I wasn’t even looking for this place. In fact I was in the rain in a town called Wigan to shoot another car. After wrapping that up and driving back home, I spotted a familiar yet at the same time deeply unusual sight on the horizon. The familiarity came from the tall, industrial racking. Given that the UK is a hotbed for health and safety rules, it’s not unusual to see breakers yards employing this system. It keeps everything neat and separated, and it also ensures that yard employees aren’t flattened by a Golf falling from the top of a teetering pile of metal.
And that’s just the thing; normally, these racks are holding cars no more remarkable than battered Volkswagen compacts and the other kinds of cars you see on the street every day. The racks I was approaching here however, held cars casting more exotic silhouettes.
That’s because this breakers yard, as we call them over here, isn’t for normal cars. It is, as the pictures would suggest, quite the spectacle. As it was an unplanned visit, I was unsure as to whether or not I would be allowed in at all. Usually this is not a problem, but usually the stuff people try to steal from yards doesn’t involve parts off of Ferraris. After explaining what I do for a living, the man behind the counter let me in and off I went, camera in hand.
Wandering around, I was overcome with a strong sense of juxtaposition from all around me. The normal setting for some of the cars stacked here is the South of France, not just outside Wigan. But there they were, column after four-high column on the industrial racking.
The line-up, given the context, makes for sad reading and a dismal sight for fans of these brands. There were more Porsche Boxsters than I could count, and badges from all around the world, from Ford to Pininfarina.
At the back of the yard I found the luxury cars, the BMW X5s, Mercedes-Benz MLs, and so on. Then the real tearjerkers showed themselves as I ventured through the rest of the stacks: cars like the Lotus Elan, too many Turbo Esprit, TVRs of almost every sort (including Tuscan that had been unceremoniously hacked in half), early 911s, Carreras, 928s, Bentley Flying Spurs and Continentals, Ferrari 348s, and the lone Testarossa… it was overwhelming.
These cars have earned their place here though. Please don’t view these photos in anger or sadness though: none of these cars could have ever gone back on the road before they ended up here, and in most cases, it’s quite obvious to see why.
In normal circumstances the sight of a Testarossa would make you go all misty-eyed for Ferrari heritage and ‘80s excess. In this yard, the tone is a sober one. Its front end was distorted and twisted beyond recognition—the unfortunate work of but a single moment in its past. A small mistake or another driver’s second or two of distraction, who was I to know? And looking at what was left of the driver compartment along with the obvious tooth marks from the Fire Brigade’s extraction equipment, I didn’t want to. It’s a reminder that cars boasting value and exclusivity are just as vulnerable as any other to human error and unforeseen circumstance.
Other cars were keen to tell me their story too. A Porsche Boxster seemingly folded in half at the passenger door’s midpoint was obvious in its presence, others were more secretive, like the visually perfect Bentley Continental that, on closer inspection, had suffered a significant engine and interior fire. Shut the doors though, and you’d be none the wiser.
Of course it’s not all doom and gloom though. At the end of the day, the business is to part these cars out, allowing others to benefit from these organ donors. While the TVRs, Ferraris, Porsches, and other exotica that come through the gates are beyond resurrection, they still play an important role. It’s a noble way to die in a sense. One that, in turn, opens up ownership to people who may otherwise be too daunted by the price of new parts. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot cheaper than walking into a Ferrari parts department.
There’s more though. A “normal” breaker would sell all the undamaged parts and then throw the twisted metal in the shredder to be recycled. That’s not the case at places like these. A damaged Ford Fiesta hood has no appeal, and should be repurposed. A damaged Ferrari hood though? That can be repurposed as wall art in your garage. A twisted Testarossa alloy? That’s perfect to be the base of a floor lamp. Leather sports seats with corroded wiring? Say hello to your new office furniture. The broken isn’t binned here, is the point. In fact, it’s just as valuable as the undamaged parts in some cases.
These cars may have met an untimely end, but in doing so they can give back to their relatives. Regardless of the sadness seen by the camera, it’s a beautiful place if you use the right mental lens. In a place where no sports car belongs, there is still life beyond the grave.