As my friend and I made our way down pine-covered trails, gazing at rows and rows of abandoned American cars and other rusting machinery at the Old Car City in White, Georgia, she quipped, “This junkyard could be any yard in the South.”
Although we had a good laugh, we soon gave way to awe. This ain’t no Jethro yard with a car on blocks and an old fridge or two. The seven miles of trails at Old Car City contain roughly 4,400 old cars as well as other deteriorating items such as school buses, wagons, milk trucks, bicycles and pieces of autos, including the pile of transmissions we passed or the artsy assemblage of headlights (see below). There are even wind chimes created from pipes and hubcaps! Owner Dean Lewis claims Old Car City is the world’s largest classic car junkyard, attracting 6,000 visitors in 2016.
It’s really not a junkyard; Lewis doesn’t sell any parts. What he does sell is the experience. Admission is $25 to visit with a camera, $15 without. And if you’re wondering why photo enthusiasts are penalized, the property and its patina-colored autos can be considered by some to be a work of art. Lewis thinks so and claimed as such on a CBS Sunday Morning segment in 2015 titled “Rust and Roots.” You can watch the interview here.
Old Car City began as a car dealership in 1931 by Walt and Lucille Lewis, who later began selling car parts. Dean Lewis grew up among the relics and spent years hauling cars to the site. Later, he saw the acreage of rusted Americana as an attraction and today, it’s run by Dean Lewis and his son, Jeff Lewis and daughter, Tracy.
And if that’s not weird enough, there’s a painted Styrofoam cup collection upstairs in the main building.
Old Car City is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Be sure and stop in at Wes-Man’s restaurant across the street, which has an old truck of its own, one that’s repainted constantly to wish patron’s Happy Birthday (visit on your birthday and ask for your sign on the truck.) You might also recognize it from “The Fundamentals of Caring,” a 2016 film starring Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez. You can spot the restaurant and Old Car City in the background when the actors walk out into the restaurant’s parking lot. Check out the trailer by clicking here.
Cheré Dastugue Coen is a food and travel writer living in South Louisiana who is the author of several Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire and the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.