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Destination Review: Old Car City USA

Combining relaxing hiking with the thrill of junkyard exploration, this hidden gem is a must-see for car and nature enthusiasts alike

7w ago
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This is a heavily reworked version of an article that originally appeared on the now deceased Kinja Oppositelock on 1/07/2020. You can view an archived version of it here. Join us on 'The Hyphen' for more automotive shenanigans.

Old Car City USA is an eclectic tourist attraction in White, Georgia that allows you to wander through acres of rotting vintage automobiles interspersed with quirky folk art. Less than an hour north of Hartsfield Jackson Airport, this destination makes a perfect activity for a layaway in Atlanta. Old Car City has wide appeal; photographers, car enthusiasts, hikers, and tourists alike universally enjoy wandering the isles of this junkyard turned tourist trap.

This article is based on my three separate visits to the site; I manage to find something new every time and look forward to visiting again.

History

Old Car City USA was established as a general store during the Great Depression. It began its career as a family owned junkyard in 1931, and grew to encompass over 30 acres and now features over 6 miles of walking trails. In 2009, it was converted to its present state as a tourist attraction by its owner, Dean Lewis, who grew up on the property. He added eccentric installation art pieces of his own design and cut paths and trails to join each of the distinct areas of the site. The junkyard is compromised mostly of cars from the 1950s to the 1970s, covering the space age to the early Malaise era. However, some cars date back as far as the 1920s.

Why go?

Supposedly the world’s largest 'old car junkyard,' Old Car City USA accurately bills itself as a photographer’s paradise. Armed with just a borrowed hand held camera, I was able to produce stunning photographs with little effort. It's one of those rare places that's so photogenic it's nearly impossible to take a bad photo.

Blending the natural beauty of north Georgia and the eerie hulks of a time long since past, it is a place like no other. The site is so large that it is rare to run into another person once within its maze-like network of trails, giving the feeling of an abandoned place. The further you wander along the trails, the more overgrown the path and scenery becomes.

Old Car City USA is open 9 am to 4 pm every day except Sunday and Monday. The admission price increases from $15 to $25 if you bring a camera. Here is a link to their website.

They have continued to stay open during the pandemic.

The experience

You immediately recognize pulling up that this is an old school roadside attraction in all the best ways. Eclectic folk art adorns every surface of an old wood frame building that appears to have been built by hand across several decades. Behind a chain link fence you get your first glimpse of rotting classic cars. Walking through the porch and into the front lobby, you're greeted with a sort of dusty museum of classic Americana where the proprietor will let you through a gate leading out into the forest.

I would recommend heading to the left out the main door as this takes you past some of the less overgrown areas in the front first and leads you towards the old office area where much of the folk art is concentrated. There's also an oversized sculpture of a Mustang.

When you enter the old office, you'll be greeted by stacks of car parts left behind on the shelves from the site’s former career as a junkyard. Of particular interest are the old fashioned AM radios and instrument clusters.

I created a short video that, despite the poor quality, gets the point across nicely of what it feels like to wander around this area.

The area at the rear of the property known as “the culdesac” features a ring of cars stacked on top of each other. The surrounding area also includes some of the more distinctive folk art. However, this section is difficult to get to, sitting as far from the entrance as possible.

The words “Old Car City USA” are painted adjacent to the more interesting sights, so that the name of the place will show up in pictures. Just the “A” shows up here.

This tin man appears to have some malicious intent for that poor patient.

There are several abandoned motor homes as well as some dilapidated structures dotted around the site. I wouldn’t advise stepping inside the vehicles, since most have rotted out floors and/or mold. The buildings, however, are safe to walk through.

An abandoned RV, complete with pots, pans, and other belongings left behind.

One unique aspect of Old Car City is that it contains a fascinating mix of exciting, well known classics and rather pedestrian vehicles no one would restore. it is home to not only classic American iron, but a surprising number of quirky European cars, and even some early Japanese cars. I especially liked this extremely rare Renault Caravelle hardtop (Floride in other markets). I didn’t expect to come across a rear engined French grand tourer in rural Georgia.

The rows of Old Car City USA are littered with dead brands and other marquis rarely seen in the United States. I spotted such rarities as Fiats, Datsuns, Opels, AMCs, an Austin America, several Renaults, Borgwards, Kaisers, Studebakers, Packards, Oaklands, and even Peugeots alongside the familiar air cooled Volkswagens and classic Detroit iron.

The vans in particular caught my attention. Classic vans simply do not have a presence either on the streets or at car shows like muscle cars and hot rods.

A Dodge A100, one off the last Detroit cab-over-engine vans. This example sat in a line of other commercial vans from the same era, all showing multiple paint colors from their various liveries.

Many vans were once used as dry storage for parts taken off other cars. One van was filled to the roof with old oil cans, another chock full of old radios. Signs nailed to trees helpfully point to these mini attractions.

One of the best photo opportunities lies out of the way along the right side of the site as you enter. Here you will find most of the imports from foreign and domestic makes, including a Ford Anglia and a mind bogglingly rare Borgward Isabella.

Before you go

Plan ahead! Bring a bag for snacks and water as well as spare batteries for your camera, since finding your way back to the entrance can be confusing and time consuming.

Wear jeans or long pants, since many of the trails are overgrown and ticks might be hiding in the long grass. Be careful of the rusty edges of the cars and don’t try to cut between isles. Check the weather forecast before you go.

Conclusion

Old Car City USA is the ultimate outdoor destination for photographers, nature lovers, and car enthusiasts alike. I would highly recommend it to just about anyone as one of the best things to do while in Atlanta. Combining roadside kitsch, classic cars from the world over, the thrill of abandoned places, and scenic walking trails, there is something for everyone to enjoy; It's truly fun for the whole family to enjoy regardless of their interest in cars.

I will be working on adapting and rewriting a number of my best posts highlighting specific vehicles 'down in Old Car City USA' for publication here and on 'The Hyphen' that were claimed by the Kinjapocalypse. Here are some examples of archived 'DIOCCUSA' posts.

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