I have seen almost every kind of car collections – from hot rods to exotic cars and everything in between. Most collections however, could be very predictable – you will always find a shiny red Ferrari, or a Pro-street Camaro with an engine bay clean enough for you to clearly see your own reflection. However, there is a collection of cars that I once read from an old car magazine that was interesting enough that I included it on my car junkie bucket list. More than 4000 cars. Yes, that many. However don’t expect to find some clean cars here – nothing shiny and the chromes are all dead from the elements.
It was an unexpected trip, but once again I found myself in the middle of another unfamiliar city for some work-related event. I’m in Atlanta, Georgia, the main city closest to this unusual museum. So after the whole work deal was done, I extended another day, jumped to a Hyundai rent a car and drove off 50 miles north.
Old Car City USA is claimed to be the largest junkyard in the world. It’s in a very old provincial town in Georgia close to the border of Tennessee. But unlike other junkyards, the cars in this collection are not for sale – well sort of – everything has a price they said, however many who attempted to buy something left disappointed and empty handed as prices could be so high it would not make sense to acquire anything.
Old Car City USA started in 1931, when the family of the present owner Dean Lewis opened a business that sells practically everything – from clothing to car parts. During the World War II, when parts became very difficult to find because most went to military supplies, the family came up with the idea of junkyard – selling used car parts salvaged from different vehicles. Fast forward to 1970, when the Lewis Family had been doing some other business, Dean acquired the junkyard with something else in mind – to build an unusual collection.
Dean like many of us is a car junkie. He was given a 1940 Ford by his Dad when he was 12 and since then, he fell in love with old cars. Interestingly, that love affair with cars prompted him to save as many junks as he could from the crasher – some still in salvageable conditions, others are way beyond restoration. 4000 + cars later – the Old Car City USA – a junkyard that Dean calls a museum was born.
This junkyard has been the subject of debate among the car restorers’ community. Some love the idea, others abhor it accusing Dean as a big hoarder of a lot of historically important cars that should have been restored – instead of letting it sit in the middle of the woods to slowly die as nature creepily reclaims them. I am not taking any sides as both parties always have valid arguments however, I can only tell you objectively how I felt as I walked through the gate – bittersweet. I was elated and sad at the same time but I can’t deny the fact that the setting is so picturesque, it’s enchanting. Not only is this a car junkie ground, it is a photographer’s paradise as you see nature entangling with the old cars in a very artistic way.
The museum is in the middle of the woods and the cold Georgia autumn weather makes the whole experience chilling, you’d think you are in the middle of the set of Blair Witch Project – yes, it’s that creepy and with 6 miles of endless trails, it is so easy to get lost. Cars however were arranged according to makes so that could be a good way to find your trail back. Although initially it was just myself and a couple of other people touring the 34 acre woods, soon more and more people have been showing up, many of them belong to photography clubs.
Whether it’s a waste of classics, or just an odd way of preserving them, it’s up to you. For me, crossing it off my bucket list was the object. I would admit it is painful to see a bunch of cars I so badly want to own rotting back to nature but this place is a Car Junkie Disneyland and the owner is really cool and so is his odd way of preserving history.
Happy Lumang Oto Motoring folks!