The short life of a car usually has a guaranteed endpoint: a trip to the scrapyard. But not every vehicle on Earth makes it that far. Some get waylaid along the way, turning to dust on deserted roadsides or in random backyards. Some even find their way into one of the world’s peculiar vehicle cemeteries. Haunting, desolate, and fascinating, here are 10 of the world’s most unusual car graveyards.
Kaufdorf Car Graveyard (Switzerland)
Until a few short years ago, the tiny Swiss municipality of Kaufdorf (population: 1,020) had an unusual claim to fame. Thanks to the Kaufdorf car graveyard, its human residents were hugely outnumbered by classic cars.
A former junkyard owned by one Mr Walter Messerli, the cemetery began as far back as 1933. At the time, Mr Messerli was interested mainly in the money he could get from scrap parts. However, he also seemed to have a strange affinity for the vehicles themselves. Rather than doing as others in his business did and scrapping the abandoned cars entirely, Mr Messerli carefully preserved their shells, secreting them away on his vast and overgrown lot.
It was to become an obsession. By the time he was ready to retire, Mr Messerli had a collection of hundreds of cars spanning five decades. But the vehicle cemetery wasn’t finished yet. After he took over the business, his son continued to add to the collection until it contained some 1,500 vehicles, dating from 1930 right the way to the early 2000s.
Sadly for classic car lovers, it couldn’t last. In 2008, a Swiss court ordered the removal of all the vehicles. Most were auctioned off. Some were sold. The rest were scrapped.
Reliant Scimitar Graveyard (England)
One of the most-recognizable cars ever built, the Reliant Robin is today emblematic of an entire era. But, as motoring fans will be only too aware, there was more to Reliant than just their three-wheeled wonder. Over the years, the company put out a whole range of highly-regarded Scimitar sports cars; a good number of which can clearly be found in this Derbyshire car graveyard.
Situated near Ashbourne, the cemetery is a remarkable sight. Dozens and dozens of Scimitars huddle together on the damp grass, some missing windows, doors and engines, others seemingly ready to go after a quick paint-job and tune-up. Located on the very edge of a small copse of trees, the place is equal parts haunting and picturesque; especially when viewed under the cover of a thick morning mist.
Dhaka Rickshaw Graveyard (Bangladesh)
(Image: Bayadzid Akter via Demotix)
The capital of Bangladesh – Dhaka – is vast, dirty, severely overcrowded, and absolutely stuffed to the gills with strange and unusual sights. One of the strangest might very well be its rickshaw graveyard.
Situated atop a hill in the Mirpur district, lying right beside a vast block of housing estates, the Dhaka rickshaw graveyard seems almost as vast as the city that surrounds it. Over fifteen thousand multi-coloured rickshaws lie scattered across an area the size of multiple neighbourhoods, slowly collecting rust and rain damage. Most have been confiscated by police for failing to comply with the city’s newly-tightened safety regulations. Others have simply been dumped there by owners after upgrading to a battery-powered tuk-tuk.
In its own way, the graveyard is symbolic of an ending era. Although Dhaka has over three million rickshaws in circulation, signs are that they’re slowly falling out of favour. As new laws come in banning them from certain roads, and tuk-tuks start to suck up their business, it looks increasingly likely that the rickshaw graveyard will only keep on growing.
Abandoned Tram and Trolleybus Tunnel (Belgium)
(Images: Wim Van den Eynde – website)
In autumn 2013, an urban explorer in Belgium stumbled across a weird sight. In an otherwise empty 800 metre tunnel, he discovered line upon line of old trams and trolleybuses, left to slowly gather dust.
While a few appeared to be relatively new, others were old beyond belief. The oldest of them all still had sliding wooden doors and ancient leather furniture; a reminder of a bygone era of commuting.
Like many countries in mainland Europe, Belgium has a long history where trams are concerned. Operating in the country since the late-19th century, they’ve seen many different styles and types fall in and out of fashion; from the old wooden models to the sleek new glass-and-plastic versions. According to the urban explorer who found this tunnel, a handful of those above could easily have been restored and placed in a museum. Perhaps one day they will be.
Ambulance Graveyard in the Mojave Desert (USA)
Thanks to their association with accidents, injury and death, we think of ambulances as fast, noisy things, tearing up streets in a bid to save lives. So to encounter a vast vehicle graveyard full of them, silent and run down, can be a disconcerting experience. Especially when that graveyard is lost in the middle of the endless Mojave Desert.
Thanks to its low humidity, relative inaccessibility, and acres of empty space, the Mojave is far from unaccustomed to vehicle graveyards. There’s a famous airplane cemetery located there that’s so widely-known it even featured in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Nonetheless, the final resting place of these ambulances has an otherworldly quality all its own.
Surprisingly, most of the vehicles located there are in reasonably good condition – possibly due to the tight security around the area.
Triumph Graveyard at Appleton, Cheshire (UK)
(Images: Dave Harding)
For a generation of petrol heads, Triumph was a label of quality. Cars like the Triumph Spitfire, TR4 and TR6 were the pinnacle of British engineering, something to be treasured, preserved. Even when they were falling to pieces.
At least, that seems to be the logic behind the old Triumph Graveyard in Cheshire, England. Located at the bottom of a small private airfield near an associated Triumph restoration business, it was filled with the scavenged husks of dozens of cars. Rare TR4 racer models decayed and turned to rust beside American left-hand drive models, while nearby Spitfires became overgrown with weeds and slowly sank into the mire. At its height, the Triumph cemetery boasted scores of classic cars; their paint peeling off, bushes growing out through their radiator grilles.
Despite its potential as a pilgrimage spot for motoring fans, the site was ultimately cleared and redeveloped. All but the rarest models were sadly scrapped, their owners unwilling, or unable, to find anyone who would restore them.
Vehicle Graveyard at RAF Folkingham (England)
Lost in the middle of a rural, windswept landscape, the lonely remains of RAF Folkingham obscure a surprisingly colourful history. Originally constructed to help with the ongoing war against Germany, it eventually became one of the UK’s first-response nuclear sites, prepared to eliminate the supposed Russian threat at any sign of provocation. Decommissioned in the 1960s and briefly converted into a Formula 1 test track, it’s now found a strange new lease of life as one of Britain’s biggest vehicle graveyards.
Stretching for acres upon acres, this unusual cemetery features all sorts of heavy lifters, diggers, and giant transport trucks, all slowly decaying on the old concrete runways. Unlike some of the vehicle graveyards in this article, no effort seems to have been made to keep them in working condition, or even in a salvageable state. Most vehicles are missing windows, engines, wiring and more, and very few look like they’ll ever be roadworthy again.
However, a select few continue to confound expectations. A number of the trucks still have air in their tires, and a handful look capable of being restored. With no plans afoot to actually save any of these abandoned vehicles, though, it seems their decline may well be inevitable.
Reliant Robin Graveyard (Wales)
(Images: Sam Tait)
The punchline to just about every joke in British motoring history, the Reliant Robin is famously regarded as both iconic and awful. With its three wheels and wobbly frame, it’s almost guaranteed to conjure fond memories of Del Boy and Rodney high-tailing it round their Peckham estate (although purists will insist the Trotters only ever drove a Reliant Regal). So to see a group of them rotting together in a Welsh car graveyard can’t help but raise questions, such as “how?” and “why?”
Luckily, there’s an easy answer. The graveyard is actually part of the privately-owned Cae Dai 50s Museum in the Vale of Clwyd, which was firebombed in an arson attack in 2009 and spent a couple of years undergoing repairs. During this time, the Reliant Robin collection was moved to an empty patch of grassland and left to gather rust. Thankfully, the Cae Dai Trust has since reopened its museum, and returned to business as usual. We can only hope their classic car collection has been or will be similarly restored.
Ford Sierra Cosworth Graveyard (Sweden)
(Images: flexie via YouTube,)
Once an icon of 1980s European motoring, the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth has since mostly vanished from the continent’s winding roads. While most would attribute this decline to changing styles, there’s another, spookier reason out there. A good number of Sierra RS Cosworth on Earth has wound up in one Swedish cemetery.
First brought to global attention by YouTube user flexie, the cemetery is said to be located some 60 miles (96km) outside of Stockholm. Rows and rows of these 1980s classics stand back to back, many of them seemingly in good working condition. For a rural graveyard, the cars are remarkably well kept. Most have their windows intact, few are overgrown, and a large number still have well presented body paint. For what purpose are they being kept here? We, for one, would like to know.
Chatillon Car Graveyard (Belgium)
(Images: Rosanne de Lange Photography)
One of the eeriest sights in a country better known for its chocolate, comics and beer than spookiness, the Chatillon car graveyard in Belgium is as strange a destination as they come.
A series of classic cars buried deep inside a misty woodland, the graveyard practically defies explanation. A recurring urban legend has it that the cars were abandoned by American GIs after the war, and over the next 70 years the forest grew up around them. Neat as this is, it doesn’t explain the presence of many post-war models, stretching up to decades after the conflict ended.
However, there’s no doubting how firmly these rusting hulks are buried in the forest. Crammed in among the trees, sunk deep into the earth, and overflowing with vegetation, they seem as natural a part of the woods as any number of rocks and boulders. The overall effect is like waking up on Oxford Street decades after the apocalypse, to find nature is already reclaiming it.
Sadly for lovers of atmospheric abandonments, in 2010 the Belgian courts ordered the country’s numerous car graveyards to be cleared up. Within a few years, Chatillon and at least four others had been completely cleared out, the cars themselves turned to scrap. With their death, Belgium lost one of its oddest, most-atmospheric tourist draws.