Is this an open store for stolen vehicles?
For years I have seen the Northeast 33rd RVs dismantle and burn automobiles. Is this an outdoor hash shop for stolen vehicles? Do they share their own broken down cars? Should I pity them, fear them or both? —T. thatcher
If you squint hard enough, T., you can find a reason to pity someone. (“Stalin looks so lonely in the photos – there’s nothing but big empty spaces where his friends should be!”) However, those of us who have had two cars stolen in the past four months (but who’s counting?) contempt instead, perhaps seasoned with a hint of murderous fury.
If it’s any consolation (and it isn’t), your camp on Northeast 33rd isn’t unique. As this newspaper reported last fall (“Strip Mall,” WWSeptember 15, 2021), a number of these cheerfully informal self-dismantling operations have sprung up in the city over the past couple of years.
The smoldering wrecks you saw are, by and large, not the legal property of the people who burned them. In fact, that’s the whole point: if you own a car legally, you can just sell the whole car – title, VIN and all. If you want to make money off a car that you don’t exactly own, your only option is to sell it in parts small enough to be untraceable.
There are a number of ways to do this. After the obvious money grab of the catalytic converter, aluminum cylinder heads and manifolds (those are big, heavy parts, for the uninitiated) are worth nearly a dollar a pound as scrap. There is also copper, but not as much, in the wiring harness – the release of this may be one of the reasons helicopters are so fond of torching cars at the end of the auto vulture party. And assuming you can scare an address, you can take advantage of the booming market for used parts on eBay, no questions asked.
However (unfortunately for meth dealers), there’s still nowhere you can sell used parts for cash: Oregon law prohibits dealers from buying major components vehicle without proof of ownership. Of course, Oregon law also prohibits slicing up stolen cars with a sharp torch in the middle of the street in broad daylight, so enforcement isn’t exactly draconian. If you’re interested in founding the Buffalo Auto Parts Exchange, now might be your time.
Questions? Send them to [email protected].