by Chris Wright
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
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