Parts Run: Searching out old van parts in Arizona
Back in early 2021, my buddy Harry started telling me about this totally bitchin’ time capsule of a salvage yard he found just outside of Kingman, AZ. If you’ve read some of my earlier stories then you know junkyards are my jam. If you haven’t, well… yeah, junkyards are my jam. Anyways, he shot me over a few photos he had taken while he was at this junkyard and as soon as I saw them, I knew I needed to check this place out. It was just too good to pass up. Now the question was, when could I find time to head to Kingman, AZ just to check out a junkyard?
That’s roughly 5 hours and some change each way in the Battle Wagon (2001 Ford E350 cargo van) from Los Angeles, CA. It’s not like running over to Glendale or Pasadena. This was more like going to LAX during rush hour on a Friday. But with the ever-growing popularity of the van scene, parts that were easy to find 5 years ago are getting pretty tough to track down today. So a weekend junkyard run was starting to sound like a logical thing to do. We just had to make it fun.
A few months after talking to Harry about the yard, he posted this interesting little bar that had been installed in a custom van previously. It was up for sale on Face Book marketplace. By “bar” I mean the drinkin’ kind. You know, they were in a lot of custom vans back in the 70’s for “Entertainment” purposes. This was a pretty legit lil’ setup if I do say so myself; it looked to be out of a 2nd Gen Ford Van. The price was right so I just pulled the trigger on it. I figured I would be out that way sooner or later to check out that yard and I could just grab it then. Harry was cool with that, so I got him paid.
After that conversation and purchase, life just kept moving and I honestly forgot all about buying that bar. You know how it goes. Things come up, other things happen. We’ve all been there. (No, Matt, we have NOT all bought a bar for a custom van and forgotten about it — Ed.) That’s pretty much how it went for me until October of 2021. I got a message from Harry on FB thankfully reminding me about the bar. Honestly if he hadn’t messaged, I’d have never been the wiser. He said he was going to be back in Lake Havasu late January to pack up all his stuff and take it back to Texas with him where he was now living. January is actually a fine time to be in Arizona, so I put it on the calendar. We were making this run. First Lake Havasu, then onto Kingman to check out that junkyard. The trip was locked in.
I was totally excited to get out to Arizona and see what this yard had to offer. From what Harry said, it had quite a few vans in it. He saw some early vans (pre 70’s), some 2nd Gen Fords (1968-1974), Mid Dodges, especially pre 1979 and 3rd Gen Fords and Chevys. In particular, 1971-1977 3rd Gen Chevys, which are really what I’m into. To see a junkyard with more than one of these in it is getting unheard of anymore. Here in Southern California you’ll see one here and one there, but they’re stripped fast and crushed shortly thereafter. These Arizona yards look to be old school, where they don’t scrap the car till it has nothing left to give. That’s rare these days and I’m seriously grateful for it.
There it was, Friday, Jan 28th. We’re planning to head out to Lake Havasu early the morning of Saturday, Jan 29th. Everything was set. We’d take our time driving to Havasu, stop and check stuff out along the way, get there that afternoon, grab the bar from Harry, then head to the junkyard with him to check it out. After that, find a hotel for the night. Then if the yard was really that good (fingers crossed), we could hit it again in the morning. That would still give us time to be back on the road Sunday afternoon, getting back to L.A. early Sunday evening. Nice little weekend. It was a good plan. Was a good plan, WAS…
We got up early on Saturday and hit the road. It was a perfect morning to get outta town. Clear skies, good forecast, we were excited to go. Everything was going to the plan. About half way to Lake Havasu, around 9 AM we got a message from Harry. It said, “I tracked down the junkyard… they are closed today and tomorrow”.
Well, we were too far into the trip to turn back now. All we could do was keep going, get there and see what we could find. We could still swing by the junkyard and see if it was actually closed when we got to Kingman. So when we arrived in Havasu, we took a minute and called and they were definitely closed until Monday. Now what? We searched out the cheapest decent hotel we could find in Lake Havasu for the night, checked in, got online and started digging around. We figured we’d see if there were any other salvage yards around the area. We could hit others while we were there waiting for the main reason we traveled all this way to open on Monday morning. Nope, pretty much everything was closed until Monday morning. It was like being back in the 1950’s. So we killed time in Havasu all Sunday morning, checking out antique shops and really anything we could find open. Then we got on I-40 East and headed down the road another hour to Kingman, AZ.
We just wanted to find a room for the night and figure out where the junkyard was so we could be there right when they opened at 8 AM Monday morning. We were already out on the road an extra day so we had to make the best of it and try to make sure we were back Monday evening at the latest.
I was watching the GPS on my phone as it guided us to the address that Harry gave us for the salvage yard. Originally he had planned to go with us, but he had an eighteen hour drive back to Dallas, TX himself and he had to get on the road.
5 miles, 2 miles, half a mile, there it was. As I saw the sign for the junkyard, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had driven past this place prolly more than two dozen times on cross country road trips. Every time I thought to myself “I gotta get in there!” but was never able to stop. Not this time. Things had just gotten very very exciting for me. After a decade of driving by this place, I was finally gonna get in there. So we found a hotel, got some Arby’s, watched “Roadhouse” on the FREE CABLE TV and turned in early. We had an early rise ahead of us.
Monday morning we were up bright and early. We grabbed breakfast at Mr D’z Route 66 Diner, headed across the street to drive through the KINGMAN, AZ Route 66 sign, then moseyed on down to Dan’s Auto Salvage on Highway 66.
As we walked into the office of Dan’s, it was like a flashback to all the small independent junkyards I grew up going to when I was a teenager in Southern Illinois. I talked to the guys who ran the place and told them what I was looking for. They gave us run of the yard to go look and see what we could find. It was fantastic! We literally looked at every van they had — and most of the cars and trucks too.
I took pictures of the parts I was interested in then we went back to the office to make sure they would sell them and negotiate a price. The guys there were super cool and agreed to sell me everything I wanted except for one thing, which I was totally cool with. So we went to the Battle Wagon, grabbed tools and went to pulling the parts.
By the time we got everything pulled and paid for it was already 2 pm and we really needed to get on the road back to Los Angeles. We loaded the parts, put away the tools and headed West back home.
On the drive home we would randomly check the usual online sale sites like Craigs and Offerup to see if there was anything good. That’s how we scored a staggered set of 15×7 and 15×10 slot mags we just couldn’t pass up.
After we got home we unloaded our parts to see what all we grabbed on this trip. Not a bad little haul. A crank-out bubble window, a set of the elusive Chevy van step mats, a 3rd Gen Chevy slider extender which we needed for one of the project vans up in Washington, some mid Dodge sport mirrors, 71-84 deluxe Chevy / GMC tail lights, one custom van port window, the set of slot mags and last but not least, The Bar which helped instigate this whole adventure. With as tough as it’s getting to find these parts nowadays, this wasn’t a bad lil’ haul of parts at all.
You ever notice how the drive home always seems to take longer than the drive there? It’ll give you time to think about stuff — and that I did. When we started this adventure Saturday morning, I thought I was gonna check out an old junkyard my buddy had told me about and be back home the next day. On the drive home I smiled cause nothing had gone to plan and I’d gotten to check out a place I had been wondering about for well over a decade. It was just as cool as I’d hoped it would be… better, actually!