In this series of posts, I am detailing what goes on as I complete the assembly of my restomod 1962 Pontiac with the LS3 Chevrolet Performance engine and six speed automatic trans. Almost every thing on the car except for the body and chassis is new. The object is to have a “new” high performance car that looks old and original.
For the most part, I have been able to purchase new factory or reproduction parts. However, there is one critical part set that I cannot purchase new, and that is the seats. I want seats that have the over-the-shoulder seat belts installed as part of the seat structure and not fastened to the roof or side structure. This is important because the car is a coupe and the seats must fold to allow access to the rear seat. As far as I know, only Buick and Cadillac had seats like that. The only place I know to get them is the junk yard. Pardon me – it is the “automotive recycling center” now in environmental speak.
I will explain what transpires when you enter the junk yard world.
Layout of the Facility
The junk yard is a huge field of assorted makes and models of cars in various states of degradation. You can find pristine cars that make you wonder why such a nice car is being scrapped, and then there are those you do not want to venture near as for sure people were injured or died in the mangled mess. Usually the yard will be loosely organized by major manufacturers with GM, Ford and Chrysler representing the major groups. There will also be a group of “foreign cars” such as VW, BMW and Mercedes.
A busy yard will have a constant stream of vehicles coming in. Think about it. If 15 million cars are sold, then within about 10 years, 15 million cars will have to be scrapped. That means that yard will fill up and old stock must be moved out. A big commercial yard may only keep a car for salvage about 60 days before it is crushed and shredded.
Rare old “classic” cars only exist in remote specialty yards, which are fast disappearing.
I live in a suburb of Denver, which being a big metro area, has many junk yards. It would be foolish of me to randomly visit them and search the lot for the exact seats that I need. Like every thing else in today’s world, you start a search on the internet. My car buddies tell me that 2001 through 2006 Cadillacs have the seats that I want. Fortunately the yards organize the inventory for searching by make, model and year. Such a search of the Colorado Auto Wrecking Yard, which is not very far from me, yields a total of three such cars.
I know this yard because I have been there several times. Other yards have some inventory of the 2001 through 2006 Cadillacs, but I will try the nearest one first. It is possible to go online and go to specialty sites that have access to the inventory of many yards all over the country from which they solicits bids for your part. Finding just what I want in Amarillo, Texas would not be helpful to me as I would have to pay for removal and shipment of seats whose condition I really could not know. Not a good idea. Time to load up and go prospecting locally.
This junkyard, like most yards, has a Pull and Pay section where you go exploring, find what you want, remove it yourself, and then take it to the desk where you pay for it. The parts are priced by a menu type list: Engines, transmissions, alternators, etc. Power seats are $40 each. Some Pull and Pay yards will charge an admission fee to enter and very carefully inspect your equipment to prevent pilfering. Required equipment: SAE and metric wrenches, test battery, specialty sockets, pliers, screwdrives, sawzall, tool box, water and gloves, etc. Be sure to load up your pickup! In my younger days, I could ravage the cars by myself, but now I need the help of Dusty, his strong muscles and big pickup. Some yards have community wheel barrows or pallet trucks you can use to haul big parts. Otherwise you must bring your own hauler which, for smaller parts, can be your arms and legs. We loaded my old, all steel wheel barrow into Dusty’s big pickup. It was a necessity to have that.
Junkyard sociology and social customs lend a fascinating aspect to the junkyard experience. We went on Saturday morning, which is prime time for local scroungers. Probably more Spanish than English is being spoken. The Mexican mechanics are very business-like and go right to town searching and removing parts. It may be for their own car or a repair business that they operate. They have been here many times before.
Then there are the homeless and crackheads who search the trunks and interiors for items that can be sold or traded. They have a pathetic look about them as they prowl form row to row. You never leave your tools out of your sight. The junkyard employees are often not difficult to spot. They have a uniform which consist of dungarees and sweatshirts dyed in multiple shades of grease. On Saturday there are lots of hobbyists like me who find the part they want, but do not have a clue or the tools to remove it.
Mining the Gold
Since my top speed and slow speed are the same, Dusty goes on ahead and finds the cars that we hope have the seats. There are two Buicks and a Cadillac that have the seats I want. Only the Cadillac has the leather seats, which luckily are in a good off-gray color that will go well with my bright blue paint. The seats are in decent condition with no rips or tears and just some ground in dirt and normal leather wear cracks. They will cleanup nicely.
Dusty is a professional mechanic and knows how to access and remove the seats. What happens next could make you cringe. He rips out the carpet, snaps off plastic clad, and throws anything interfering on the ground; this is about two thousand dollars of vandal damage, which is expected and authorized. In about 30 days, this car will be in in bits and pieces shredded by the crusher in the next block.
We load the wheelbarrow trudge back to the main building where I fork over $80 for the seats. Our junkyard raid is a big success.
This requires a two beer celebration.