The Boston Phoenix November 23 - 30, 2000

[This Just In]


Junk bonds

by Chris Wright

nerds When Boston-based computer engineer Jeff Del Papa, 43, heard recently about the British TV program Junkyard Wars, his reaction was: "I've got to do that." Within days, he and a couple of like-minded local techno-nuts, William Yerazunis, 44, and George Homsy, 35, had founded the New England Rubbish Deconstruction Society -- NERDS -- and signed up for the show.

It takes a special breed to compete in Junkyard Wars. Not only do you have to be a top-notch engineer, but you have to be a pretty good trash picker, too. "The basic premise of the show," explains Del Papa "is that two teams are dropped into identical workshops opening onto a half-acre junkyard. You have 10 hours to build a fairly serious machine."

In fact, the NERDS built three very serious machines: a steam-powered car, a submarine, and a firefighting boat. And all this constructed from old washing machines, trucks, and cars; construction debris; fragments from a crashed airplane; and multiple rolls of duct tape. To the chagrin of the show's producers, the NERDS even started dismantling the set to get what they needed. As Yerazunis says, "It was a junkyard, man."

Though the NERDS have long enjoyed the fruits of roadside throwaways -- "the Trash Goddess provides," they say -- none had attempted anything on this scale before. Racing their steam-powered car, sailing their submarine, and dousing a blazing garden shed with their firefighting boat was, says Yerazunis, not only tiring but "scary." He adds, "You had to wear a hard hat just to go to the bathroom."

Danger and drudgery notwithstanding, all three men agree that the NERDS are here to stay. "I've already told the producers: if they do this again, count us in," says Del Papa. "I mean, where else do you get people inviting you to cut a car in half?"

TLC is screening a Junkyard Wars marathon on November 24 from noon to 3 a.m. The NERDS episodes run on December 6 at 10 p.m., December 20 at 10 p.m., and December 27 at 9 p.m. Check out the NERDS at