‘Edsel King’ clearing 2,300 cars from his North Dakota lot

'58 Ford Edsel Citation convertible. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and RM Auctions.

’58 Ford Edsel Citation convertible. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and RM Auctions.

BEULAH, N.D. (AP) – After the crushers move out, LeRoy Walker, the “Edsel King,” will be car poorer and cash richer.

For decades, the rural Beulah man has operated a salvage yard tucked out of sight on hills tiered to the level in an old lignite mine north of Beulah.

Today, he has 2,600 vehicles lined up in rows out there in the hills, a neat and orderly operation, as far as salvage yards go.

Just over a week ago, he signed a deal with BF Salvage, of Minot, to crush and remove 2,300 of those vehicles for an amount he says is not the $1 million he’s been offered before, but comes pretty close.

“I’ll invest it and live off the interest,” he figures.

It’s not a bad ending for a man who, since 1957, has made a living buying junked or wrecked vehicles and “parting them out,” as it’s said in the salvage trade, along with repairs.

He loved drag racing, enduro races and demolition derbies, and competed and traveled all over the region and country, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“It’s been a great life. I’ve seen a lot of places and got to do what I liked,” Walker said. And, he said, the income was good enough. “My stomach didn’t growl much,” he said.

He and the buyer, Tom Boe, went through the yard recently and counted the inventory. A bright orange “S” spray painted on the windshield marks the cars Walker wants left behind.

Those are interesting old collectibles, ones still intact enough to have value, or ones he hopes to still restore himself someday.

And it goes without saying that his collection of 200 Edsels – the largest collection anywhere, he says – isn’t going anywhere.

He’s obsessed with the Edsel, a car only briefly manufactured by Ford Motor Co.

One, a 1958 Edsel Citation convertible, painted its original buttery yellow with chrome and black accents, is beautifully restored and in storage out at his place.

Walker, 73, who’s got a bad hip and other health issues, said a guy called him last week and offered him $50,000 for it. No deal, Walker said. He’s not ready to sell. Not yet. He’s got more miles to go.

He bought his first Edsel in 1962 and his last one just last summer, a ’59 station wagon from a guy in South Dakota. He loves their big steady motors and smooth wide ride.

“A few are still hiding around, but they’re getting pretty scarce,” he said.

Word’s out that Walker’s yard will be cleaned out soon, and he said a lot of people have come through in the past few weeks looking for a certain part or piece, or maybe a whole rig they ought to buy and pull on home before it’s crushed and gone forever.

It’s always been a pretty busy place, between salvage and repair work in his shop. “A lot of people heard about me just word-of-mouth,” he said.

Steve Gowin of Hazen, a customer and friend, said local car club members depend on Walker as quick source for a needed part.

“He’s unique. He’s not only a student of the Ford, but of every car and he’s memorized universally used parts. When you need something, he grabs a 5/8-inch wrench and drives out there and gets it with one wrench. I’d need a whole toolbox and a hammer. I’ve never seen anything like it. He’ll leave a large void there,” Gowin said.

Walker said it will be hard to see some of those cool old Jeeps, Studebakers and Internationals get flattened like a metal pancake and tossed onto a semi.

“But if I sell it to someone to restore, or he takes it and scraps it, what’s the difference? I still get paid,” he said.

He favors old American-made cars himself, the ones still fully metal that weigh 3,700 pounds, compared to late model Chevy Impala that tips the scales at 2,000 pounds.

Boe, the buyer, said the crushed cars will be shipped all over to places like Tennessee and Denver, where they’ll be shredded and shipped to mills to become metal beams and other products.

Boe said it won’t take him long to crush the vehicles – two weeks maybe. “I’ve got a place to haul ’em. I just need the trucks.” He said he’ll use some oil field back hauls to get the metal moved out.

He said scrap metal is still valuable, but not like it was a few years back when China was so heavy into the buy market, and labor and fuel costs eat into his bottom line. “It’s big dollars. I take in a lot of money, but a lot goes out,” he said.

Boe said he’ll leave the salvage yard looking good when he’s done, and Walker says he’ll finally get all of his Edsels in one area, instead of some here and some there on his 37 acres.

Walker doesn’t get around as well as he used to, but he can still work hard and he plans to keep going on his own projects.

“I get up at 7 a.m. and work until 10 p.m. I can still do it, but I run out of gas,” he said.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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AP-WF-08-26-14 2001GMT