Striking images of abandoned cars that are being reclaimed by rot and rust. This evocative photographic collection of vintage cars reminds us that there is beauty everywhere, even in decay.
There is something uniquely beautiful yet sad about abandoned vehicles. Much liked abandoned houses, a subject that I have shown some fascination with the past, abandoned cars and trucks often leave one wondering… Why?
Why did this car or truck simply get left behind to rust and rot?
Why has it just sat there for so long that nature has started to reclaim it?
Why would someone not – at least – have taken this away for the scrap metal it contains?
Although not nearly as sentimental as abandoned homes, these discarded and forgotten vehicles still hold a touch of melancholy. And the mix of metal, glass, and decay creates some visually stunning images.
Why are we fascinated with abandoned cars?
Perhaps it stems from how much my first car meant to me. The freedom that a car embodied, making it possible for me to go places and do things on my own, for the very first time in my life. I think that’s why owning your first car, no matter how bad of a beat-up lemon it might be, has become part of the ritual of transitioning into adulthood. It’s a sense of liberty that we – hopefully – never lose.
Or, perhaps it’s the classic movies that I loved as a child. Who doesn’t remember Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Herbie the Love Bug? Both of these movies centered around abandoned cars that were brought back to life and displayed a certain sense of magic. A kind of magic that made every child – or maybe it was just me – want to find, rescue, and befriend an abandoned car.
Or, perhaps it’s memories of a simpler time, in childhood, when I would spend hours in the backseat of the family station wagon on road trips that seemed to last forever.
Sure, cars are far more utilitarian than homes. They tend to be used for getting us from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Or, sometimes, they can be used as a status symbol depending on how darn fancy the car is, or how much it cost.
And we don’t usually create emotional attachment to our vehicles. Or do we?
Some of us name them, even to this day. I still remember that the car my mom had when I was a child was named Betsy. She eventually became known as Old Betsy, as age took a hold of her as it does us all.
The Car I Grew Up In
Betsy wasn’t much to look at. And she wasn’t even the most reliable vehicle in the world. But she was our way of getting out into the world. She brought home the groceries. She brought us to school. She brought us on family visits to fun places. She even – once – brought us all the way to Florida and back.
Besty was your typical suburban station wagon. The kind with the seat in the very far back that pointed backward so that you could watch the cars coming at you. Sometimes you waved at the other traffic. Sometimes you played games using license plate numbers. Sometimes you made silly faces at the people driving by.
As we grew, Old Betsy was eventually replaced with a new vehicle. And I’m fairly sure my Mom named that one as well. But, for some reason, I don’t recall the name she gave it. I only – and will always – remember Betsy.
If I could find and rescue Old Betty from the scrap heap that she eventually ended up upon, I probably would. Not that I have any use for a beat-up old station wagon from the 70s, but just because that car meant the world to us when we were younger.
This an abandoned and decaying version of what Old Betsy could have looked like was uncovered by winter storms on the beach in Morro Bay, California.
My Very First Car
I feel the same way about my own first car. A ‘75 Plymouth Gran Fury, that car was a big, beautiful machine. I remember rolling down all of the windows – by a hand crank, of course – turning on the music and driving down the highway. There were days, in that car, that I felt like I could go anywhere and do anything. I was free. I was young. I was invincible.
I never named her. It just wasn’t the cool thing to do at that age. But she was a great car.
She had her quirks, no doubt. Something had gone wrong with the locking mechanism in the ignition, so the choice was to replace it – a cost my young self could not afford – or to simply remove the locking mechanism. This meant that the car could be started without a key.
In order to avoid everything knowing this particular quirk, every time I was driving someone else around (something I did quite frequently as one of the few people in my group of friends who had a car), I would put the keys in the ignition and pretend that I needed them. Unfortunately, because there was nothing inside to hold the keys into place, every time I turned a sharp corner, they would come flying out.
I was 16 at the time, so I turned a LOT of sharp corners.
Even as I grew older, I still hold great – and sometimes terrible – memories of the cars I’ve owned. And all of them, no matter how much we loved or hated them, provided us with fun stories to tell.
The Worst Car… EVER!
One of the worst cars I ever owned was an ’85 Dodge Caravan. Gold in color, it was anything but “Gold” in style, reliability, comfort, fuel economy, or environmental friendliness. The minivan became a necessity of parenthood, but the good ones were far out of our financial reach. So, we settled for The Beast.
The Beast did not like to idle. That meant you had to put it into neutral at every red light and keep the engine running at a higher RPM until the light turned green. The Beast also did not like to run cold, so warming it up in the winter was critical. And the beast liked let off big clouds of dark smoke when warming up, which made the morning ritual anything but a joy. Since the best lived in an underground parking lot, every morning I had to play the game of start the beast, quickly drive the beast out of the underground while the engine was still cold & before the entire car park filled with exhaust fumes, park the best outside, idle the beast until the engine warmed up enough that it wouldn’t chug out and die on the road. Once this ritual was complete, the family could safely enter the beast and we would be on our way.
The sliding door on the beast didn’t always like to latch shut, so – every once in a while – it would fly open on us while we were in transit.
And The Beast did NOT like to turn left. At first, it was a minor “don’t make me do that”. Eventually, it became a major “if you try to turn left, I will break down and you will end up stuck in the middle of the intersection in front of oncoming traffic.”
That’s why, for about a year, every left turn we had to make required three right turns to complete.
Eventually, The Beast died. A complete, utter, and total death. I cannot say that I was sad when it went, but I can say that I still enjoy telling stories of The Beast and what we, as a family, had to do in order to get by when we were young and broke.
Sadly, the abandoned junkyard versions look about the same as how I remember the van looking when I drove it, so there’s no need to revisit that one. While some abandoned cars can be beautiful there are certain instances where they pose an environmental or safety threat. In these cases, it is usually best to simply contact a service that takes cars that are non-functional and have it removed.
But, yes… in the end, I do think we grow emotionally attached to our cars.
Maybe that’s why some of these abandoned cars aren’t actually “abandoned” but are – in fact – planted somewhere where they can “Rust in Peace” as the sign says.
Abandoned & Decaying Cars Create a Visual Spectacle
When I think about abandon cars, those that have been lost and forgotten to time, I don’t picture a 2002 Buick that has been ditched by the side of the road. I don’t even picture the ’85 Dodge Caravan sitting somewhere rusting even more than it was when we were driving it.
I’m referring to relics of vintage cars that have rusted and decayed to the point that it can often be hard to imagine what it looks like when it was still in use.
Sometimes, they can be found in the oddest of places. An open field. The bed of a quarry. In a river. And sometimes they can be found sitting where they belong, but forgotten about – like those that are abandoned inside and equally abandoned garage.
Not that long ago, I read a story about a family that inherited an old farm, only to discover a treasure trove of vintage cars that had been sitting, forgotten about, on the property for nearly 50 years.
Although most of those vehicles turned out to be somewhat salvageable, most of the ones that strike a nerve photographically – the ones that create the most intriguing images – are far beyond repair.
But it’s the rust and rot, taking over what used to be a strong and solid vehicle, that help create such a unique subject for some sadly beautiful images.
I think it’s also the juxtaposition of nature versus machine – as the earth tries to reclaim what was originally made for me is elements – that intrigues me about these pictures.
Like abandon homes, those are the aspects of this type of photography that pull at the melancholy heartstrings. It’s not just about what these cars went through. It’s not just about the people that it carried for the years that it was in service.
It’s about the unique and interesting beauty that comes after something has outlived its purpose.
101 Uniquely Beautiful Photos of Abandoned Cars & Trucks
I have collected a series of what I believe to be some of the most intriguing snapshots of discarded vehicles and abandoned cars from around the globe.
Is it one of the largest collections of abandoned car photography available on the internet today? I don’t know… but it feels pretty big.
Enjoy. Share. And join me in the wonder of what happened to these once-fine & functional automobiles.
We hope you enjoyed this unique collection of abandoned car photos. If you liked what you read, please feel free to share this so that others can enjoy it as well.
And my apologies for not being enough of a car enthusiast to be able to name the makes and models of many of these cars. These images intrigue me because of their composition and striking visuals, and not as much because of that the car used to be.
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