Fans of Old Pickups Will Strike Gold in Jerome, Ariz.

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By John Cappa

If you've owned a pickup truck for any amount of time, then you probably have an ingrained adventurous side and enjoy road trips. If you're like us, then you probably prefer avoiding beaten paths and often travel down old country roads looking for abandoned, vintage pickups parked in driveways and overgrown fields.

On a recent trip to test drive the 2014 Ram Power Wagon we drove through historical Jerome, Ariz., where we had the chance to wander around the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town. It's perhaps the coolest and largest collection of pseudo-abandoned vintage iron that we have ever seen. Proprietor Don Robertson has spent more than 30 years finding, collecting, and dragging trucks and equipment from all over the U.S. to the old mining facility. True die-hard truck enthusiasts will be so drawn in by the vehicles and equipment that they'll hardly notice the ghost town the vehicles are parked in.

Robertson spends his day entertaining guests by firing up and toying with the different vehicles, including a monstrously loud 10,154-cubic-inch three-cylinder gas engine built in the 1930s.

We only had a limited amount of time at the mine, so stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town in the coming months. For now, we'll let the old iron we did photograph whet your appetite. One word of caution, if you do visit Robertson, don't offer to buy any of his vehicles or equipment. The only things for sale are in the gift shop. photos by John Cappa



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The lower area of the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town features many older heavy-duty trucks. They each have a story of how they came to the mine. If you have the time, Robertson can tell you all about how he used come-alongs, Hi-Lift jacks, winches and whatever else he had on hand to get each one onto a trailer.


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The Ghost Town has an auto parts store. It's stuffed with vintage parts and packages. We assume this is the belt isle.


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This Cummins generator/welder sat on the back of a truck powered by (presumably) the oldest still-working Cummins diesel engine. The truck looked like more of a hodge-podge driving platform than an actual vehicle.


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This 1949-1956 Studebaker truck hasn't moved in years. These trucks were originally powered by an 80-horsepower, 169.6-cubic-inch Champion L-head inline six cylinder. It had a road weight of 2,840 pounds with a maximum payload of 1,760 pounds, which was 620 pounds more than the comparable Chevrolet of the era. In 1950, an optional 245.6-cubic-inch Hy-Mileage inline-six-cylinder engine became available.


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This Studebaker E Series was offered between 1955 and 1960 with multiple engines, including an optional 130-hp, 212-cubic-inch Detroit diesel for the one-tons and up. A gas inline-six and a V-8 were the other engine choices. Four-wheel-drive was also available on half- and three-quarter-ton models beginning in 1957. Northwestern Auto Parts Co. supplied the components for the 4x4 conversions, which were similar to the NAPCO parts used on Chevrolet and GMC trucks.


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There is a lot going on in the rear end of this old rig. The suspension looks fairly complex for a truck with wooden wheels and solid rubber tires.


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The 1961 International Harvester Travelette was the first six-passenger, four-door truck of the era. This appears to be a 1965-1967 model.


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This 1930s 10,154-cubic-inch three-cylinder Chicago Pneumatic engine was originally used to run a generator that powered a town and a mine. Imagine a 14-inch bore and 22-inch stroke. It runs on propane, but Robertson uses air pressure to get the huge engine started.


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Based on the door badging, this 1955-1956 International Harvester S-Series 4x4 wrecker originally came from Desert Shores, Calif., on the Salton Sea coast. We're not sure why you would need tire chains in the desert where it never snows. Perhaps the truck was used to pull boats up a mossy boat ramp.

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Of course he saved the best for last in this series. The old Jeep FC. Then again, an FC can carry more by volume than almost any other pickup truck ever made.

Why travel all the way to Arizona to see some old scrap metal when you can take the short ride down to your local Toyota dealership and see a future classic! The redesigned 2014 Tundra won't burn to the ground like a Chevrolet, randomly lose engine power like a Ford or refuse to shift into park like a Fiat-RAM!

TundraMan, please keep your rude thoughts to yourself. This published article is for those who enjoy "Old School" vehicles which are the foundation blocks of the auto industry today. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Jerome is a trip well worth taking.I know,I used to live in Cottonwood.There is all kinds of very cool history there,if your into it.I used to take my wife and kids out on the old mining trails and even followed the old narrow gage railroad all the way to Williams Az.I think most of those are now closed by the blm,too bad.

BACKSTORY: Back in the early Eighties, Don Robertson came to town with a sizable collection of heavy mining equipment, rusty, motorized, and noisy, looking for a site to show his passion. I was then Building Inspector/Zoning Administrator/ Historic Preservation Officer for the Town, $6/hr part-time. Not only was there limited land for such a project within the town, but the idea went against the then current concept of getting away from the 'Ghost Town and theme park image'. The old machines were also terribly noisy. Don's vision and energy were good, but I was the one that had to tell him it wouldn't pass, and it didn't. I suggested, helped and gave him some contact numbers. I thought he would move on like so many others who came through with ideas, but he persevered. Strong opposition came when it was rumored he would set up at the Clark Street Bend where the new Fire Station now resides. A truck with a sign was parked there, beyond the town's jurisdiction, creating more dissent. I suffered some wrath by suggesting we help him. Soon, it became apparent Don had acquired land from Phelps Dodge where the priest's house had partially burned, where serious league baseball was once played, a distance up a steep road, but not too far from Town. OK there never was a mine until Don dug it, and certainly no Ghost City there, but it was another entertainment for tourists, not most of us' idea of historical preservation, but historical nonetheless, especially the working equipment. It grew and grew over the decades. What is now there is indescribable; beauty, a tourist trap or a junkyard depending upon the eye of the beholder. I'm glad I encouraged him as a neighbor; have no idea how many other locals would agree. Must give Don an A for effort. Whatever else one might say, one cannot doubt Don's passion for these old relics. You can't hear it, see it, nor smell it from downtown, so I did my job.

Looking forward to some of the stories in the up and coming months.

Doyle, it's great when someone lends a helping hand to encourage another move forward with an idea, no matter how far out it appears.

The town probably didn't want a junkyard or what they thought is a junkyard.

But, it seem to have worked.

I hope he has enough resources and can get volunteers to help restore some of the trucks to a better condition.

@ Doyle Vines: Is Alfredos still alive and well in Cottonwood? damn good Mexican food and great entertainment back in the day...

@Big Al--The Travellette above is the same body style as my granddad's 63 IH 1000 stepside. I for one would enjoy looking at these old trucks. I like the news on the newer trucks, but I wish they still had a segment on old trucks on PUTC. Maybe a junkyard section like TTAC. I really enjoy reading Murilee's scrapyard article with pictures on TTAC.

@Jeff S and Toxic Sludge,
I like that old forward control Jeep.

It's a neat little truck.

We used to have a number of IH pickups here in Australia from the sixties, they were made in the same factory as the Dodge pickups.

They both ran 318s and 345s.

Dodge, you can see they had platform sharing back then.

Its cool to see all those old International Harvester trucks. My dad had one before he got a Ford F-100.

@Big Al--Take the first link that you sent of the tan step side IH and put the steering wheel on the left, change the color to light metallic blue with a light grey interior and put a straight six in it and my granddad's IH is the same truck down to the hub caps. A lot of great memories and I regret ever selling it.

We took a daytrip through this mountain pass town last Summer from Sedona. It seems to be a favorite drive for testing new model cars/trucks. A caravan of camo painted new models went through while we were there.

The ghost theme is not overdone like the UFO thing in Roswell. I'm not a believer but it's kinda fun and kids love it. Rich history, beautiful drive, quaint shops with a Village feel. Worth the time if you're in the area.

Caution on the roads though. A parked car went over the cliff that caused quite a comotion.

aaagh ha feels good seeing all American Trucks, not like the rice burner Toyota's and Nissan's

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