Back when I was editing Hemmings Muscle Machines, I got a call from a guy named Dave in central Vermont. Pretty much everybody who had ever written a word about cars did, too. He was calling me to promote this guy named Bruce Cliche who had what appeared to be a muscle car boneyard up for sale on eBay. What ensued was one of the weirdest experiences of my life.
George Mattar and I met Dave at a diner in town and followed his ’71 Monte Carlo to Bruce’s property. Before we could get the car stopped, we were swarmed by six German Shepherds, all ready to bite me in the crotch the second I exited the car.
After a few tense seconds, a shirtless, shoeless Bruce arrived to call them off. George and I got out, said a few greetings and immediately watched Bruce cruise – barefooted, mind you – through a towering pile of whatever poor soul one of the guard dogs had consumed the night before. He half-heartedly hosed it out from between his toes and we went looking around the property.
You can get an idea of what’s here by watching his buddy Dave’s video, if you can stand the Gordon Lightfoot accompaniment:
There’s no question that there’s a ton of stuff on this guy’s property. Eight hundred to a thousand cars by rough estimate. I have no idea if it’s still there or not, or if the town finally got sick of his bullshit and took it by eminent domain, but regardless, at the time we visited in 2005, and as late as 2008 when BangShift wrote about it, the stuff was still there.
The yard is depressing to look at. There are a few good specimens of interesting cars left, but the last thing you want to do to an American car from the 1960s and 1970s is park it in the grass – in fucking Vermont.
Along with the cars, there have to be 25 of the shittiest retired school buses in America that make up some of the storage buildings for the zillion parts Bruce has. There’s one bus full of Muncie four-speeds. Another filled with just stainless wiper arms. But as rare and plentiful as a lot of this is, at the end of the day, it’s 3.9 acres of shit slowly being reclaimed by Mother Nature.
Then I went in the house. Sometimes – almost a decade later – I still wake up with the chills.
We entered through the basement, which was stacked floor to ceiling with heads. All manner of them. Stuff’s been collecting here since 1971, when I was three and Nixon was still in the White House.
I climbed the stairs and entered the kitchen area. Folks, I have been in some shitty houses in my day, but this was like entering that place where Buffalo Bill lived in Silence of the Lambs. Garbage bags jammed with rotten food, tossed TV dinner boxes, human heads, who the hell knows…
Ostensibly, I was there to look at the parts, which were jammed into every square inch of this former farmhouse, but what truly grabbed my attention was the vast array of VHS-based trucker porn scattered about the living room, surrounding a 12-inch Zenith perched on a rickety TV stand, and accompanied by two chairs.
Folks, I have worked in filthy warehouses, I cleaned grease traps at a Dunkin’ Donuts, and I’ve inhaled enough paint fumes and sanded fiberglass dust to build an entire Corvette in my lungs, but I have never – ever – inhaled a more refreshing breath of air than the one I took in upon exiting that building. I hocked and hacked and spit in a vain effort to dislodge whatever weaponized, desiccated fluids had managed to leak past the hand I held clasped over my mouth and nose when I was inside.
It was 7:00 and I wanted to have thirty miles between me and that house of Onanistic horrors before the sun went down.
Before I left, I wanted to get a portrait of Bruce to accompany the story I was going to write. It was one of those rare, warm early spring evenings, and despite the fact that I was urging him to do so, Bruce refused to put a shirt on. So I got a photo of a fat, bald guy with his round trout-belly sticking over his shorts. Awesome.
When I got back to the office, I had our talented art guy Ed Heys draw a shirt and suspenders on him, which is what we ran in the magazine.
A month later, the second it arrived in Bruce’s mailbox, I got a call from him. “Why’d you put a shihhht on me?” he asked, in a Northern Vermont drawl.
Like the Jeep community says, if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.