Boneyard Acquires Past Treasures
Craig and Corrina Huffman had their eye on Claude Holt’s collection of classic cars ever since they made their life-changing move from Eureka, California to Fayetteville, Tennessee. But as newcomers to town, they were unlikely to persuade the retiring recycler to sell to them — or so they thought.
“There was an article in the paper when we first opened,” said Craig. “It’s a small town and Claude knew Mike Mitchell, the previous owner, really well. When Claude read about the business changing ownership, he called Mike. They got to talking, and the next thing we know, Claude is sitting in our office.”
It was a wonderful stroke of luck for the Huffmans, and the final piece in setting up their new business, Boneyard Auto & Salvage, which the family opened February 1, 2019.
Craig previously worked in auto recycling. Corrina was a wedding cake decorator. They were looking to buy a yard, and Corrina found Mike Mitchell’s number on a website, even though it was supposedly unlisted. Mike couldn’t have been nicer and invited them out to see the 10-acre property. The Huffmans decided to trade in the traffic, the smog, and the expense of California for the more rural landscape of Fayetteville, and a chance to build a family dream. Son Trenton is finishing his last year in school online while working in the family business.
“We were having a hard time figuring out a name for the yard,” said Corrina Huffman, “and one day, we were driving down the road and I saw a sign that said Boneyard Dentistry. I thought what a great name! Our son Trenton found the truck and Craig came up with the lettering, so it was a family effort.”
The move was seamless, as much as a 2,500-plus-mile move could be. “We couldn’t ask for a better working relationship from the purchase through ongoing business operations,” said Craig. ”Mike still lives on the property, and still dabbles in rebuilding some wrecks. He bends over backwards to help us out. He always refers people to us, and most likely put in a good word with Claude.”
At age 92, Claude Holt was finally ready to retire from auto recycling. At one point, he had had 4,000 cars but over the years, he crushed quite a bit. By the time he was sitting in the office at Boneyard Auto & Salvage, he was interested in getting rid of a couple hundred remaining. It took a few months but he and the Huffmans came to terms. Claude sold the family 214 cars ranging from the late 1930s to the mid-1960s — mostly Chevrolets and Fords. The bulk of them were from 1955 to 1964. There were some Chevy trucks which dated back to the forties and fifties, and the Ford sedans were from the thirties and forties. These were hard-to-find vehicles and parts that would surely be in demand. However, before the Huffmans could sell anything, they had to move everything to their property, just 5.5 miles away, and that proved most challenging of all.
“These cars have been on his lot since probably the early to mid-1960s,” said Craig. “Claude hasn’t done much with the property or with sales for the past 8 - 12 years. When we prepared to get the cars, he said, ‘look for a row of trees. That’s where you’ll find a row of cars.’ I didn’t understand it at first. I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. When you drive around his property, you find trees overgrown around and in the cars. There have been quite a few times where we had to cut trees to get to the cars. It’s been a process.”
That wasn’t the only daunting task. Some of the cars were too old to have stamped VIN numbers. “When you get into these older Fords and some of the older Chevy trucks, the VINS were just printed in black ink,” explained Craig. “Over the years, the ink has deteriorated. The plates are there but they’re unreadable.”
It took some time to get everything identified, as some of the differences in years were subtle. The vehicles without VINs are still good for parts, but will not be sold as rebuildable, according to Craig. “There are a lot of groups that still build the Chevy trucks and cars and such. I think there’s a market for these parts, at least I’m hoping so. They have almost all the trim and there are a lot of usable parts on them.”
Finding space for the new stock wasn’t hard on Boneyard’s 10-acre yard, although it has prompted some rearranging. “When we first took the yard over last February, we had 100 cars,” said Craig. “As we acquired more, the vehicles simply sat at the spot where they came off the trailer. Now they’re in neat rows. Without Claude’s stuff, we’re currently at just shy of 500 cars. We’ll be at 700 or 750 by the time we get Claude’s collection and the other vehicles that we buy in the meantime.”
In addition to an article in the local Elk Valley Times newspaper, the Huffmans publicized the acquisition of the classics on Boneyard’s Facebook page. That garnered over 1,200 “likes” and plenty of attention. The purchase has truly distinguished the newly-owned business in Fayetteville.
“A lot of people are happy about it because the parts are in circulation,” Craig said. “Some are not so happy about it because Claude wouldn’t sell it to somebody from here and decided to sell it to someone from out of state. But I think that Mike had a lot to do with it, so there was a strong local connection and history. We’re grateful for the opportunity.”