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Scrapyard bygone years – everything changes

Rob Clarke, an independent vehicle enthusiast and founder of Facebook group ‘Classic Car Scrapyard finds’, tells us how his visiting experience to scrapyards over the past 30 years has changed and how he thinks the reuse parts business will be conducted in the future.


Scrapyard bygone years - everything changes f
Rob Clarke in a late 80s Fiat 126

Everything changes over time, and scrapyards are certainly no exception.

The yards I used to trawl as a youngster are long gone. The experience of visiting a yard is quite different in this day and age.

I have lots of fond memories of exploring yards back in the 80s and 90s. They were like a playground to me. All car enthusiasts over the age of 40 probably have similar recollections.

During those days, I didn’t really think of a scrapyard as a ‘business’ as such. None of those I ever visited seemed very organised anyway. If I wanted a wing mirror for my Vauxhall Nova, it was £10 in hand, and a bloke covered in grease and oil would shove it into his overall pocket. I used to think about all the good cars that headed to the crusher, all with many useable parts on them. I would see it as a ‘waste of a good vehicle’, more than wasted potential earnings. The price of scrap has always fluctuated, but as there were so many yards in local proximity to where I lived, it must have been a very profitable trade – they obviously weren’t reliant on my odd tenner here and there for spares for the ‘old banger’ I was running at the time!

It was always my luck that the part I needed was on a car that was stacked 2 or 3 high. Fine if you are ‘Spiderman’ but not great for a young lad with a fear of heights. Despite my fear,  well, fear of the fall actually – I’d still climb up and try and snag it. You’d get used to the swaying of the pile after a little while, the only thing concerning you would be getting the damn bolts loose, but I would not be beaten, well, maybe a couple of times; I’d get fed up, especially after scratching myself on some damaged trim or whacking my knuckles against the cold metal, I’d then call it a day.

Scrapyard bygone years - everything changes p three

It’s a lot easier these days to retrieve a part from a yard; the tall stacks are gone due to health and safety laws but still, I miss them. It was part of the thrill, in a way. Many don’t even allow the public into their yards any more. You tell one of the workers what you want, and they go and get it for you, like a secondhand car parts version of ‘Argos’.

Yards are much more organised and efficient these days. Many have embraced the rise of the internet, and parts are available at the click of a button now. I find it quite amazing, really. You can search on eBay for a part for a 57 plate Ford Fusion, and there it is, 200 miles away in a scrapyard in Carlisle – it’s sent to your home and is fully guaranteed! Then a quick search on YouTube, and there’s a tutorial on how to fit it, step by step! Flawless hey? Well, not entirely. Anyone who has ever sold anything online will testify; it’s open to abuse.

On how many occasions does a yard send a part out only to get a message back a week or so later from the buyer to say that it doesn’t work, and then the buyer sends them the old broken part instead? Quite a lot, I’d imagine. It’s then a huge hassle to sort out, proving the item has been ‘switched’ and resolving the issue, so the yard is not out of pocket, and more often than not, the yard fails. It’s then up to the yard to protect themselves from this as best they can by watermarking their stock and stating this in the item description to ward off any ‘would-be scammers’.

I wonder what changes will happen in the future?. Whatever happens, I’m pretty certain that it will become more impersonal. I can’t really see future generations looking back with much fondness on scrapyard visits. They probably won’t believe for a minute that people risked life and limb climbing up stacks of rusty wrecks to get the part they wanted and lived to tell the tale!

To read Rob’s previous article in ATF Professional, where he takes a walk down memory lane of scrapyard etiquette of old.

To contact Rob, go to his Facebook groupClassic Car Scrapyard finds

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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

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