eastsideTim UltraDork
6/20/18 2:37 p.m.

This trip was a little ways back in mid-April, just getting around to writing it up now. My wife and I flew into Vegas, rented a car, and headed out into the desert for a long weekend. A little background on Joshua Tree National Park – It’s in the southern California desert where the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet, was designated a national monument in 1936, and is a relatively young park, as it wasn’t converted to National Park status until 1994. If you like deserts, Joshua Tree is a must see, one of those places you can enjoy hiking on an intense trail, or just relaxing on a boulder watching the scenery. Due to its relatively short distance from Los Angeles, it gets very crowded on weekends, but isn’t too bad on weekdays, especially in late spring and early fall. It’s also great for stargazing, more so in the southern part of the park.

An interesting tidbit, and the basis for this post, is that mining and ranching occurred on the property all the way to the mid-20th century, and quite a bit of evidence of activity is still there. I’m going to cover mostly automotive photos, but there are also a decent amount of structures scattered around the park, too.

Our first encounter was on the easy Ryan Ranch trail, near the ranch’s pump house. One six cylinder engine, I believe a Chevrolet Stovebolt Six. Behind it is a partial chassis (I believe a Ford Model A), with a flathead four cylinder.


Due to their proximity to the pump house, I am assuming these were used to run a well pump, then discarded when they broke down.

The next day we hit paydirt on the Wall Street Mill trail. This one takes you to an old stamp mill where gold ore was processed. It’s a flat trail, but with deep sand in places, so not always the easiest going. My wife benefited heavily from her hiking poles. Our first sighting was a ways off the main trail, near the remains of an old bunkhouse. We’ll get back to it after we’ve made it to the mill.

Getting close to the mill, a fender and a rear body panel sat just to the side of trail. I’m not good enough at spotting to identify what they were from, though I’m guessing they were originally from a touring car.

Arriving at the mill, this truck appears out of the bushes. While it’s the most complete vehicle we’ve seen up close so far, it will also be the start of a trend. Most features that could easily allow one to identify the make have long since disappeared, likely taken by vandals or souvenir seekers.

A little research online pointed me towards the car being a ’29 or 30’ Lincoln, converted into a truck (another trend out here, where the cars needed to earn their keep). Based on the cowl design, with the center vent, and the four spoke steering wheel, I tend to agree, that it is indeed a '29-'30 Lincoln. Kind of fancy for the desert.


A bit more down the trail, just past the mill, and there’s another Lincoln. This time, an open truck. I wonder if the rear body panel earlier on the trail came from this one. What was really nice about it was the engine was still there.

A flathead V8 with the intake and exhaust manifolds inside the V. So cool!


Another neat feature was this spyglass for the oil level. No need to dirty your hands with a dipstick. Judging from the engine number (assuming it’s the original engine), I think this a 1930 model.

I’m not sure what the bed came from, off hand I’d guess a Ford Model AA pickup.


On the return, we headed off onto a side trail, past the bunkhouse, to get a closer look at the first car we saw. This one is a bit more of an enigma.

A close look at the engine, showed a flathead six cylinder, which was fairly common back in the 20’s.

But, take a closer look, the distributor is in the center, and despite being an inline engine, it has two cylinder heads. That made it really easy to figure out the drivetrain. I believe it has to be a 1926-1932 Pontiac. Depending on the year, the engine was rated anywhere from 40-60 HP. Here’s where things get difficult, though. On every picture I found of Pontiacs from that era, the cowl was not as simple as the one here.

I’d stake a guess this thing is a 1920’s Pontiac chassis with a different cowl, and a homemade bed. Haven’t been able to identify the cowl, I originally thought it might be from a Model T, but am doubting that now. Any ideas? Here’s a pic of what’s left of the dash, if it’ll help. It’s also possible it is a Pontiac cowl, and I just didn’t do enough searching.


If you’re ever out in Southern California, and have the time, I’d highly recommend heading out to Joshua Tree. Beyond what I’ve pictured above, the whole park is absolutely gorgeous. Get out on a trail early and you might have it all to yourself for a while.

Lof8 Dork
6/20/18 3:20 p.m.

Very cool!

AngryCorvair MegaDork
6/21/18 10:06 a.m.

I got to hike a little bit out there in '92, on a short break from TDY at 29 Palms.  i'd never been in "desert wilderness" before, only Grand Canyon / Painted Desert etc, so it was eye opening and very interesting.   I'd love to go back.

eastsideTim UltraDork
6/21/18 11:20 a.m.

In reply to AngryCorvair :

It really is an amazing place.  I think the only national park I like better is Yellowstone, but I’ll admit to being a huge fan of the desert.  I think it comes from living in the Midwest all my life, where the seasons tend to be “cold” and “hot and humid”

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