Car Storage Part 5: Let the Sh**box Parade Begin!

Matthew Anderson

In case you’re new to the ongoing saga of me being completely in over my head with cars, and now in decrepit real estate, let me offer a quick recap: I bought a defunct centenarian foundry in historic Statesville, North Carolina. I plan to fill it with my oddball, garbage cars. The path thus far has been neither easy nor straightforward, but I’m inching closer to my imaginary goal: a parade of my sh**box cars driving through town and into their new home.

After two days of sweeping the crusty floor, emptying the ex-municipal trash cans, and two trips to the scrapyard, my train of weird and deplorable vehicles was nearly ready to pull into this station. Though I very much wanted the en masse entrance of my dreams, it didn’t look promising. Due to the gradual nature of my cleanup efforts, a one-at-a-time approach—bringing the car to the foundry in piecemeal fashion—seemed most prudent.

Part of the foundry’s appeal is that it’s just a few minutes’ drive from my house. The first driving stint featured my fleet’s champion of both water solubility and moisture intrusion: a 1971 Citroen Ami 8. This one had been protected from the weather under cover of a mule barn at my house, and its ease of movement earned it immediate shelter privileges. Getting it to the foundry didn’t seem like it would be a real challenge. Other than the car’s tendency to gush fuel out of the fuel filler hose on left-hand turns with anything over 3/8ths of a tank, I didn’t have any major concerns.

I turned the ever-reliable ignition and bumbled my way down the road from my house, into the foundry property gates, over the drainage bridge, and through the main entrance. For the return trip home to get the next car, I found myself staring at a red, flat-tired, and fixed-gear hipster bike. Perfect for my next transport leg! At first, the Presta valves weren’t keen on taking new air but after I got PB Blaster and channel locks involved, the tires held air with merely a slight hiss. My first pitstop and mandatory celebration point would be Statesville’s defacto town hall—Red Buffalo Brewing—to replenish my hydration and proteins.

Sweeping and vacuuming, one bay at a time.Matthew Anderson

Next up to move was the Hobby 600—my space-shippy Fiat-based 1990s camper van. That one had been parked outside, in my yard. Each and every time it rained, my mind feared the future in which I’d have to one day fix water damage behind the carefully stitched headliner. Also, the diesel FWD drivetrain resting over its tiny front tires sometimes caused it to sink into the ground.

Being made out of aluminum honeycomb, the Hobby van might not seem robust but my experience proves otherwise. It drove over to the foundry without issue. However, I neglected to measure the size of the van’s doors, nor did I test driving inside the facility, before purchasing the storage property. I skated by, in the end. With a handful of inches to spare, I backed it under a precariously hanging double gantry. I walked home so as to not push my luck with the vehicle gods.

The universe was looking after me.Matthew Anderson

I figured the next up should be my quirky yet surprisingly unfussy ’58 Moskvich 407-1. How this car continues to run, drive, and stop with zero attention constantly baffles me. I chucked the fixie bike in its trunk, mostly full of East German roadside breakdown tools, and headed off.

It dawned on me, as I was pumping the brakes and bouncing down the road on cart springs, that after the Moskie things were about to get a lot more difficult.

Approved transportation modes from the Ministry of Ores and Ingots.Matthew Anderson

I won’t use the term “daunting” to describe the remaining vehicle moves, at least not yet. But here’s where things started to get more tedious. As you may have read, I pulled the radiator out of my Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk after it failed and stopped me from making it to work. Well, ol’ Rex at the radiator shop was still waiting on a core. Breaking out the tow dolly for such an insanely short ride seemed to me an admission of defeat. Attempting to be resourceful, I rummaged through my collection of radiator hoses, trying to find something to loop the upper and lower connections on the block and run things demo derby style.

Nothing that wouldn’t make contact with the fan turned up, and I really didn’t feel up to further disassembly for such a foolhardy cause.

Finally, I succumbed to the pressure, drove it up on the ratty blue dolly, and unloaded the Stude a totally lame 0.7 miles later.

Three down and how many to go?Matthew Anderson

And what was waiting for me there? That’s right, another immobile Studebaker! You’ll read more about my beautiful ’61 Lark Cruiser in future articles, so I don’t want to spoil things too much. I can say that it doesn’t run and has no brakes due to some of my own idiotic decisions. More on that later.

While we’re on the topic of dumb things, I remembered that my comealong was still dangling from the foundry’s rafters after hoisting and reuniting that ’87 Chevy 1500 bed with its cab. I dislike using ratchet straps as winches, but I despise running needless errands. So, click by click, on it went with my improvised winch and a scant six blocks later, off it came with the help of the park pawl and a brief tug of the trailer out from under.

Hmm, from up here it looks like some sweeping may still be needed.Matthew Anderson

A few weeks prior to discovering the foundry as a potential storage location, I made my annual soft commitment to turbocharge my Australian-market Holden VL Commodore. Doing so more in earnest for 2024, I started pulling apart the cooling system and realized that I had made a pretty serious error about five years ago.

At that time, I had filled the cooling system with water before moving to Germany. Once I returned to the U.S., I faced a long list of parts to order for the car, which were all sitting in my online shopping cart for months following the foundry happenings. This left the Commodore in a compromised position, with the cooling system completely open and dry. It was, however, mobile, and I was growing tired of using the dolly.

Long ago I had heard that it was possible to run a Studebaker V-8 without coolant for 45 seconds starting from room temperature. I know that advice isn’t totally pertinent to this Holden application, but I was willing to try anyway.

I rode over to the sock factory—my somewhat failed attempt at finding a local storage solution—on my bicycle of choosing and hopped into the Commodore. Avoiding the typically long warmup time, I cranked it out of there in a quasi-running state, with the clutch out. That spent three seconds. After slinging the factory the doors shut, I hopped back in the car, started again, and motored up past the farm and garden store, up to the stop sign, and left in front of First Presbyterian. Eighteen seconds of run time and then off. Seeing the light go yellow, I keyed off and coasted up to the next stoplight. If I could hit 30 mph and get lucky at the following light, I had a good chance of coasting to within 100 yards of the foundry. The 3.0-liter Nissan six roared through the signal, allowing me to key off and coast, only to unlock the steering column at 28 miles per hour and approach to the foundry gate. Off. Total time: 39 seconds. I used a further 10 seconds getting into the front bay, but I figured with all the on/off shutdowns I was probably still in keeping with the framework of oral tradition.

Please ignore the fraudulent Turbo badge.Matthew Anderson

Moving on. It was time to start transporting le French stuff. As long as I could keep the driver’s side window from breaking loose from its duct tape tethers and smashing itself to bits in the bottom of the door, the Renault GTA seemed relatively straightforward as my next candidate. Earlier, when I started it up to make sure it ran, a toasty smell and orange glow coming from a pile of acorns sitting on the catalyst flange caught my eye. But I’m pretty sure they burned all the way up.

The hurdles with the Renault were primarily bureaucratic, rather than mechanical. When purchasing a vehicle in North Carolina with an out-of-state title, some additional hoop jumping is required. Namely, one must guess when the local License and Theft Bureau of the DMV is open; it’s something like 2 hours in the morning on three days of the week and I can’t ever remember any specifics. Therefore, the Renault is still plateless and on its Connecticut title. (Obviously, it’s insured.) I figured a bit over a half-mile wasn’t going to invite any undue risk or attention from local law enforcement. I pulled my beloved yard-sale-find Masi Gran Corsa road bike out of the shed and chucked it in the back; under the cover of broad daylight, the trip took place without incident and I biked home yet again.

And with that, the important stuff is in.Matthew Anderson

At this point, I was starting to see serious progress both at the foundry and in what now looked like a far less crowded home garden! With solely a Wheel Horse and a Yamaha Chappy remaining at home, I believe the real winner of the sh**box triathlon was my wife, who now has room for her flowers.

Lest you worry I’ve gone soft, dear reader, you know I still have oddball vehicles sprinkled elsewhere in town. The move continues!

Matthew Anderson is a Carolina-based engineer with a penchant for backyard wrenching, weird and unloved cars, and crudely planned adventures, with a bit of harebrained world travel mixed in. We don’t ask him too many follow-up questions.


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    The continuing segments of this story is a lot like “The Elephant Man” – it scares me, yet I dare not look away.

    Your stories remind me of the long-gone Access Auto in Rochester, NY- a foreign-car junkyard inside an abandoned lumberyard.
    No VWs or Japanese cars there- the owner considered them “boring”. I bought one Volvo and many used parts there- and the collection of oddball cars there would rival yours. Sadly gone since the late ‘80s.
    Carry on!

    At first I thought 45 seconds without coolant was way too conservative, but then I had a memory of my early days driving some random V8 Mopar when it blew a lower radiator hose, and watching the temp gauge actually move toward “H” faster than the speedometer had ever moved! So yeah, 45 seconds is about right. I wish you were a little closer, I have a vehicle or 2 that I could add to your collection. Good luck to you Sir.

    I bet I could’ve gone a lot longer – no popping or crackling noises whatsoever.

    You are not alone…. Help is available now…. Just pick up the phone…. It’s not too late.

    My only time in North Carolina was a while at Ft Bragg, then headed back home in 1962 in the 60 Elva Courier.

    Was that the place on West Henrietta Rd, now Delta Sonic carwash? I went there once or twice for some foreign car parts that I cannot even remember. It seemed like they had everything if you asked

    Ross, Access Auto was in an old lumberyard building at Norton St. and Hollenbeck St. in the city. Everything was inside… all manner of cars that our author would love to own. It was closed down c.1990, and the building burned on July 4th 1992- I saw the smoke plume from 20 miles away. LOTS of stories from that place… Hillmans, Morrises, Renaults, Fiats, Isettas, Lloyd Alexanders, stroker Saabs, Volvos, English Fords, and a C-type Jaguar for a while.

    This resulted in a lot less fires and law enforcement interactions than anticipated. Try harder next time!

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