Vandals target Lincoln man’s car collection

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — If the vandals had smashed the windshield of his Ford Taurus, Roger Pickering could get it replaced in hours.

But it’s not so simple finding good glass for the split pane of a 1940 New Yorker, or the passenger window of a 1957 Ranchero, or the wraparound windshield of a 1960 Thunderbird, the Lincoln Journal Star reported ( ).

“It’d be a little difficult, and it’d be pretty expensive,” Pickering said. “And it’s getting tough to find anything used for those years.”

He might have to start searching, or selling out. Because for several months, vandals have been targeting the small collection of antique cars he stores indoors, and outside, at an acreage east of Lincoln.

They’ve broken at least half a dozen windows. They dented and scratched 60-year-old sheet metal. They poured paint over the New Yorker’s roof. They stained a couple of cars with yellow spray paint — “Dalton S. was here” — and they dumped transmission fluid on the hood of a rare 1953 Kaiser Manhattan, leaving a blood-colored stain on fresh ivory paint.

“It’s happening over a period of time,” Pickering said. “And it’s getting worse.”

Deputies have been called to his land four times since 2011 — three times this year — documenting more than $17,000 in damage and stolen items, including a ’52 Plymouth transmission and a Model A fender.

Pickering owned Eastern Nebraska Auto Recyclers when he bought this land and its 3,300-square-foot house in 2005. The house had been through a fire, and he never intended to repair it.

He wanted it for storage for the few cars he kept after he sold his salvage yard. He and a couple of friends moved parts and tools and about 15 cars to the yard, the shed and the shell of the house.

The scrap metal thieves probably found the property first, stripping it of most of its heavy and precious metals — transmissions, compressors, conveyor tracks and radiators.

They left the boxes and boxes of seat covers and stacks of Hot Rod and True Detective magazines and repair manuals.

“The thieves probably got all they want. And these kids, well, it’s become a hangout, a place to go out to.”

That’s Pickering’s theory: The story spreads from teen to teen to teen about this uninhabited home just a few miles from town, full of old cars and motorcycles and mystery. And house windows to break — about 35 so far.

“It’s an ongoing thing. Word gets out you can go out to this abandoned place.”

Last week, a friend pulled into the driveway just as four teens were opening up the garage door. They panicked, ran through the house and climbed out a window on the other side.

Pickering’s friend blocked their 2002 BMW in the yard with his car and called the sheriff’s office. The teens were cited for trespassing.

That’s when the latest damage was discovered. More broken windshields and windows. Spray-painted penises. The torn-up interior of a ’65 Chrysler 300.

And that has left Pickering with a decision. He can continue to increase security — he has already added measures he doesn’t want to disclose — or he can remove the valuable, and vulnerable, cars.

“I may try to close up the house a little more, and maybe make it a little more secure,” he said. “But I probably should just try to get rid of them.”

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