This past week, I was on a BMW/Mini-sponsored trip to drive some Mini Clubmans (Clubmen?) down the Panamerican Highway all the way to where it ends, at the Southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina. While there, I managed to get a little time to myself to do the only truly worthwhile thing you can do in an exotic place: find the junkyard.
Now, I suppose I should add a bit of a qualifier to my headline: it’s possible there’s some even more Southern automotive scrapyards out there, but there can’t be many. Antarctica likely has some sort of junkyard, but it’s not really going to be the sort of normal-person-passenger-vehicle junkyard like we’re used to; it’s likely to mostly have government-owned, highly specialised equipment.
And, yes, the much smaller Chilean settlement of Puerto Williams is just a bit more south than Ushuaia, but, with its significantly smaller population, I’m not sure it has anything that you can really call an automotive junkyard. At least, I didn’t see anything that looked like that on Google Earth.
On the other hand, you absolutely can see the junkyard I found on Google Earth in Ushuaia:
It’s an interesting junkyard, in that the main part of it is housed in this roofless, doorless structure, kind of like a colossal shoebox full of very destroyed cars.
As you can imagine, I was very curious to see what sort of cars were interred here at the bottom of the world, and I’m delighted to share them with you. There’s some good stuff here. Well, at least based on my admittedly somewhat perverse definition of “good.”
While I have plans for more stories about the cars of Chile and Argentina, for this I’m going to stick with the junked cars I saw in this junkyard, and in the smaller satellite junkyards in the neighbourhoods right around it. So don’t expect anything really intact!
Let’s start with something really strange and very Argentinian: this fascinating old pickup truck:
This truck appears to be a DINFIA. Even for me, this was pretty obscure, but luckily, the truck was able to introduce itself:
The DINFIA company is interesting; the name is an acronym for Dirección Nacional de Fabricación e Investigación Aeronáutica, which is Spanish for National Directorate of Aeronautical Manufacturing and Research, because, you see, they also made aeroplanes.
This truck should be a Rastojero, but it’s not exactly like one. The first generation Rastojeros looked like this, and were made up until 1969:
You’ll notice this truck, even in its dilapidated state, has some body differences, but is pretty close. The front fenders seem to have been modified to be more enclosed, and the doors don’t have the stampings on them. Still, it’s most likely one of these first-gen Rastojeros.
These trucks had a chassis and body designed locally, but used engines from Borgward, Argentina.
I’m pretty sure there’s almost none of these outside of South America, possibly outside of Argentina. But we haven’t even been inside yet! Let’s see what’s here!
Hey, look at that! That two-tone blue-and-white little number there I believe is a Lada Samara. Those vents on the white car below it seem familiar, but I can’t quite place it. Any ideas?
I think this pile was once a Ford F100 pickup. That looks like the front fender near the center, there.
Hey, look! A Fiat 600! The engine even appears to be in place!
Here’s a couple of hardworking Renaults: a white Renault 12, one of the most common workhorse cars you see in South America, and its predecessor, that rust-coloured Renault 4 up above. I think the R12 is sitting on a Fiat.
Oh boy, an old Beetle! Well, at least the chassis of one. It’s most likely a Brazilian Fusca (their word for Beetle), and I can see it has (or maybe had) swing axles, like all the Brazilian Fuscas. It’s possible this one is not a good restoration candidate.
I’m pretty sure this is another Renault 12.
This one is tricky. Is it a Volvo Amazon wagon? I think it may be. Or may have been.
Up top there I think we have one of those Opel/Chevy/Chevette sedan things on the left, and a ‘90s Corolla on the right.
Who likes Daewoo Ticos? You’re in luck, there’s one in the pile here!
I think this is one of the many Ford Falcons made and sold in Argentina, but I’m not positive.
Just a forlorn taillight.
It’s that Fiat 600 again, but I just liked how vivid the blue is on the remaining paint.
Right outside the main junkyard building there were more cars, and other interesting things. Like this amazingly charming tiny house, that may have been a children’s playhouse but I’m not exactly certain:
Also, I saw this:
The picture’s a little hard to decipher, but that black mass there in the middle is a horse, which the person at the house was feeding, just right out of their front door. Like this was a door-to-door horse, doing whatever horses call trick-or-treating.
Argentina has an odd mix of European small cars that never come to North America, modern Chinese cars, and large, American trucks. Like this lovely old brute.
Here’s another Volvo Amazon, this one in much better shape than the one I think we saw earlier.
This old Jeep was interesting, because it had that very nicely fitted and finished top on it.
The top seems to have been made by a company called Maggiori, which I think means “more” in Italian? This thing is new to me.
I do love the old SAAB/Scania King Griffin badge. This one was on this retired old mule:
There were a lot of these old Fiat 127s buzzing around, but see if you can spot why this one was interesting:
It has a cage! Was this someone’s old racecar? I didn’t see too much evidence of amateur racing, but, looking at this, there has to be some around, right?
I’m really taken by this thing: this was an Argentinian Dodge, which they called either the Polara, or, in more upscale form, the Cordoba. It looks very much like American Mopars:
Well, at least until you get to the front:
That’s not like any Mopar face I’ve ever seen. Fascinating!
This one is kind of special, because I feel like when you’re on the very tip of Tierra del Fuego, it has to be good luck to spot a Renault Fuego. Even one as trashed as this poor old bastard. Aslo:
What the hell is a bag of SMUG? Is that dogfood? I just wish I had a big-arse bag of SMUG around, sometimes.
One last little anecdote I’d like to share with you, as a reminder in case any of you may have somehow deluded yourselves into thinking I’m not an idiot. That up there, at the top of a little mountain, was the hotel BMW/Mini put us up in. It was kind of a long, muddy hike down the road to the junkyard, so on the way back, I thought I’d be clever and take a shortcut up the hill.
I was an idiot. That hill was much steeper and slipperier than I realised, and my sloppy scramble up the mountain was exhausting. When I finally got to the top, I had to climb over a wall.
I flung my leg over, desperately clawed at the top, pulled myself up, heaved myself over and dropped down like a sack of crap onto the ground on the other side. When I looked up, I saw about a dozen faces staring at me.
Those faces were connected to bodies that were luxuriating in the hotel/spa’s lovely outdoor jacuzzis, which the hotel had strategically placed there for maximum privacy and enjoyment, and, I imagine, minimal intrusions from filthy, car-obsessed morons flopping down in front of them.
So, uh, sorry if I ruined anyone’s vacation. I wasn’t staring, I promise.