In 1932, Dean Lewis’ parents bought a plot of land. It was a time when gas was $.19 per gallon and apples cost a penny a piece.
Dean’s parents opened a general store and bought old junk cars for parts to sell. Dean was born a few years later, “in a junkyard,” as he says. It was there he and his lifelong friend, Eddie McDaniel, would play among the mechanical trash, fighting the bad guys and making a fast getaway.
For over 5 decades, the Lewis family had the best car parts business in White, Georgia.
Right after high school, Dean worked as truck terminal manager, saving his money to buy used cars so his parents could sell off their parts.
Over the years, Dean bought more cars, and those cars began to meld in with the landscape. His parents got out of the junkyard business in the ’70’s, just about the time Dean took an interest.
Dean kept buying cars, going to auto auctions, private parties and recycling yards. Eventually, he had to buy more land to accommodate all of his worn out purchases.
The area became a playground for him, his kids and eventually his grandkids to play on. The family used scrap metal to build airplanes, towers and other oddities around classic 1950’s cars, and the rusted out frames of muscles cars.
With five decades of old cars embedded into the forest land, Lewis got the idea of turning the car parts business into a junkyard museum. Why not make money charging an admission to see these old relics instead of stripping them of their parts?
That’s when Old Car City USA was born.
But it’s not just any junkyard museum. Dean had more than a fondness for his vehicles. While he has never said no to selling one of his treasured landscaped vehicles, well, he’s never said yes, either.
If the buyer is willing to pay his price, he’d let the vehicle go, but no one has. And that’s just fine with him. Dean’s not one to let go of his collection easily.
There’s pride in his voice when he says, “Over 30 years ago, I told my son and daughter, Jeff and Tracy, that this place would probably turn into a showplace one day rather than a sales place, and it has.”
Well, maybe a different kind of sales place. While he no longer sells car parts, he does sell tickets to see what he bills as the world’s largest junkyard museum.
His lifelong best friend, Eddie McDaniel, is right there with him. Eddie is as much a part of the business as Dean’s cars. He plays piano on Saturday nights for tips, and has his own kind of charm.
McDaniel even wrote the theme song for Old Car City USA. Check it out below.
I’ve read that Old Car City is peaceful, nostalgic, and a bit sad. That doesn’t surprise me. Everything has its own energy, even decaying cars.
I imagine those old relics are still breathing their sadness at having been discarded; still trying to find dignity among the moss and trees, and listening with a kind of reverence to Eddie as he plays piano on a Saturday night.