Concept Cars at the Crusher
Residents of the suburban Chicago area may best associate Joe Bortz with a series of restaurants and nightclubs.; But for car buffs and automotive historians, Bortz is a savior of sorts for vintage concept cars of the 1950s and ’60s.
If you’re at all familiar with Bortz’s story, you may recognize the name Warhoops.; Located in Sterling Heights, Michigan, this junkyard doesn’t stand out from the typical backwoods scrapper until you realize where it’s been located for the past several decades: just a few miles away from General Motors’ Technical Center.
That proximity led GM to use Warhoops as a preferred scrapper as far back as the 1950s.; Should a company car become wrecked, there was a good chance its carcass would be hauled down Van Dyke Road to the yard’s gate.; A common occurrence, but the plot thickens: GM also chose Warhoops as a final destination for its conceptual one-offs.
For liability purposes, GM couldn’t let experimental wonders or stylistic studies into the hands of John Q. Public, so – often against the passionate pleas of designers – the cars were scheduled for destruction.; Yet for whatever reason, that didn’t always happen.; In the 1980s, Bortz found Warhoops to still be in possession of a number of GM concepts; the ’54 LaSalle II and the ’58 Chevrolet Biscayne are two examples.; Bortz bought the cars, worked on restoring them. The rest, as they say, is history.
Which brings me to Greg Steinmayer’s photo gallery.; Steinmayer managed to walk the yard in the early 1990s, and he thankfullyhad the foresight to bring along a camera.; His photos of a decrepit LaSalle II and a diced Biscayne tug at the heartstrings, even though they’ve been adopted and saved from further decay.
If you’re hoping to strike concept gold out at the lot, forget it.; I visited the lot nearly three years back, and while there were a number of oddball heaps at Warhoops – such as a twisted ’63 GMC medium-duty truck with a V-12 and a Checker Aerobus devoid of its front clip – there were no remnants of GM experimentation lying around.
Unless, that is, you’re into that 1958 GM prototype earthmover used to move junk around the yard…