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Junkyard draws thousands, gives cars second chance at life


By John Lauritsen

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    ANNANDALE, Minnesota (WCCO) — Warmer weather means classic car season is fast approaching, and if you’ve ever restored a classic, you may have visited an Annandale junkyard.

Each summer, Minnesota’s “Back to the 50s” car show draws thousands of people.

They come from New York, Texas, California — but for many, the show is a pit stop on their drive down memory lane.

“They drive their classics all the way up to Minneapolis to the ‘Back to the 50s,’ and then they come out here and spend the day,” said Randy Reinert.

They visit what used to be an 88-acre pasture near Annandale. Decades ago, cars replaced cows and French Lake Auto Parts was born.

“Junkyards can get a negative rap, but we take pride in it. We don’t pigeonhole ourselves into certain years. We love the old stuff,” said Tabitha Reinert.

In fact, they still have some cars that were here when Tabitha’s relatives opened the place in 1956. Nowadays, baby boomers and younger collectors can pick through and find just about any part they need when restoring a classic.

“There are some that are late 20s, there’s not much left of them but we’ve got anything from the 20s for the classics, all the way up to the modern stuff,” said Randy. “We don’t want to just go to one make or model, it’s all of them.”

There are currently 1,500 old classic cars on the lot and there’s a method to the madness when it comes to keeping track of them all.

The Reinerts created their own roads and put certain makes and models in their own neighborhoods, making it a highly organized junkyard.

“We can look it up and then there is a handful of us that can probably tell you within a car or two where it’s sitting,” said Randy.

For them, part of the satisfaction is watching a collector who drove a long way find the exact part they need — whether it be a T-Bird, Mustang, Chevy or Cadillac.

“As you can see, we’ve sold the seats, the interior, the console, motor and tranny are gone, the hood,” said Randy, pointing at a ’65 Buick Skylark convertible.

Times have certainly changed and the Reinerts continue to change with them.

They run a scrap metal yard as well but have vowed not to put any of their classics through the wringer. Because here, it’s all about the vintage vibes.

“It’s nostalgia. It takes everybody back to their childhood. Cars are kind of a foothold in your memory. It’ll take you back to, for me, it was Saturdays with my grandpa,” said Tabitha.

French Lake Auto Parts also buys and sells classic parts on eBay and online. They say word of mouth is the reason most of the old classic cars ended up on their lot. Collectors and sellers know the Reinerts have no intention of destroying them and love to see the parts restored.

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