HomeCar CultureThen and Now: Arizona Mining Town 2024 Road Trip

Then and Now: Arizona Mining Town 2024 Road Trip

Looking back while driving ahead


After a week of parties and social gatherings, the first day of 2024 called for a relaxing solo road trip. My destination of choice was an old mining town about 60 miles east of Phoenix called Superior. Its history dates back to 1875, and for a lot of reasons, the town has remained frozen in time for at least the last several decades. One of the reasons for that is the fact that a primary source of copper, the Magma Mine, closed in 1984. Today, Main Street has been bypassed by U.S. Highway 60, and perhaps that is one of the reasons why it remains so well preserved. Driving it is taking a step back in time.

Along the way, I stopped at a 100-year-old botanical garden sitting on over 300 acres of the North Sonoran Desert. It is called the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and it gave me a glimpse of some of the surprisingly diverse plant and animal life that can survive in the harsh climate of the southwest region. One of the century-old Eucalyptus trees, called “Mr. Big,” living there has a 22-foot circumference.

The highlight of the trip, however, came not during my visit to Superior and the surrounding area, but when I got home and started doing some research. One of the black and white photos that I found of Superior was taken precisely in the direction and location of a shot I had taken just a couple of hours earlier. While the photo was not dated, it appears to be from the 1920s based on the vehicles featured within it. Perhaps some of our eagle-eyed readers can identify some of the cars.

Superior is not technically a ghost town, as there are about 2,500 people who call it home, but on New Year’s Day 2024, it sure felt like one. I had Main Street and the surrounding areas to myself as I perused some of the old architecture like the Superior High School (built in 1925 and closed in 2000). The school was recently purchased by the town – it was being used as a private residence – and there are plans to renovate it as a multi-generational community center. For now, though, it sits behind a chain link fence.

There is something magical about urban exploration in towns that were once bustling centers of commerce and social activity but have since quieted down. In fitting anniversary fashion, my 1992 NSX rolled 120,000 miles on the drive home. My short day-trip was just what the doctor ordered to kick off the new year in style, and I look forward to more similar adventures in the near future.

Did you also manage to get your classic car out for the holiday? Let me know how it went!

Tyson Hugie
Tyson Hugie
Tyson Hugie is a Phoenix-based automotive enthusiast who has been writing for The Journal since 2016. His favorite automotive niche is 1980s and 1990s Japanese cars, and he is a self-diagnosed “Acura addict” since he owns a collection of Honda and Acura cars from that era. Tyson can usually be found on weekends tinkering on restoration projects, attending car shows, or enjoying the open road. He publishes videos each week to his YouTube channel and is also a contributing author to Arizona Driver Magazine,, NSX Driver Magazine, and other automotive publications. His pride and joy is a 1994 Acura Legend LS coupe with nearly 600,000 miles on the odometer, but he loves anything on four wheels and would someday like to own a 1950 Buick Special like his late grandfather’s.


    • Hi Ian, I am not sure. It was parked within the Boyce Thompson Arboretum botanical garden so I would recommend giving them a call. Super neat pickup.

  1. Hi Tyson, re the date of the b/w photo, there’s mostly cars from the 20’s , but a few from the 30’s also. I’ve visited the Arboretum also, nice stop!

  2. Kind of a mystery to see 4 coupes with the same rear spare tire. The one shown with a front view is definitely a 1936 Dodge, Plymouth perhaps.
    The one rear picture with the one under the Budweiser sign I would say is a 1936 Dodge. Pretty certain about that, as I owned one. I currently have a 1934 Lafayette with a rear mounted spare tire like shown in your picture.

  3. Love rural AZ, the entire desert SW in fact. Lots to be said of roads that don’t fall apart in years, rather decades. And old 666, now 191 I think, is crotch rocket heaven; did you try it with your Acura?
    What I wanna know- how did the NSX handle altitude, dust, and did you find the A/C adequate for the heat?
    Happy New Year 🎶🍾😸🎶

    • Oh yes, Hwy 191 the Coronado Trail is epic! Amazing stuff. Oh yeah, the NSX was a perfect machine for it. Happy new year Ryan.

  4. Tyson
    I love the connection between the past and future. You paise to reflect the surroundings and find the time to place the reader there. With an NSX subtly in the foreground. Great article

  5. Great history, information and pictures, l did pull my 1955 Buick Convertible redline out for a drive, it only have 23,239 miles on it, Great condition and clean all original.
    I don’t know how to post a picture

  6. Hey Tyson,
    I grew up in superior in the 50s and 60s. It was quite a vibrant and lively little town of 3000 during that time. Lots of try five Chevys and classic Fords and many of us were car guys at an early age. Sad to see how the town has deteriorated since the mine closed. brings back lots of memories. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Really enjoyed your 2 recent Then & Now stories & pics. I think you’ve found your mission for the year…and possibly beyond. Part of the ”fun” of getting older is looking back to the ”good old days” we’ve all been through. Of course every generation sees it a little differently, so everyone’s pics & idea of a classic cars & the countryside will probably vary.
    I grew up in the ’50’s & ’60’s in the middle of Kansas’ farm country. Everyone was ”dirt poor” Serviceable cars of all kinds were readily available for $100-$150, many of which have attained true classic status now and considerably higher prices. Who knew?
    Happy trails !


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