Merced County Times Newspaper
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Stop and appreciate those scrapper-bound cars

Motor Musings: A Column by Doane Yawger

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Doane Yawger
Doane Yawger

It’s always fun to check out cars — muscle cars, classic cars, modern cars, flat cars.

Flat cars?

Yes, my enjoyment of all things automotive extends to flattened cars laying forlornly on a flatbed truck, on their way to a junkyard or scrapyard. I get a kick out of seeing cars and trucks even in a pretty much unrecognizable form.

Periodically I see a flatbed with a load of a roughly a dozen flattened cars and trucks parked temporarily before their last journey to the scrapper. The other day there were about four stacks of crushed cars, with their design features obliterated, on that truck bed.

There was writing on the body panel of one vehicle identifying it as a GMC Yukon. The distinctive egg crate grille with a Chevrolet logo in the middle identified another hulk as a Chevy Cavalier. Otherwise I’d just be guessing on the make of the cars. Many cars seemed to be foreign compact sedans.

Our cars and trucks lead a rough life under uncertain circumstances. I was surprised to learn from the Department of Transportation that one million cars are scrapped each year and the average age of cars on the road today is about 11 years.

That means many of the cars we see today were built in 2008; I have new respect for those surviving vehicles that have somehow exceeded their life expectancy.

I have to wonder what led to the demise of some of these cars. It likely means many of these cars were in accidents which makes you want to drive even more safely than you do already.

Looking at a load of flattened cars is my equivalent of working a very difficult jigsaw puzzle or word scramble. The pancake-style crushers or compactors that flatten a car down to just a couple feet high do a splendid job of blurring its identity. The car’s roof, front and rear grilles and bumpers seem to be swallowed up inside what’s left of the vehicle.

One notices the modern door handles mounted flush with the doors. Only one older-style door handle with its chrome handle extension was visible and the tip had been broken off in the crushing trauma.

Another car still had its curved reflectorized warning strip along the side. It obviously wasn’t worth the trouble of retrieving this still-usable trim piece before flattening. I saw an upholstered corner of a car’s seats and the headrest sticking out amongst the twisted sheet metal.

Most all of these cars still have their suspensions, tires and wheels, a few still sporting their original hubcaps. I don’t notice many motors among the debris.

Flattening these worn-out cars makes it easier to transport them to the scrapyard. There they may be turned into a bale of metal ready for the blast furnace.

Another factoid of interest is that recycling metal uses 74 percent less energy than making new steel, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So the positive outcome of this situation is that these cars will emerge again at some point in time.

You often hear the admonition that you should stop to smell the roses. With me, that means checking out a trailerload of flattened cars along the side of the road.

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