I first discovered Budget Auto Wrecking on a weekend trip with my son, who was searching for rare parts for his 1970 Dodge Dart. Down a small country road through the Kent valley, through agricultural fields of vegetables and pumpkins, we found Budget alongside an oxbow of the Green river.
What is worthy of our attention here? It is an egalitarian place, where people of all races and backgrounds find themselves together for the same humble goal - to find a part for their car. It is a place out of sight, where intense and methodical human skill finds value in what has been discarded. This inspired me, and kept calling me back.
The front half of Budget is a busy, intense recycling operation, all done in the open air. Each wrecked car has a story - an accident, an engine failure, an arrest and impoundment. And inside the cars are clues to their history - abandoned backpacks, sheet music, mementos hanging from the mirror. First the wheels, fluids, and reclaimable parts like batteries are removed. Useable engine blocks and transmissions are reclaimed, and stored in large sheds. Then workers like Donnie and Roberto hoist the car up on blocks, cut out the aluminum engine blocks with long-handled oxy-acetylene torches, and drag them to a huge pile of aluminum engines. The chassis then goes to the crusher. Finally, stacks of the crushed cars are loaded daily onto 18-wheelers, and carried away.
The back half is a pick yard of cars, stacked two and three high, where customers can forage for parts. Here we joined a United Nations of searchers – people from the Ukraine, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Entrepreneurs who make a living of buying, fixing up and selling cars. Hobbyists and motor-heads like my son. Ordinary people just looking for a replacement for a door handle or rear-view mirror.