Abandoned Vintage Vehicles
Found on Public Lands
Leroy Drittler - January 19, 2012 10:00 AM
A once shapely 1956 Mercury Persimmon and White hardtop blends in well with its surroundings on a Big Piney Ranger District acquired land parcel not far from a state highway. I could not find one usable part on the Montclair. The serial number plate is still in place and shows it was made in St. Louis. Latitude: S35°40.951’; Longitude: W092°51.030’.
The owner of the car was a student in 1967 at a university on the south side of the forest. His home was on the forest’s north side about 60 miles away. One day while traveling between the university and his home on Arkansas State Highway 7, the Biscayne developed brake problems. He decided it was too risky to continue because of dangerous steep grades and sharp curves. He parked the car on a roadside pull-off nosed against a tree near the edge of a steep drop off. During the night, vandals cut the tree and pushed the Biscayne over the edge. Over the past 40-odd years, many of the smaller parts have been removed and carried off, but most of the car remains where it bounced to a stop about 200 feet from the highway. The six-cylinder engine block is still under the hood of this car. The valve cover has been removed and is lying beside the block. Vehicle is located on the Big Piney Ranger District. Longitude: S35°37.880’; Latitude: W093°04.184’.
A 1954 Dodge pickup still has a few good parts including a straight front bumper, one park light rim, one headlight rim, and also has the heater unit under the dash. It is located just off a county road on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. Latitude: S35°46.657’; Longitude: W093°30.650’.
A chain saw will be needed to cut a tree that has crushed this 1957 Fairlane 500 four-door hardtop. It won’t be hard to access as it is beside a county road, but there are no usable parts visible. It is on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. Latitude: S35°42.826’; Longitude: W093°39.730’.
This 1958 Ford Ranch Wagon went off State Highway 21 on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District not far from a Studebaker Lark. On its way down the very steep slope, a big tree snagged the wagon and it came to a rest. The top had already been cut off and engine was removed before it was sent over. It still has front and rear bumpers in fair condition. Someone has unbolted the nearly perfect hood and it is lying loose just in front of the vehicle. It is probably impossible for one man or maybe even two to drag the heavy hood back up the very steep slope. Latitude: S35°34.898’; Longitude: W093°25.870’.
This 1964 Oldsmobile Super 88 four-door hardtop was already being parted out when the land was acquired by the Forest Service. In the summer, a green sea of poison ivy surrounds it. It is a light cream yellow and the doors still open and shut almost as good as new. This car was equipped with factory air conditioning and, according to the serial number, made in Austin, Texas. There are many good body parts remaining including trunk lid, doors, grill, and both bumpers. It is on the Big Piney Ranger District and access is easy. Latitude: S35 °37.346’; Longitude: W092°52.149’.
The cowl plate is still under the hood on this 1960 Studebaker Lark Deluxe sedan. When this car was pushed off, it didn’t stop until it hit Teagle Branch at the bottom of the very steep slope. Arkansas State Highway 21 is at the top of the slope. It is doubtful if it will ever be rescued as several trees will have to be cut and a very long cable will be needed. Location is on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. Latitude: S35°35.214’; Longitude: W093°25.192’.
There are three vehicles grouped fairly close together on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. One is a GMC truck. A fairly good forest road is not far from the vehicles and rescue should be easy. Latitude: S35°44.150; Longitude: W093°34.083’.
In the ’60s and ’70s, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission partnered with the U.S. Forest Service in building wildlife food plots. The best locations for plots were near water and on gentle sloping ground but they also needed to be near a road to access and maintain them. This bathtub 1951 Nash Ambassador Custom was in such a place that was ideal. During construction, it was pushed unceremoniously with brush and other debris by a bulldozer to the edge of the plot. When the Nash got to the big red oak, the right front fender caught and kept it from going any further. The engine block is still under the hood, but a lot of engine and body parts have been stripped. It is located next to the woods line of the food plot and access is easy. Vehicle is located on the Big Piney Ranger District. Latitude: S35°37.611’; Longitude: W093°03.566’.
At first glance, this car appears to be a convertible, but upon inspection you can see where the top has been cut off. The body plate is still attached and shows it started life as a 1949 Studebaker Champion Deluxe three-passenger coupe. It is rare, as only 1,418 of these were made. It is located next to a forest road on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. Latitude: S35°45.469’; Longitude: W093°33.027’.
A 1942 Chevrolet rests on its side next to a road about a mile from the ’49 Stude. It’s a two-door coupe and still has good glass on the speedometer face. It is on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. Latitude: S35°45.558’; Longitude: W093°33.307’.
A 1955 Porsche convertible is located in a very remote area of the forest. It appears it was pushed over a bluff and it came to rest upside down at the base. The vehicle is located on the Big Piney Ranger District on the south side of FS Road No. 1802 and can be seen from the road during leaf-off season. The vehicle is surrounded by poison ivy, so if you are allergic … beware. Latitude: S35°37.800’; Longitude: W093°12.983’.
A 1965 Ford Fairlane has a few good pieces of side trim remaining plus good doors and passenger side front fender. Vehicle is located beside a 1964 Oldsmobile on the Big Piney Ranger District. Latitude: S35°37.346’; Longitude: W092°52.148’.
It appears that the top has been removed from this 1967 Chevrolet Impala four-door or it may still be there sunk into the ground. It is in a grown up field on recently acquired federal land. If it wasn’t for a healthy bunch of briars in a grown-up old field, it would be in view of a paved highway, so removing it should be a fairly easy task. It is on the Big Piney Ranger District. Latitude: S35°41.000’; Longitude: W092°58.693’.
An elm tree has grown up around the hood and left side air vent of an early ’50s GMC pickup that has been turned on its side. This truck is in plain view of Arkansas State Highway 16 during leaf-off season on the Big Piney Ranger District. A tree or two will have to be cut to get the truck out. Latitude: N35°41.001’; Longitude W092°58.714’.
You can easily see this vehicle below FS Road No. 1202 during leaf-off season. It appears to be a 1938 Plymouth P5 four-door sedan and has suffered through one or more forest fires or controlled burns. A long cable will be required to hoist this car up a steep slope to the road. Vehicle is located on the Big Piney Ranger District. Latitude: S35°44.000’; Longitude: W093°14.108’.
This 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop is easy to get to as its parked right beside a road. A dead red oak has fallen on it and crushed the top. This might be an opportunity to get a load of firewood along with the car. It is on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. Latitude: S35°38.921’; Longitude: W093°38.794’.
We saw this 1956 Ford four-door Town Sedan in 1982. It had many good parts then, but not many parts remain. Some clearing of trees would be required to drag this vehicle about 150 yards to the nearest road. It is on the Big Piney Ranger District. Latitude: S35°37.982’; Longitude: W093°04.050’.
Watch this 1950 Dodge sedan when approaching because it bites. A friend and I got on top of the car and tried to put down the mangled trunk lid. It would only go about half way down. It had a strong spring to it, so I wedged a piece of metal between the upper part of the lid and body. I slowly turned it loose and it stayed in place maybe three or four seconds before springing back hard and hitting the back of my hand, slicing it open. After first aid to stop the bleeding, I photographed this sorry hunk of junk with trunk lid open. You can drive right to this location on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. Latitude: S35°40.792’; Longitude: W093°37.076’.
Only 16,178 of these Two-Ten series ’57 Chevrolet four-door hardtops were made as opposed to the Bel Air four-door hardtop, which found 137,672 owners. The cowl ID plate is intact and shows the car’s original color to be as it is now: India Ivory and Matador Red and it had an interior of Charcoal Cloth and Ivory Imitation leather. This car was located right beside a county road on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District, but was removed shortly after we saw it.
A 1965 Ford Country Sedan is partially buried and acting as an embankment stabilizer on a road in the Pleasant Hill Ranger District. Its presence has attracted more junk and debris. Removing the vehicle will require additional fill material placed to keep road width as it is currently. The VIN plate is still attached and shows it was made in Oakville, Ontario, Canada and had the 289 cid engine with two-barrel carburetor. Latitude: S35°44.277’; Longitude: W093°28.950’.
In the late ’70s, a small group of young people supposedly went camping. They drove this AMC Hornet wagon down a rough narrow Jeep trail to a very remote area on the Middle Fork of the Illinois Bayou. They parked on a nice scenic flat rock protruding into the Bayou and set up camp. During the night, a huge rainstorm upstream caused a flash flood. The young people survived but the vehicle did not fare as well. The Hornet has been battered by several more floods and is now upside down several hundred yards from its original location. Latitude: N35°42.592’; Longitude: W093°52.750’.
When you think of a national forest, thoughts go to solitude and serenity, tall stately trees and beautiful scenic mountains, clear sparkling streams and an abundance of wildlife roaming the hills and ravines.
The Ozark National Forest in Arkansas is all of that and much more. There is evidence remaining from our nation’s earliest inhabitants, visible under the rock shelters they used as protection from the elements. Those writings and drawings show what was important to Native Americans.
There are signs of the early brave settlers who tried to farm in the remote habitat and create a good life for their families. Many of the settlers gave up and the land they tried to tame reverted back to nature. Signs of their existence remain including rock chimneys standing tall and junk piles with rusted tin cans and worn out or broken tools. Occasionally, you’ll find a piece of a Model T fender peeking through a covering of fallen leaves, an old rusted wire wheel, or a piece of a rusted hood. The really old vehicles are gone.
Some vintage vehicles from the 1930s through the 1970s remain in the forest today. These vehicles were taken to the woods and abandoned or were there when the Forest Service acquired the land. When scrap metal prices were at an all-time high, the Big Piney Ranger District was successful in getting several abandoned vehicles removed from public lands.
Any “junk” you might find in the forest could be associated with a significant prehistoric or historic site. It is unlawful to disturb or remove it. If you find something in the forest, leave it in place and check with the Forest Service officers listed. The bottom line, everything in the national forest is protected, so don’t remove anything without a permit. If you do, you might see a vehicle of another type, like a white SUV with green markings and flashing blue lights driven by a federal law enforcement officer.
Even though forest managers would generally like to see the vehicles gone, they may decline to give permission to remove the harder to reach vehicles because of the many trees that may need to be cut. Disturbing a historical site may be another reason to deny removing a vehicle. Latitude and longitude are included with photo captions if you’re interested in trying to find the vehicles using GPS.
For information on finding and/or removing vehicles located on the Big Piney Ranger District, contact Mike Mulford, Dispersed Recreation Technician, (870) 446-5122, extension 5136, P. O. Box 427, Jasper, AR 72641.
The contact for vehicles on the Pleasant Hill Ranger District is Pat Kowalewycz, District Ranger, (479) 754-2864, 2591 Highway 21 North, Clarksville, AR 72830.
(A special thanks to Damon Laffoon, Louie Leeds, and Leo Knoernschild for their help in finding the vehicles.)