle that had been constructed of a tongue depresser and a piece of purple construction paper with a “27” written on it in magic marker. My confidence was not exactly skyrocketing.
The auction, it turns out, was being held in the back of an old Dodge Dakota, where they had mounted a large wooden desk, complete with an office chair, and a pair of large bullhorns on the cab, connected to a CB-style microphone.
Now, I may perhaps be naive. I’ve seen the Barrett-Jackson auction a few times too many, and I always kind of assumed that some effort would be made to, I don’t know, demonstrate which car you were referring to, or show it in a positive light. Apparently I was dead wrong.
The auction occurred as the truck slowly drove around a field full of old rusting hulks that used to be cars. The auctioneer, rather than calling out a lot number, would point to one of these hulks, and say something like, “I think that was an old Belvedere. Who wants it for a thousand? No? Seven-fifty? Nothing? Okay, moving on.” Needless to say, I tired of this quite quickly.
I wandered on ahead of the morose procession of bidders, slowly shuffling silently behind the Dakota like condemned prisoners on a chain gang, and went searching for some gold nugget in what was, it was quickly becoming apparent, a huge field of vehicles good for little more than scrap. Specifically, I was looking for my Quattro Coupe.
A Quattro Coupe, you see, shares an almost-identical wheelbase with a Corrado, and indeed the Corrado was originally designed to be an all-wheel-drive car, thus explaining the large transmission hump in the centre of the car, running the full length back to where a rear differential should be. There have been many people who have converted them to a longitudinally-mounted all-wheel-drive car with great success. I was feeling more and more optimistic as I wandered through this pile of decrepit cars that perhaps, just perhaps, I’d be able to find a Quattro Coupe in bad enough shape that I wouldn’t feel bad about gutting it for all its running bits.
To make a long story short, a tidbit of information for the auctioneers. This is an Audi Quattro Coupe:
Okay, its got some S2 parts, and some fancy wheels, but you get the idea.
Okay, it's got some S2 parts, and some fancy wheels, but you get the idea.

This is NOT an Audi Quattro Coupe:
Its not the actual car from the auction, as it was buried under piles of car parts, but this is the same model.
It's not the actual car from the auction, as it was buried under piles of car parts, but this is the same model.

The day was not a total loss, however. I did bring along my better camera, so I wandered around snapping photos — while my unbelievably patient significant other very nearly froze, while wandering ahead and suggesting photos that she thought might turn out well.
Yes, that story was a long-winded eloquent way of saying, “Here! Have pictures!”

Apologies to those on my Facebook page who have already seen these, but that just means you’re extra special.

42 Comments

  1. Why do sad and decrepit automobiles decaying in a field provide such a good photograph subject?
    Good stuff Mitch…

    1. That flaming chicken thing is a whole lot bigger than it looks in the photo. It actually takes up the whole hood! So it wouldn’t fit in my pocket. Sorry.

        1. Believe me, I tried to pocket a LOT of logos that day, but with the auction there were too many people around.
          And, what, you don’t like Smokey and the Bandit? The Burt in some nuthugger jeans? Mmmm.
          Okay, yeah, I just made myself throw up a little there. I think I see your point.

  2. Wow. That is all kinds of weird. It’s as if David Lynch hosted a car auction; you just KNOW there’s a human ear in one of those hulks.

  3. Maybe it was one of them ultra-fancy four-door coupes I keep seeing advertised.
    It sounds like your SO is as patient as my wife. Mrs. engineerd was quite a trooper at the Dream Cruise, which was on one of the hottest days of the year.

  4. Flaming chicken stickers stick better than your relations with significant others.

  5. Two things: one, that flaming chicken is now my wallpaper. Thanks Darth Air! And two, where the hell is “set to wallpaper” in Chrome?

  6. Sorry you were a victim of false advertising, man. At least a lot of those cars appear to be going to new homes to (hopefully) be born again.

  7. Take heart, Dearthair. If all stories ended the way you hoped this one would, they wouldn’t be so special.
    As you point out, the day wasn’t a total loss. Your JPTI (junkyard photographic talent index)is right up there with Ms. Martin’s and I thank you for reminding me of my 11th grade math teacher, Royal Monaco.

  8. I’m sure if you go back later on during the night with a trailer and a wench you could haul a couple of those wrecks! Who would notice? It’s Canada!

  9. Nice work Dearthy! Reads good, and the photos are great.
    Now, if you’d just been sippin’ on your scoth like you should, then your idea of a coupe and theirs would have lined up all nice like. Then you’d really had a project.
    Pontiac should have made the chicken as big as the car, and maybe the paint would have lasted. And all these years I’d thought it was garishly ginormous.

  10. That patina on the transam’s hood looks unreal. The bird looks like it’s been through photoshop.
    But we all know the best photoshop is not done by a computer but by mother nature, specifically rust.

  11. Another nice read by you, Dearth! The pics are pretty damn cool, so the day wasn’t a total loss… for us! I sincerely hope you took the people responsible for calling a 5000 sedan a coupe to Hooniversity. How could they be so reckless?

  12. I love those farm auctions… the ad almost always has more hope than anything you will ever find lurking in the old fields and barns. Fantastic photos, good read.

  13. Dearthair, you car auction experience sounds similar to mine.
    Back in about 2002 I was still single and had a little extra cash or just good credit and saw an ad in Hemmings for a collector car auction that was going to be close by. There were several cars there that seemed interesting, especially a Ferrari 308. There was a 1970s Maserati Quattroporte, a Maserati Bi-Turbo, a 280SL Mercedes, a 190SL Mercedes, some 70s Corvettes with Greenwood body kits, a Shelby Mustang Clone, and a bunch of Excaliber type stuff. There was also going to be tons of tools and parts there too. I convince a buddy of mine to tag along, I take the day off work to go to the auction. I called the auction company ahead of time to confirm that it was going to be a NO RESERVE auction, always very important if you are looking for deals and I’m what the auctioneers call a “bottom feeder”. I’ll bid on the crap nobody else wants and maybe get a steal. I show up bright and early and register to bid. The auction folks tell me the seller has added a reserve to some items, uh-oh. This place looks like the estate sale for a pimp! The Quattroporte had a hole rusted through the middle of the hood, how does that even happen?! The wide-body C3 Vettes had been sitting in the weather for at least 20 years, the bass boat glitter paint was beyond faded and there were pools of water on the rear decks. About half the cars were basket cases, a few were in driver condition, and a few were nice. The only problem is that most of the nice cars were the pimpmobiles, 4 door Excalibers, dual rear axle conversion van, and the like. The 308 was actually fairly decent with some maintenance records. Overall this looked like an estate sale for a tasteless pimp. The Braque style house and all furnishings were going up for auction the next day.
    Well, the auction finally starts the 190SL, which was in great shape and the Shelby Clone get some decent bids, but not to the owner’s satisfaction, one of them might have sold. On the 308 they wouldn’t even accept a bid under $40k or something ridiculous. After no bids on the pimpmobiles the owner is starting to get agitated, the bidders don’t appreciate his rare cars. The auctioneer moves on to a newer model Suburban, he can’t get any bids around $20k, I try to bid $5k but they won’t take my bid. I thought this was supposed to be an auction! The owner is getting visibly irate. The auctioneer gives up on the cars and decides to move on to the parts and stuff. OK, maybe I can salvage SOMETHING out of this day. One of the fist lots is a set of 1960s Mustang hubcaps, they get bid up to $10 or $20. At this point the owner COMPLETELY loses it. He starts yelling and screaming and throwing the hubcaps. The auctioneer says, “sorry folks the auction is over.” After seeing one of the strangest collections of dilapidated pimpmobiles, sad exotics, and a few nice cars, I go home. The next week I get a formal letter of apology from the auction company. I’m pretty sure the auction company ended up suing the owner.
    I haven’t been to a “collector” car auction since. I love auctions, I’ve made a petty decent side business of going to a local auction and reselling on ebay.

    1. Damn, you’ve inspired me. I’ve got a little bit lying around nowadays–enough to be able to hit the drive-thru without logging into Capital One’s Online Banking, anyway…

    2. Good story.
      BTW, you know that is the same type of A*hole that puts that stuff on ebay with a reserve AT LEAST 5k over the max price you would pay…

      1. And that is just for the hubcaps.
        This guy was wanting what would have been full retain for a condition #1 car for a condition #4 or #5 car.
        He also just couldn’t understand why his EXTREMELY RARE 4 door Excaliber hadn’t APPRECIATED in value, He paid $100k, so it should be worth AT LEAST $125K.

  14. Wow. Nice collection of PCH. I really like the ’60 Pontiac grille. Next time, please show the rest of the cars, instead of juicy detail shots. Nice stuff, to be sure, but to see the complete car would be a lot more fun for conisseurs (sp?) de junk like myself. Sad, though, about all the dead Pontiacs, now just another orphan marque like Studebaker.

  15. Fantastic job. I would love to frame every one of those and put them up on the wall in the living room at the farm. Old skool is so cool.

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