Car Parts Hunter - Torrens 401

By: Glenn Torrens

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parts hunter parts hunter

Glenn Torrens discovers simplicity and efficiency can sometimes be a long way from each other

Recently I mentioned how much fun I was having looking for parts for my Commodore restoration. Raiding wrecking yards - and checking out Ebay and various Facebook pages for parts - is something I enjoy and many enthusiasts reckon collecting bits for a project can be just as much fun, as driving the completed car!

Anyhow, there’s a wrecking yard that I used to visit regularly (probably once per month) in Sydney before I tree-changed about 10 years ago. It was a big yard with hundreds of cars racked up in rows, all safely perched on stands created from wheel rims welded together so you could get under the cars to rip out engines, gearboxes, suspension…whatever.

At the time, I had a 1997 EL Ford Fairmont Ghia daily-driver and a couple of VW Beetles. The Fairmont was just a typical decade-old daily driver worth maybe five grand. Its original dampers were weak when I bought it so I visited this wrecking yard and scrounged around for a good second-hand set of recently-dated Monroes. My Beetles, too, were the recipients of some second-hand parts including disc brakes that, with the help of a machinist mate, I adapted to the VW’s rear hubs.

As they have been for decades all around the world, the cars at this wrecker were lined-up with similar models. The newer Holdens were on the right; the recent Fords on the left, with the progressively older stuff – stretching back to HQ Holdens and XA Falcons and sometimes even earlier – toward the middle of the yard. Down the back was the Datto and Toyota stuff, plus the Valiants, Volvos and Volkswagens.

When you arrived at this place, you’d pay your $2 entry fee and grab a wheelbarrow to carry your tools in and, later, parts out. With all the same-model cars stacked side-by-side, it was easy to scope-out what you needed: seats, shocks, steering wheels, engine parts, drive-shafts, brake discs…whatever. You’d simply walk the row your model was in – for instance, EF-EL Falcons – inspect a car for parts and, if it didn’t have what you wanted, you’d take two steps sideways and check out the next Falcon.

It was easy!

And you might surprise yourself by discovering a gem or two, even if it wasn’t what you came looking for, as I did one Friday afternoon when I visited simply to avoid a Sydney traffic jam.

As I walked through the gate, I saw a VW Beetle being fork-lifted into the yard… The dead blue Bug had a super-desirable roll-back rag-top Britax sunroof and a choice set of aftermarket coil-over struts, worth about a grand. I knew those fancy bits would be gone soon after sunrise the next morning so despite being dressed in a suit and tie, I grabbed my spanners to own those juicy bargains!

It was fun!

And then, one day, everything changed. Instead of having all the (for instance) Commodores racked side-by-side; cars of the same model were now being scattered around the yard at random. The signs saying 80s FORD and VB-VL COMMODORE were replaced with signs saying ROW A, ROW B… To find parts, you had to consult a list at the front gate, write down the rows your chosen model of car were in, then walk around the entire yard looking for those single cars stacked in random rows.

After 20 minutes of criss-crossing the yard looking for a few ten-buck parts (I think I was chasing seat adjusting knobs that day) I gave up. The time-honoured and simple activity of scrounging for parts had become a marathon!

On my way out, I asked the bloke behind the counter what the hell was going on. He smiled and said the new system was designed to be ‘more efficient’…

I’ve never been back!

What do you reckon? What’s the most frustrating ‘system’ (eg: at a shop or show) you’ve experienced when working on cool cars? Let us know at



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