Pearsonville 2008

Floating Headlights  :::::  1963 Chrysler ImperialFloating Headlights ::::: 1963 Chrysler Imperial
Bucket Express  :::::  1950s GM BusBucket Express ::::: 1950s GM Bus
The Decapitator  :::::  Early-'70s Chevy NovaThe Decapitator ::::: Early-'70s Chevy Nova
The Three Eds  :::::  1959 EdselsThe Three Eds ::::: 1959 Edsels
Windmill Tilting  :::::  1960 Desoto AdventurerWindmill Tilting ::::: 1960 Desoto Adventurer
Race Control  :::::  The RaceTrack Press BoxRace Control ::::: The RaceTrack Press Box
Skegs  :::::  1961 CadillacSkegs ::::: 1961 Cadillac
Skewer  :::::  1961 CadillacSkewer ::::: 1961 Cadillac
I Got Lei'd In Hawaii  :::::  1961 Dodge DartI Got Lei'd In Hawaii ::::: 1961 Dodge Dart
Purple Piston  :::::  1966 Dodge ChargerPurple Piston ::::: 1966 Dodge Charger
Necking  :::::  Early-'60s Chrysler 300Necking ::::: Early-'60s Chrysler 300
Spare Piston  :::::  Mid-'50s BuickSpare Piston ::::: Mid-'50s Buick
Launch Sequence  :::::  1970s Pontiac FirebirdLaunch Sequence ::::: 1970s Pontiac Firebird
Driver's Crypt  :::::  1955 Plymouth BelvedereDriver's Crypt ::::: 1955 Plymouth Belvedere
Door Panel Patina  :::::  1955 Plymouth BelvedereDoor Panel Patina ::::: 1955 Plymouth Belvedere
Bel Air Tiger  :::::  Third Generation GM B-Body sedanBel Air Tiger ::::: Third Generation GM B-Body sedan
GP '73  :::::  1973 Pontiac Grand PrixGP '73 ::::: 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix
Ridgecrest  :::::  1960s FordsRidgecrest ::::: 1960s Fords
Mrs. B  :::::  1972 Cadillac Coupe de VilleMrs. B ::::: 1972 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
Blind Imperial  :::::  1963 Chrysler ImperialBlind Imperial ::::: 1963 Chrysler Imperial
The Black Hole  :::::  1966 Ford FairlaneThe Black Hole ::::: 1966 Ford Fairlane
Fifty Footer  :::::  1960 Cadillac Sedan de VilleFifty Footer ::::: 1960 Cadillac Sedan de Ville
Equipment  :::::  Knight Rider 2010 Star Car: HannahEquipment ::::: Knight Rider 2010 Star Car: Hannah
Long in the Roof  :::::  Checker Marathon Aerobus LimousineLong in the Roof ::::: Checker Marathon Aerobus Limousine
Gangster  :::::  1948 PackardGangster ::::: 1948 Packard
Hosed  :::::  1960 Dodge DartHosed ::::: 1960 Dodge Dart
Kowalski  :::::  1973 Dodge ChallengerKowalski ::::: 1973 Dodge Challenger
Ghost Starburst  :::::  1957 LincolnGhost Starburst ::::: 1957 Lincoln
Christine Rabbit Ears  :::::  1958 Plymouth Suburban WagonChristine Rabbit Ears ::::: 1958 Plymouth Suburban Wagon
Speedlines  :::::  1973 Chevy Monte CarloSpeedlines ::::: 1973 Chevy Monte Carlo
  • Floating Headlights  :::::  1963 Chrysler Imperial
  • Bucket Express  :::::  1950s GM Bus
  • The Decapitator  :::::  Early-'70s Chevy Nova
  • The Three Eds  :::::  1959 Edsels
  • Windmill Tilting  :::::  1960 Desoto Adventurer
  • Race Control  :::::  The RaceTrack Press Box
  • Skegs  :::::  1961 Cadillac
  • Skewer  :::::  1961 Cadillac
  • I Got Lei'd In Hawaii  :::::  1961 Dodge Dart
  • Purple Piston  :::::  1966 Dodge Charger
  • Necking  :::::  Early-'60s Chrysler 300
  • Spare Piston  :::::  Mid-'50s Buick
  • Launch Sequence  :::::  1970s Pontiac Firebird
  • Driver's Crypt  :::::  1955 Plymouth Belvedere
  • Door Panel Patina  :::::  1955 Plymouth Belvedere
  • Bel Air Tiger  :::::  Third Generation GM B-Body sedan
  • GP '73  :::::  1973 Pontiac Grand Prix
  • Ridgecrest  :::::  1960s Fords
  • Mrs. B  :::::  1972 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
  • Blind Imperial  :::::  1963 Chrysler Imperial
  • The Black Hole  :::::  1966 Ford Fairlane
  • Fifty Footer  :::::  1960 Cadillac Sedan de Ville
  • Equipment  :::::  Knight Rider 2010 Star Car: Hannah
  • Long in the Roof  :::::  Checker Marathon Aerobus Limousine
  • Gangster  :::::  1948 Packard
  • Hosed  :::::  1960 Dodge Dart
  • Kowalski  :::::  1973 Dodge Challenger
  • Ghost Starburst  :::::  1957 Lincoln
  • Christine Rabbit Ears  :::::  1958 Plymouth Suburban Wagon
  • Speedlines  :::::  1973 Chevy Monte Carlo

Pearsonville: Hubcap Capital of the World
On a bleak and barren stretch of remote U.S. Highway 395, Andy and Lucy Pearson founded Pearsonville, California.  It was 1960 and the small family had just moved to their recently purchased forty-acre tract of empty high desert land with plans to start a business servicing motorists.  Living in a drafty two-room shack, they built a roadside cafe, with an attached apartment, as quickly as possible.

The run up this stretch of isolated highway was grueling.  The long, gradual grade from the Southern California lowlands into the scorching-hot upper Mojave took its toll on the cars of the day.  It quickly became clear that Andy and his teenaged son, Don, would be spending most of their time towing and repairing the cars of stranded motorists.  By the mid-‘70s, Pearson’s was a thriving operation, with the beginnings of one of the largest wrecking yards in the region.  What was nothing but creosote scrub desert only fifteen years before had become a full-fledged town, appearing on roadmaps and regional highway signs.

After two tours of duty in Viet Nam as a Navy Seabee, son Don returned to Pearsonville and took on more of the family business.  He expanded it even more, increasing the size of the towing fleet and opening another yard and recycling facility in Ridgecrest, twenty miles to the south.  Ever the entrepreneur, he built and operated a quarter-mile dirt racetrack on the North side of the now sprawling, 4,000 car junkyard.  The “Pearsonville Raceway” saw wild action on Saturday nights for almost fifteen years, attracting racers from all over the state.

In the ‘80s, Andy retired, selling out to Don. Lucy, a Pearsonville fixture since the very beginning, took an interest in collecting hubcaps.  It became an obsession for her and she amassed thousands of them.  From numerous television appearances on shows like To Tell The Truth and Travels with Harry Smith, “The Hubcap Queen” and her collection became well known all over America.  Pearsonville became the “Hubcap Capital of the World.”

Splitting his time between his businesses in Pearsonville and Ridgecrest, Don’s empire flourished and his own son, David, began to participate in the family business.  They opened a modern, corporate truck-stop and gas station complex on the south edge of Pearsonville in the late-‘90s, shutting down the original, ‘60s vintage, gas station, repair shop and cafe.  By then, most of the family’s wrecking and salvage business had also moved to the more centrally located Ridgecrest yard.

When Don suddenly died in 2006, the entire family enterprise fell on David’s shoulders.  Plate already full with the Ridgecrest operation, the distant Pearsonville yard became even more difficult to justify keeping open.  Within a year, thousands of cars were either sold off or moved to the Ridgecrest yard for storage and the structures fell into disrepair.  Aside from the busy truck-stop at the off-ramp, Pearsonville was fast becoming a ghost town.

The Serial Trespasser
This was the state in which I found Pearsonville when I arrived on the scene in 2008.  Another photographer I know had explored the perimeter of the now mostly abandoned yard and found a cross-country, back-way in.  He shared his recon info with me and said it was one of the best junkyards he’d ever seen.  On my next trip to the region, I hiked in at 1AM, after shooting a nearby ghost town.  What I found blew my mind.  While thousands of cars and trucks had already been moved out or sold for scrap, there were still approximately 1,000 vehicles inside the fence.  The collection that remained was a deep cross-section of every American marque from the 1950s through the ‘70s, mutedly gleaming under the chilly March full moon.  I had stumbled into an elephant’s graveyard of amazing and rare Detroit iron.

That first night I arrived too late to do much except explore one small section of this enormous site with my jaw hanging open.  I rearranged my plans for the rest of that trip, booked an extra night in my motel in Ridgecrest and hiked into the yard the next night, shooting and exploring for 8 hours.  Having still only scratched the surface of the site’s potential, I spent two of the next three full moon phases there, driving 800 miles, round trip, to the high Mojave, specifically to photograph this amazing collection of vehicles.  I slipped in the back way under the cover of darkness a total of six times, a serial trespasser.

For more on “The Pearsonville Experience” visit the Pearsonville 2009 set.
For more on the fate of Pearsonville, visit the Pearsonville 2010 set.