Murray Chambers was just 14 years old when he bought his first car. He paid $2 for a 1950 Vanguard and, when he couldn’t get it to run, paid $5 of his hard-earned money to have it towed away for scrap. A light bulb must have gone off in his head about how to make money from unwanted cars.
For more than four decades, Murray Chambers has been hauling cars on his flat-deck truck, most of them to the final resting place – the crusher at the metal recyclers. In fact, Chambers reckons he has winched more than 10,000 vehicles onto the steel truck-deck, among them hearses, limousines, ambulances, other tow trucks and thousands of cars, including an exotic Maserati Bi-turbo sports car. He even transported a historic DC3 aircraft that had been on display at the Bellingham Airport in Washington State to Vancouver for restoration by the Friends of the DC3 volunteers who would restore it.
“Beginning in the Seventies, scrapping cars was a license to print money,” the affable 67-year-old says. “The phone rang off the hook all week with people wanting cars hauled away.”
Helping his cause was the fact Vancouver and neighbouring municipalities had passed by-laws prohibiting unlicensed vehicles from being parked on public roadways. They also tightened up regulations on storing vehicles on private property. Neighbours would put pressure on neighbours to have stored and seemingly abandoned vehicles hauled away, city by-law officers were writing tickets and Murray Chambers was there with his scrapper.
His introduction to car hauling came early on in his life through a series of circumstances. Always a car enthusiast, in 1967 Chambers talked his high school teacher into allowing him to complete a required project by assembling a photo collage of sports car racing at the Westwood Motorsport Park race track in Coquitlam. He ended up with a press pass that allowed him full access at tracks throughout the Pacific Northwest. He shot thousands of photos – many of which were picked up by magazines and newspapers.
“I had a VIP press pass and I was right on the grid at all the tracks including Seattle International Raceway where I was next to famous racers like Mario Andretti and the Unser brothers,” he recalls.
When he began photographing the demolition derby races at Callister Park across from the Pacific National Exhibition, he and other ‘officials’ were invited to participate in their own race. He prepared a 1958 Pontiac, had some fun and got the demolition derby bug. He bought a much-used 1964 GMC truck with a hand-cranked winch to haul his derby cars around. Chambers would go on to become a champion demolition derby competitor and stunt driver, driving over piles of cars and through walls of fire in shows from Dallas and Los Angeles to Kansas City. A special room in his Burnaby home holds an estimated 1,200 trophies and awards.
Chambers wrecked hundreds of cars while competing. He would go on to scrap thousands of cars in his day job.
In 1975, friend Dave Slater welded up a steel deck for a 1968 Ford truck Chambers had bought. He began working for Ron Livingston at Livingston Scrap Car Removal.
“We would haul fifty to sixty cars a week. We were getting about one hundred dollars for each one. The truck was going all the time,” he says.
In 1982, Chambers got a contract with Unitow hauling cars from Vancouver to the company’s yard in Langley. He would then haul scrap cars to the metal recyclers in Richmond. By 1984, the old Ford scrap truck was completely worn out. He bought a 1979 GMC cab and chassis and switched the steel deck on to that truck. He was back in business.
The steel deck was originally equipped with a big roller on the back for dragging up car carcasses. In 1999, his friend Jay Hartle modified the deck to accept ramps so he could broaden his car hauling business.
With the thousands of vehicles that have been winched on to his steel deck, only one got away on him.
“A big 1966 Dodge station wagon came flying off the deck after a chain broke,” he says. “It rolled across the street, went through a fence and hit the corner of the garage on a house. The owner was really pissed,” Chambers recalls.
One car he dispatched still bothers him. It was a totally original rust-free 1960 Thunderbird. He painted it up to display in the annual Motorama car show at the Pacific National Exhibition to promote the demolition derbies held at the PNE. He then destroyed the car during two demolition derby seasons and hauled it away for scrap.
“That car was beautiful and it haunts me to this day,” he admits.
He has been hauling cars with the same truck for 33 years. These days, his main cargo is his multi-award winning 1975 Pontiac Ventura show car that gets the white glove treatment every time it is loaded and unloaded.
Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. [email protected]