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DailyTidings.com
  • Return of the wrecks

    Totaled autos reincarnated on Afghanistan's dusty streets
  • HERAT, Afghanistan — They sit in the sun harboring their lost histories, their forgotten dreams, their traces of funerals, graduations and stolen kisses. On dusty windshields, insurance stickers from Travelers and State Farm bear witness to wrecks in "Metro DC," "Hardin, Texas," and "North Hollywood," some with bright orange "total loss" decals.
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  • HERAT, Afghanistan — They sit in the sun harboring their lost histories, their forgotten dreams, their traces of funerals, graduations and stolen kisses. On dusty windshields, insurance stickers from Travelers and State Farm bear witness to wrecks in "Metro DC," "Hardin, Texas," and "North Hollywood," some with bright orange "total loss" decals.
    For their former owners, that was it, nothing left but a story to recount of a corner rounded too quickly, a red light run, one too many drinks for the road.
    But here on the highway to Iran, thousands of used cars from America and Western Europe begin a second life.
    Afghanistan doesn't manufacture its own cars, or much else, so most vehicles sold here are "pre-owned" (and many pre-crashed — but with barely a dent, thanks to deft repair work by local body shops).
    Most begin their journey by ship to a new world of unpaved roads, kidnappers and Islamist militants after being auctioned to middlemen by U.S. or European insurers. The vehicles land in Dubai or other ports and are then transferred onto other ships bound for Pakistan or — after being resold to circumvent U.S. and European sanctions — Iran.
    The final leg of their trip to this "graveyard of empires" (and Toyota Corollas) is via transport truck.
    American brands don't sell as well as Japanese and are hard to find parts for, said Abdullah, a salesman with Herat's Tamin Ansar Autos who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. "I know one guy who sells Fords," he said. "He sold them very cheap. They use too much gas."
    Musty interiors reveal vestiges of former lives, from sweat-stained lumbar supports and air-freshener strips to coffee-stained upholstery and shag carpeting.
    Dealers in this Muslim country are careful to remove such potentially offensive hitchhikers as liquor bottles and pork-sandwich wrappers. "No one worries if 'infidels' drove them, as long as they're cleaned," said lot owner Abdul Aziz, 35.
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