About three years ago, we spotted a Simca VF2 overrun by wild brush in a vacant lot that borders the freeway. We made a mental note of it but we didn’t stop to get a closer look – tracking down every single abandoned car we catch a glimpse of would be nearly impossible for a multitude of reasons. Some are on private property and others are very difficult to access; We filed the VF2 under the second category.
A couple of months later we found ourselves on the road that goes under the freeway and noticed a white Renault 12 behind a partially demolished factory. We stopped and quickly realized that it was the same place we saw from the freeway. The factory looked abandoned, like if it had been bombed during World War II and never rebuilt.
Intrigued and with about an hour to spare, we looked for a way in but found nothing: On the right side of the factory was the aforementioned freeway, on top of it was a railroad track and housing projects and on the left was a big wall that separates it from what appears to be a school. We were slightly alarmed to find a makeshift camp next to the wall, but we saw no one inside and figured it was long vacant.
We eventually stopped walking around and realized that the only way in was through one of the numerous holes in the fence. This meant crossing the entire factory, an endeavor that we had hoped to avoid because it is not the safest thing to do on the outskirts of Marseille. We hurried across debris and graffitied walls and headed for the 12 in the hills. Next to it was another 12 and an early Peugeot 104. All three cars were wedged in between the hill, trees and the factory walls.
Next we hiked up to where we saw the Simca and we were pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t alone. Further up was a Citroën GS, an upside down Peugeot 304, a Renault 5, half of a Citroën 2CV and about a third of a Renault 12 wagon. Like the 12s and the 104 behind the factory, the cars were stripped of most of their trim pieces, mechanical bits and license plates.
We took as many photos as possible but did so very quickly because it was raining and we wanted to get out as fast as possible. On our way down we spotted chickens next to the camp, a sign that it certainly was not as vacant as we had initially judged.
The question that immediately came to mind is how on earth did all of these cars get there? For a long time we figured they were stolen and dumped before the projects were built above it, but an acquaintance told us the real story about a year later: The place started life as a factory and it was shut down and turned into a fairly large junkyard in the 1970s. In the early 1990s, the government passed laws that made it mandatory for junkyards to park cars on paved surfaces, among other requirements aimed at reducing ground pollution. Some spent a sizable amount of money to conform to the new norms while others preferred to simply shut down. The yard pictured here (no one seems to remember its name) was one of the first to close its doors in the region.