1957 Pontiac Transcontinental
12 Images

Junkyard treasures

By Joni Gray, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

One man’s dream -- another man’s junk pile.

Phil Skinner, the editor of Kelley Blue Book’s Official Guide for Early Model Cars, has an insider’s view of auctions and rare collector finds. Recently, he traveled to Shawnee, Okla., where he was allowed a tour of Ray Utter’s 50-acre collection of rusting collectibles. Utter has long been rounding up these forgotten relics of the road, hoping one day to fix them up and put them back on the road.

Now, with Utter in his autumn years and in failing health, his prospects are daunting. Skinner takes us on a pictorial tour of the property and some of the more interesting vehicles that nature is busy reclaiming.

1957 Pontiac Transcontinental wagon

In the 1950s, Pontiac was out for a bigger slice of the station wagon pie and added huge amounts of bright trim to do the trick. The Transcontinental was bold and powerful and included every accessory of the day. After discharging its last passenger, this rare wagon, one of just 1,856, was put out to pasture and caught a couple of stray bullet holes in the windshield, never to ply the highways again. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1951-53 Austin A40 saloon

In the early postwar years, England looked to America as an export market for its automobiles. One car that many hopes were hung on was the Austin A40 Saloon. The car, nestled away, waiting to once again hit the road, still has its delicate hood ornament intact. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
Beware of the junkyard cow

Poaching of parts is always a problem for those who run operations where vintage cars are dismantled, and one of the most feared creatures alive is the junkyard dog. Here at this secret yard, the main security system is Bossie. She has been known to chase off strangers with a vengeance, at least when the owner isn’t around. On our visit, only the grass that grew near a pair of classics, a Packard and a Pierce-Arrow, was in danger from Bossie. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1951-57 Jaguar Mark VII saloon

Britain’s Jaguar built more than sports cars in the 1950s. Shown here is the large, luxurious Mark VII saloon. The car exemplified Jaguar’s motto of “Grace, Space and Pace,” as the company provided an elegant, sure-footed and comfortable ride and cars that were quite popular on rally-road race circuits.
-- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1947-51 Playboy

Until we saw this example of a Playboy retractable-top coupe, we knew these cars only from their being in the “Obscure” listing of automotive encyclopedias. Midget Motor Co. was headed up by two former automotive executives, one from Packard and the other from Pontiac. The Playboy was powered by a small inline four-cylinder 91-cubic-inch engine. Today, nobody knows exactly how many were made, but the word “rare” aptly applies to this unique junkyard treasure. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1960s Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia coupe

The Karmann-Ghia coupe offered something unusual when first introduced in the mid-1950s -- economy with style. The car, powered by the same sometimes-anemic four-cylinder engine that powered the little Beetle, was designed in Italy by Ghia and constructed in Germany by Karmann -- thus the model name. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1928 Lincoln Judkins sedan/
movie camera truck

It started life as a luxury sedan but was converted in the early 1930s to serve as a platform for cameras, lights and other clamp-on filmmaking equipment. It has been resting in this yard for more than 20 years -- the owner told us that it still runs -- but really deserves to be in a museum dedicated to the history of the cinema. Ahh, if only this car could talk.
-- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1950 Buick Super four-door sedan

“Built like a Buick!” They were big and bold, and with powerful straight-eight engines, Dynaflow transmissions and supple, luxurious interiors. It was almost like owning a Cadillac for those who didn’t want to be quite as conspicuous about their consumption. Back then, owning a Buick was the way to go, and there really was a difference. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1962 Chevrolet Greenbriar minivan

One of the most infamous events in the history of consumer protectionism is the consumer warfare Ralph Nader waged, proclaiming the rear-engine version of the Chevrolet Corvair unsafe. The bad publicity tarnished the Corvair’s sales ultimately causing GM to shut down production of the vehicle. Not many people remember the companion to the Corvair, the Greenbriar. Like the passenger cars, it was powered by an air-cooled, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. Today, finding one of these vans is a rare treat. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1956 Cadillac Coupe de Ville hardtop

Long considered the “Standard of the World,” Cadillac was always the style leader for General Motors. Though many people point to the growing rear tailfins these cars sported in the latter part of the 1950s, a more prominent element of style was the projectile-like chrome bumper guards. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1946 Dodge Canopy Express 3/4-ton truck

Into the early 1960s, a part of the American suburban scene were local fruit and vegetable vendors who often brought their wares right up to your street corner in the back of a special pickup called a Canopy Express. -- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)
1952 Hudson Hornet coupe

When this school of design was first released, Hudson made everyone take notice. For the first time in automotive styling, the passenger floor was actually below the top of the frame, a step-down envelope. Hudson capitalized on this feature and encouraged customers to “Step up to a step-down,” which a good number of dedicated car buyers did.
-- Phil Skinner (Phil Skinner)