Rare Cars, Parts Pepsi Bottles
You ever hear the story of how Machu Picchu was found? Hiram Bingham was in the Andes Mountains looking for something else, but a guide knew of some ruins nearby. The guide took him there, yet nothing could be seen until he came around a rock outcropping. And there it was, Machu Picchu in all its jungle-covered glory. This yard I photographed in the hills of North Carolina, while not to that level of discovery, had its own historically significant pieces in the ground.
I was in North Carolina for the 2014 Hot Rod Power Tour but got there a few days early to allow myself time to photograph barn finds. A mutual friend relayed me a name and number to call about a few cool cars that were sitting nearby. When I called, a woman picked up. I asked for the gentleman who had all the cars. She told me her husband had owned the cars and had died years ago. Apologizing profusely, I explained that I meant no disrespect, as I was just following up on a lead.
Before I hung up though, I asked if a few of his old cars were still around. She told me that she had one of his old cars still there, a 1968 Road Runner. I was more than welcome to come see the car.
Whenever I drive to a location, I usually check out the area using Google Earth. I do this to see where I’m going so I don’t get lost, but also to check out the surroundings to see what else is there. The image on my phone showed a large junkyard that was full of cars, but once I got there I was devastated. From the small, one-lane driveway to the house, you could see nothing—not a car or truck anywhere.
Once I pulled down the road, things started to look up. I could see a Challenger race car just over one hill, a truck on the other. As I came around a hill to the house and barn where the owner’s wife was meeting me, then I understood. I felt like Bingham coming around that rock outcropping. There was grain silo on one side of the property and trees on the other, and everything else was in a small depression. But there it all was, row upon row of Mopars hidden in the hills.
The owner came out and we went into the barn where her office was. She told me how her husband had collected Mopars for decades. He was well known in the area for what he built and raced. He was good friends with the Pettys. All the Pettys were over there at one point or another. They had collected a bunch of Petty memorabilia through the years, and now it was scattered throughout the property. That collection included probably the largest collection of Richard Petty Pepsi bottles in the world. Case after case of Richard Petty Pepsi. I have not and probably will never see anything like that again.
The barn was storage for many individual parts for cars: rearend centersections, carbs, intakes, a wall of wheels. There were 426 Hemi parts scattered about. Around the corner I found what the owner’s wife had meant when she said she had one of his cars left. All the other cars outside were just projects or junk. But the vehicle in the side garage was the car he drove and worked on. It had his name painted right above the door, a 1968 Road Runner with a Petty prepped 426 Wedge.
Outside were acres upon acres of Mopar muscle cars, with a smattering of GMs and Fords for spice. The owner’s wife decided to stay at the house, but her brother walked the property with me. As we walked around the barn I saw a rusted hulk of a car sitting there. He looked at me and asked, “Do you know what this is?” I looked closely, and I knew I had seen the car before. It was the 1965 Barracuda drag car campaigned by Richard Petty.
When NASCAR banned the 426 Hemi, Richard Petty decided to go drag racing. And he did a fairly good job at it. He had this little 1965 Barracuda built with a 426 Hemi and was having a blast. Unfortunately, a piece broke on this car, sending him into the stands and killing a spectator. After that it was pushed into the famous (or infamous) Petty junkyard out behind the house. But as the story goes, when the Pettys went to expand the facility, instead of crushing the car, their friend grabbed it and dumped it behind his barn. A real piece of drag racing and NASCAR history just lying rusting in the weeds behind the barn.
While there was a handful of Chevelle SS cars and a Ford or two, the overwhelming majority were Mopars. You could tell that nobody had been out there in a while. Many of the cars were just left in the field. Some were complete or missing just a handful of pieces.
It became almost hypnotic, row after row of cool cars. Duster 340 here, Super Bee over there, more GTXs than I’ve seen in one place. It was an absolute honor to be allowed to walk around freely and document all the vehicles that they had there.
After thoroughly walking the yard photographing most of the vehicles in it, I was about to depart when the owner’s wife asked if I wanted to see the Hemi in the barn. She had mentioned it earlier, but did not go beyond saying that there was one around. As we opened that last barn the strong scent of dead something blasted out. But there really was a real 426 Hemi tucked away on the side of the barn.
Who would have thought that hidden in the hills of North Carolina would be a yard full of Mopars, nearly untouched by time?
This is what remains of Richard Petty’s 43 Jr. drag-racing Barracuda.
One of the only Chevrolet products on the property is this 1967 Chevelle SS396 crushed by a tree.
An original 1971 Plymouth Duster 340 sits nose up.
Nice 1968 Barracuda convertible sitting in the yard.
Real 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda sits with its own front end in the trunk!
One of many 1972-’74 Dodge Challengers littering the area.
A real 1970 Dodge Super Bee, a 383 Magnum car with “stinger” hood still attached.
The remains of a 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T sitting among other Mopars.
While most of the cars were outside, the barn was used for parts storage. Here’s a pile of aluminum intakes and centersections out of 8-3/4 rearends.
his is the Road Runner the owner was working on when he passed away.
Among the Petty parts in the barn was this original NASCAR Hemi intake.
A wall of Richard Petty Pepsi bottles—and this was just one of the walls.
The owner meant what she said: This is the Hemi in the barn.
Article by Ryan Brutt | Hot Rod | Original Article