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Philly Junk Yard: 1930s Cars Scraped and Crushed Into Bales

The lead photo and the enlargeable views of it below were taken early in 1943 somewhere in or around the City of Philadelphia. The cars and trucks pictured here were turned into a World War II Scrap Drive, and are staged for the first part of the process where the drivetrain and front axles are cut out of the vehicles. Often the hulks were set on fire to burn out the interior, wood and other non-metallic parts. The final part of the operation seen in the last photo is to crush the bodywork into easy to handle cubes for transport to a steel mill.

The main images contain mostly run-of-the-mill vehicles, but a few stand out in this forlorn group that will soon be transferred into another form. These vehicles are a 1936 or ’37 Cadillac town sedan, a convertible coupe which may be a Hudson, and a circa-1930 hearse on a long-wheelbase chassis behind a large sedan in the background. The Cadillac is fitted with very attractive close-coupled coachwork and appears to share some of the design characteristics of the Fleetwood Series 90 V-16 powered offerings, but appears to have a shorter V-8 style of hood than the top-of-the-line models.

Tell us what you find of interest in the photos courtesy of PhillyHistory. 

  • Enlargeable views of the Philadelphia area scrap yard.

  • Bailed up automobile bodywork and sheet metal below ready for a trip to a steel mill.

 

19 responses to “Philly Junk Yard: 1930s Cars Scraped and Crushed Into Bales

  1. Kind of a latter day “Cash for Clunkers”. ( some nice cars were sacrificed for that, including 2 Excaliburs, I read) It’s amazing what we did for the war drive, it literally touched everyone’s lives. We gawk today at the carnage of these cool old cars, but truth be known, most of it was junk, sort of like the “CfC” program. But these cars were for a very worthy cause, “CfC” program, who knows who benefited there.

  2. I well recall the scrap metal drives of WW II where we were asked to bring anything metalic to the big scrap pile in town to be recycled “for the war effort”. Much of merit and value including automobiles was donated and lost to history. It was the patriotic thing to do.

  3. I am just 60 but I remember all the muscle cars in the scrap yards in the 70s. I took parts off a 66 charger, a 69 Camaro RS/SS, etc. I remember the rows of Corvairs, etc. Lots of 50s cars were in the scrap yards then. Most were really rusty in Minnesota. It is a never ending story. In 40 years young guys will lament all of the Honda Civic SI and Subaru WRX that got scrapped!

    • You might be right. I saw a Chrysler K-car minivan on the Hershey show field last year. I guess at 25 years old, it qualifies. But you can have them. The Hondas and Mitsubishis too. But will today’s kids even care? Do they even have a mild passion for cars?? Or will they be riding in autonomous cars and UBER?

      • There are definitely car crazy youngsters out there. It is tougher for them to buy cars with the cost and insurance and stagnant wages. I frequently bought and drove sub $100.00 cars in my youth. My insurance was under $100 a year. That is a near impossibility now. Yet there are plenty of young people into tuner cars, hot rods, customs, mustangs, exotic cars, etc. They don’t seem to get into Brass era cars, however! 🙂

  4. Honestly.. I see one car in this picture that would be of value today, the 32 (ish?) Ford Roadster w/fenders – but this was pre-hot rodding culture so of course it’s scrap.

    Also, the comment above about young people not being into old cars.. they really are, and maybe it seems less because they aren’t into 50’s-70’s cars, but if they’re into 80’s, 90’s cars they are in fact vintage … gasp! And the kids are into them (as well as 50’s – 70’s!).

    As brass era cars go.. I think that has always been a special kind of person no matter their age!

    JC

  5. Cars in the ’30’s (and actually well into the ’50’s) were often mechanically shot after 40 or 50k miles. That so many were lost to scrap drives – which BTW helped the Allies win the war – probably made the survivors more valuable and collectible.

    The fact is that pre-war car values remained pretty low well into the ’60’s and ’70’s. In 1960 I bought a 1939 Ford Convertible Sedan for $300 and the next day my Dad (I did not have a license yet!) drove it from Ohio to N. J. That $300 was easily within reach of a 15-year-old high school sophomore who made money mowing lawns!

  6. Truth be told, these cars were not only junk, they were probably worthless. Gasoline and tires were rationed and in the middle of metropolitan city with good public transportation, they were not really needed. Rationing of fuel and tires meant that the big gasoline hungry luxury cars were the most vulnerable to being junked. Best to “export” them to Germany or Japan. Even so, the photo is somewhat shocking as the cars really are not that old and appear to be in decent shape.

    As to who benefited from “Cash for Clunkers”. When the program started, the local Chrysler dealer had not sold a new car in six weeks. When it ended, they had sold everything on their lot and everything they could get their hands on. I’d say the American economy was the winner.

    Bill

  7. Lots of METAL from those scrapped autos. Nowadays, recycling an automobile is not so much metal….maybe even more plastic, fiberglass and other man made materials than you realize.

  8. In 1944 my father and his brother saved their great-uncle’s 1914 Apperson from the scrap drives. The scrap dealers had been been putting a lot of pressure on the two maiden-lady daughters to do their patriotic duty. They decided that they’d rather that “the boys get daddy’s car” than have it turned into bombs. The price was what the scrappers had offered: $18.00. That money, and considerably more, went into war bonds – the sisters did their duty. We still have the car, too.

    • Interesting – i just found an Apperson Jackrabbit step plate that was partially cut down. Looks like they were made from 1909-16 or so.

  9. Yes during the war is when we lost almost all of our old classic automobiles. Even in my teens I had an interest in old cars. We had one junkyard in St Cloud, MN that was run by a Jew. He had the most interesting old cars of all the junkyards in the area.
    I hardly had a dime in my pocket so couldn’t purchase anything. One automobile still is embedded in my mind however. Always curious about old cars, I have never been able to identify one terrific old car in the 30’s that I drooled over. It was obviously a very expensive auto when produced. I remember the large straight eight engine with the words either “REO or RED RAIDER” cast into the side of the block, and if I remember correctly, the engine was also painted red. The rear had very expensive furnishings and also had a very unique expensive bar for drinks.
    I still would like to know what the automobile was. Yes I did search the automobile REO but as far as I could tell, they never made such an expensive automobile. Had large wire spoke wheels but not sure of that anymore but they were impressive also for some reason. Everything about the car was impressive. Sure curious what car it was. If anyone can verify an auto with the words REO or RED RAIDER cast into the straight eight engine block, please let me know.
    Lee Noga

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