Old Car City
Downstairs, past the dressing room for models (There are a lot of professional photo shoots at Old Car City) and the Bonnie and Clyde photo op, we were treated to a rollicking version of the Old Car City USA theme song by its composer, “Fast Eddie” McDaniel. “Me and him grew up side by side, playin’ in my daddy’s junk cars,” said Dean of Eddie, who resembles a gentler version of the Robertsons from Duck Dynasty, and who plays for tips at Old Car City every Saturday. “Eddie, he ain’t made up,” Dean said. “That’s the way he is.” We asked Eddie if the bear next to his piano was real. “Used to be,” said Eddie. “He’s pretty docile now.”
Old Car City
That probably won’t happen after you visit Old Car City USA, where nearly everyone goes home with at least one good shot. Opened as a general store during the Great Depression, Old Car City gradually evolved into a very big, very old automobile junkyard. But it wasn’t until 2009 that owner Dean Lewis — who grew up on the property — realized he could turn it into a tourist attraction because a lot of people shared his love of decomposing automotive carcasses.
Old Car City
Old Car City I’ve been to Old Car City a number of times. Over time, visiting photo clubs and workshops have given the owner an exaggerated sense of its value. What used to be a couple of bucks is now $25. I wouldn’t mind the price if he spiffed up the place or at least ran through the place with a couple of 55 gallon drums of Roundup and a power sprayer to knock down the kudzu and poison ivy. The cars are packed closely together and covered with kudzu, making it difficult to get clean shots. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten some good shots while I was there, but I’ve been to other junk yards with a much better presentation and much cheaper.
I don’t know about you, but when another photographer says to me… “You have to go there!” I tend to nod politely while internally I am thinking… yeah right, it can’t be that good. So for a couple of years now I have heard about Old Car City outside of Atlanta, and how great it was, but I was secretly like “it can’t be as good as they say.” Well, I am here to admit that Old Car City is definitely worth putting on your bucket list. According to the Internet, which only tells the truth, this place is ranked as the third best junkyard in the world behind the Russian space junkyard, and the Airplane boneyard out in Arizona. (of course I don’t know who rates these things or what is the criteria, but at the end of the day this place is pretty darn impressive.)
If you’re near White, Georgia (about 1.5 hours from Atlanta), don’t miss a chance to go through Old Car City for yourself. We recommend showing up with good walking shoes, a big memory card in your camera and a lot of bug spray. Old Car City is open Tuesday through Saturday, and costs $25 for admission. Don’t forget to check out Dean’s art gallery in the upstairs section of the museum.
Maybe that’s the real lesson that car lovers should take away from Dean’s place. You are lucky to have your project car, and it’s lucky to have you. Treat it well, don’t let it waste away in your garage waiting for someday. Get it running, get it out there. Do it for the lost cars of Old Car City.
One of Old Car City’s many slogans is “Photographers’ Paradise,” and word of its heavenly attributes has spread. We saw many visitors with professional photography vests, tripods, reflectors, and cameras — and a lot of typical tourists clicking away with smartphones. Entropy and rust, always favored by keen-eyed photographer-artists, is just a software filter tap away from Instagram glory. When we arrived at opening time, there was already a line of people waiting to get in.
I’ve been to Old Car City a number of times. Over time, visiting photo clubs and workshops have given the owner an exaggerated sense of its value. What used to be a couple of bucks is now $25. I wouldn’t mind the price if he spiffed up the place or at least ran through the place with a couple of 55 gallon drums of Roundup and a power sprayer to knock down the kudzu and poison ivy. The cars are packed closely together and covered with kudzu, making it difficult to get clean shots. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten some good shots while I was there, but I’ve been to other junk yards with a much better presentation and much cheaper.
Old Car City is annotated with hundreds of Dean’s hand-lettered signs, distracting visitors with bad jokes, sage observations, and nuggets of wisdom. Many hang from the “Tree of Knowledge” toward the back of the property. “Gonzo means far-out journalism,” reads one. “Black pepper repels rats,” says another.
Old Car City, USA A very unique stop. Give yourself plenty of time and check their hours in advance. The styrofoam cup – “doodool room” is worth tour time. Ten dollars admission unless you have a camera, then it’s $15. (Not sure how he deals with phones). No debit cards, so bring cash and then plan to go across the street to Wesman’s restaurant for lunch.
Despite the appeal of Eddie and the art, top billing at Old Car City will always go to the cars. Depending on the light dappling through the trees, and the weather, and the time of day, and the time of year, a junker that looked drab on one visit can be enchanting the next time through. This keeps photographers coming back again and again. Dean clears the paths, but otherwise leaves the cars to the mercy of time and nature.
Clint Brownlee is another one of use crippled with the photography bug and is responsible for putting together the Old Car City blog, and he happens to follow Scott and our crew, so he was able to vouch for me with Dean. Actually, Dean knew of our group because last year at Photoshop World in Atlanta we had a workshop come out, and then Bill Fortney has done a class out there. I told Dean that I was Scott’s boss… but I don’t think he bought it since he then tried to charge me double. 😀 Make sure to check out Clint’s blog. Clint volunteered to show me around the place… which is a huge undertaking… only 34 acres… meh, we should be done in no time. As we started out, he shared with me that he and a friend of his had been coming out here multiple times a week when they first discovered the place and I now understand whey.
Like all good art, Old Car City is not without controversy. Collectors hoping to score a bargain leave the place grumbling and dissatisfied. “Everything is for sale,” Dean told us, “But only at a price that makes it worth it for me. If I sell this, it’s gone. I don’t have it anymore. I can’t replace it.” The Internet seems split between people who think Dean owes something to the hobby to get these cars in the hands of people who will restore them, and those who think it’s cool just to be able to see a photogenic spot with so many incredible automobiles in one place. Patina hounds and Ruin Porn aficionados will have no complaints about the set-up.
Most of the time, the patina and decay just highlighted the beauty of the car’s original design. Moss creeping over a taillight or ferns wrapping around a door handle draw the eye to styling elements in a way you might ignore if you were looking at a restored car. Every once in a while we did succumb to the sense of loss that seeing these cars rot away can inspire in the “Save the Whales” side of your brain. The sight of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, its egg-crate grille twisted around a small sapling, its wood-grained door panels crumbling into dust made us miss our own cars, and want to rush home and rebuild a 440 to get ours back on the road before it joins its sister in returning to the earth.
“No electricity, no paved roads,” Lewis said. “Gas was 19 cents a gallon. Apples one cent each. Later they bought an old junk car or two, sold parts. Made another dollar in Depression time. Several years later I was born. Born in a junkyard!”
David VChicago, Illinois437Reviewed April 15, 2017 Great if you like rusty old carsIt cost $25 today. If you love old cars, antiques and junk, the 6 miles of trails may be worth the prices. If you don't, skip it unless you like walking in the woods.Thank David V