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Emeryville California Automobile Scrap Yard 1971

Today’s featured images by Nick De Wolf were taken at a scrap yard in Emeryville, CA, located north of Oakland, CA in August of 1971. This set of photos is similar to those taken at about the same time by freelance photographers of salvage and scrap yards for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Documerica Project that have been posted here earlier.

The great majority of the cars visible in this Scrap Yard date from the late-1940s to the mid-1960s and apparently were all prepared for recycling on-site by running them through a metal shredder. After processing the metal was loaded onto train gondola cars with other scrap.

Share with us what you find of interest in these photographs and others found via that are visible at the Nick De Wolf photo archive.


42 responses to “Emeryville California Automobile Scrap Yard 1971

  1. Too many mixed emotions looking at these piles of (otherwise) beauties. Like watching your mother-in-law sail off the side of a tall bridge in your new Porsche.

  2. In the 3rd photograph [2nd expandable picture], on the far right & approximately 3rd from the bottom of the pile, is a light-green, four-door, 1957 BUICK, which looks like it may be a Special.

  3. I’ve seen these before. It seems like many sites use these as a punch in the gut from our past. While most of us stare in disbelief, these were just everyday cars, replaced by more everyday cars. Unlike today, junkyards dotted the landscape. The only difference in these pictures from most yards, is there’s no rust. The car that garners the most attention is the Buick in the 2nd pic, with it’s big toothy grin( that someone today would love to have ) despite the carnage all around it on top of what had to be the only Studebaker Lark in California.

    • I do sometimes wonder if the people who get upset by the waste in these pictures are out there saving as many 10-year-old Toyotas as they can.

  4. In the Lead Photo, in the lower left corner and above I see a ’59 Buick, a ’57 Olds, a ’59 Chevy next to a ’61 or ’62 Buick Special, a white ’62 Chevy Biscayne next to a ’62 Ford Galaxie, possibly an upside down black ’62 Dodge, a white ’56 Plymouth, a ’57 Pontiac Chieftain Safari.
    Moving to the center of the stack, at the bottom possibly a white ’61-’63 Rambler American, a bluish ’63 Cadillac with a brown ’60 Ford above, a pair of pale blue ’57 Chevys, one an obvious Bel Air sedan, a green ’59 Olds, likely a Fiesta wagon, a tan ’63 Chevy, a tan ’63 Pontiac and a red ’62 Galaxie.
    Lower right at the bottom and above, a ’59 Chevy a yellow ’47 Chevy, a white ’58 Chevy, a red ’62 Falcon, a white ’60 T-bird, a pale blue ’58 Chevy, a red ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 and a ’54 Chevy on top.

    • I believe the black upside down car underneath the 57 Pontiac wagon is a Studebaker Lark.

      I wonder what kind of shape these cars were in before they got stacked and piled on top of one another. Some worse than others, of course, but that white 60 Thunderbird looks pretty straight to me even after the junkyard mistreatment. Like others have said, how sad to see so many cool cars, some restorable, but many at least great parts cars, just squished into scrap metal.

  5. In Item 1 of 2, of interest in the lower center, a pale blue ’58 Buick with a two-tone ’56 DeSoto above. From the left side a ’63 Ambassador wagon, a ’56 Cadillac, a ’59 or ’60 Lark, a ’50 Buick with a ’57 Dodge and ’55 DeSoto above and beside a stack of a turquoise1st-gen Corvair sedan, a white ’58 Fairlane 500 and a ’54 Bel Air. On top a ’59 AMC wagon.

    In Item 2 of 2, lower left a red and black ’56 Pontiac. Near the bottom of the right stack, a pale green ’57 Buick Roadmaster 75 4-door Riviera with an ivory ’58 Impala Coupe a bit above. At the top of the stack a red and white ’59 Olds, a light blue and white ’56 Olds with a light blue ’55 Olds 88 above with a green ’59 Plymouth to the right and a light blue ’59 Dodge to the left.
    In the distant stack a white ’58 Cadillac, an upside down ’59 Chevy and what appears to be a ’56 Buick Estate wagon

  6. Emeryville is the eastern landfall of the San Francisco Bay Bridge between Oakland and Berkeley…this is probably the Judson Steel Scrap Yard, easily seen off I-80 until the late ‘70s. Emeryville’s population remained static from 1910 into the 1970s, as it was mostly industrial with just a scattering of homes and a lot of gambling houses and bordellos. Chief Justice Earl Warren referred to it as “the rottenest city on the Pacific Coast.
    By the ‘70s the industry was largely gone and Emeryville, now the western terminus of Amtrak, has large shopping centers and apartment/condo complexes with a population of about 12,000.

  7. We get all wistful now but at the time they were just scrap. Here in Minnesota they would have all been riddled through and through with rust. I remember all of the headlights falling out of the 55-58 GM cars. The salty slush would pack in above the headlights inside the fender. AMC cars rusted out behind the front wheels real bad. Fords would end up with the quarter panels flapping in the wind and loose items like jacks and occasionally a spare tire falling out the trunk. Most of the cars in the heaps are 4 doors and clapped out wagons. Lots of great parts on them and it is a shame those are gone but who could have saved them until they became worthwhile again?

    • I’m glad that you were able to identify that particular car as virtually all the rest in the picture I could recognize within a year or two but that one had me stumped. So I checked the internet and it is indeed a 1957 Pontiac station wagon, a Star Chief Safari to be more exact.

  8. The Impala was not available for the tri-five Chevies (55,56,&57) in came back for the 1958 year models. From 1955 thru 1957 the models were the 150, the 210, and the Bel-Air (Nomads were Bel-airs)

  9. As a child growing up around my fathers salvage yard in the 60’s and 70’s these images are all too familier. I agree with Will about the mixed emotions viewing these pictures. I recognize most of the vehicles in the stacks. What’s really hard for me is seeing the condition of the cars about to be shredded. At least when these cars came to our yard in Wisconsin they were rusted out.

  10. There is a similar photo in one of my old college textbooks. Probably taken in the late ’60s it prominently shows a ’57 Chevy convertible.

    Despite their heavy construction compared to today’s cars, they didn’t have as long a life.

    • Hi John, I bet many of these cars all had mechanical problems. I remember for a spell, northern US motors were in high demand in hot weather climates.

  11. There was a large junkyard just like this that we used to drive by every time we went to my grandparents’ house in North Dakota. I was always fascinated by it. And it was exactly this era.

  12. Most yards today are referred to as wrecking yards. Most of if not all are accident vehicles. There’s one in Tampa where my Lincoln MKZ wound up and many of them including my Lincoln are auctioned off and repaired carrying a rebuilt title. The unrepairable are quickly recycled.

    • Perusing the auctions on the Copart site near me, it’s surprising to see the number of wrecked vehicles (SUVs mostly) where the winning bids come from Africa, SE Asia and the MIddle East. Remember the incident a couple years ago where the plumber traded in his pickup and it later wound up in a news photo as a “tactical” in Iraq or Syria with his company’s name and phone number still on it?

  13. Judson Steel, just east of I-80 in Emeryville. Used to drive past it almost every day. As a little kid car nut it fascinated me, though even then I didn’t like seeing them crushed and shredded.

  14. Oh my. That is painful indeed to see. Any one of those ‘scrapers’ could have been resurrected as a NASCAR replica
    to the joy of many of us who remember the days when many a wreck (or two) were raced.

  15. Judson Steel had a steel mill by the 80 /580 interchange. Earl M. Jorgenson had a mill south of there. There were other mills nearby in Oakland and Berkeley. This scrap heap was right along the freeway. I’m not certain that it was part of Judson but thier business was grinding and pulverizing metal, loading it into gondolas and shipping it out by rail. Right next door was All Foreign auto wreckers which was a retail yard.

  16. If the cars heaped up there in 1971 were instead running and uncrushed they would have represented a cross section of the local used car market ranging in price from $25 to $500 depending on the quality of the tires. There were many small used car dealers in the bay area that specialized in cheap used cars. They advertised in the San Francisco Chronicle and I always scanned their ads grouped by price point, cars for $49, for $99, for $199, $299 etc. I never bought any but I found some decent cars. There was really a big surplus of used cars at that time.

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