America’s Last AMC Dealer Is Literally Cutting Cars Out of Trees
They’re freeing cars from nature’s tight grasp.
Despite the American Motors Corporation being dead for more than 35 years, the remains of its last dealership, Collier Motors AMC, still stand in North Carolina, with hundreds of cars left on the lot. They sat almost forgotten until last year, when people began flocking across the country to buy its restorable classics and parts cars, which visitors say are in better shape than pictures let on. Of course, decades of sitting still have allowed nature to begin reclaiming some cars, many of which the family that owns the property has had to haul out of the underbrush. Or, in the case of more than a few cars lately, literally saw them out of trees.
One of the first big extractions was posted to Collier Motors AMC's Facebook page, outlining the removal of a 1970 AMC Javelin whose rear fender had begun to be assimilated by a tree. It had sat for more than two decades when a father-son team from Florida showed up to buy it, and they went through hell and high water to claim their prize.
"This car has been sitting twenty-plus years and a tree grew up through the wheel well," explained Robbie Collier, who's selling off his departed father's former stock as part of his estate. "The tree grew from under the car between the tire and the front wheel well. They—father and son from Florida—supported the car and sawed and pulled the rear wheel off. Then there was much more sawing. They went through two chainsaw chains and bars because of contacting metal. The tree actually became a part of the lip of the fender."
Robbie said similar had happened with a white AMC Pacer a couple months back, and that separating it from the tree ended up requiring uprooting the tree with a wrecker.
"The problem was the tree had entwined through the leaf spring of the Pacer," Robbie continued. "As they lifted, there was so much resistance that it was lifting the front tires of the crew-cab wrecker completely off the ground. After a while, the tree uprooted and a large root structure appeared. They cut that off with a chainsaw."
"We've also had them grow up through the engine bay on cars without an engine, and at least three grow up between the bumper and the car," he laughed. "One of the most unusual ones was [when] a tree grew through the hole in a trailer hitch on a Jeep Grand Cherokee."
Jeeps have been particularly popular as of late, and not just with the creeping blackberry vines that nearly absorbed a pair of Wagoneers along the property's edge. Though more than a dozen vintage Jeeps (largely Cherokees, though there are a couple Commandoes) remain onsite, they're going fast, with five selling as of late. One Wagoneer disappeared to Virginia to be used as a parts truck, while a rare '70s-era Jeep wrecker found a home in New York.
Such is the theme with non-Jeeps as well, with Robbie recounting multiple recent sales—some to people as far as New Mexico—but emphasizing that there are still plenty of worthwhile cars left. There aren't as many Javelins any more, but a fair number of (rougher) Pacers are left, as are some V8 donor cars, not to mention hundreds of other vehicles. While there has been some threat of a time crunch for several months now, with the estate set to expire this Spring, Robbie confirmed to me that he received word just today that the estate has been extended a year. Now, it won't wrap up until at least Spring 2023.
Still, if you need a complete, well-kept AMC parts car (or Jeep), it's best not to wait, and let another buyer claim it first. Or for that matter, those blackberries.
Those interested in contacting the Collier family to buy a car can do so through Collier Motors AMC's Facebook page.
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