By on September 19, 2016

1982 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia in Colorado Junkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Volkswagen Vanagon has a global cult following, for reasons I have never understood, and the Westfalia camper version is an object of heavy-duty veneration among Vanagon zealots. You hear about the crazy prices that any Westfalia Vanagon will fetch … but it turns out that most serious Volkswagen fanatics are too cheap to pay the prices they quote so knowledgeably. So, rough examples of the Vanagon show up often at cheap self-service wrecking yards.

Here’s an ’82 that I found last week in the Denver area. Read More >

By on September 12, 2016

1976 Buick Skyhawk in California Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The 1975-1980 Buick Skyhawk was a sporty-looking two-door based on the Chevrolet Vega platform, and Skyhawks (and their Chevrolet Monza, Oldsmobile Starfire, and Pontiac Sunbird siblings) were once all over America’s roads. They weren’t build particularly well, and they hemorrhaged resale value in a hurry; by the end of the 1980s, nearly every single one of them was gone.

Here’s a very rough example I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard last month. Read More >

By on September 6, 2016

1996 Isuzu Oasis in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

One of the best things about haunting high-inventory-turnover self-service junkyards is finding really rare vehicles. Sometimes those ultra-rare machines are ancient European cars nobody remembers, sometimes they are commonplace cars with options nobody ordered, and sometimes they are obscure imported minivans that disappeared without a trace.

Today’s Junkyard Find is the third type, with a bewildering badge-engineering subplot that made sense to about a half-dozen suits in Japan. Read More >

By on August 29, 2016

1996 Nissan Maxima GXE in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Maxima has been with us since the 1981 Datsun 810 Maxima, which became the Datsun Maxima, then the Datsun Maxima by Nissan, and finally the Nissan Maxima.

Starting out as a Z-car-based sporty sedan, it grew into an electronic-gadget-packed luxury sedan, then became bigger, more powerful, and less crazy with each successive generation until we arrived at the current competent-but-not-particularly-exciting Maxima.

The fifth-generation Maxima, made for the 1994 through 1999 model years, seems to be the last for which the manual-transmission option was selected by a significant minority of buyers; you could get one after 1999, but I never see anything but automatics in my junkyard travels.

Here’s a mean-looking ’96 that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard. Read More >

By on August 22, 2016

1989 Plymouth Reliant America in Minnesota junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

In last week’s Junkyard Find, I shared the first discarded BMW E30 I have photographed after nearly a decade of writing about junkyard vehicles. Yes, the E30 was a fine automobile (though right-thinking car experts recognize that its Alfa Romeo Milano competitor was faster, cheaper, and had a much better-sounding engine) and we should take a moment to appreciate this important piece of German automotive history.

Right, now that we’re done with that, let’s admire a piece of automotive history I find much more fascinating: an example of the final model year of Chrysler’s company-rescuing K-Car, photographed in a muggy, buggy, cocklebur-overgrown Minneapolis self-service yard. Read More >

By on August 8, 2016

00 - 1990 Pontiac Grand Am in Colorado junkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I have photographed and wrote about interesting (to me) junkyard cars for nearly a decade, and so far I have not photographed a single one of the hundreds of discarded BMW E30s I have found in my travels. In fact, I just shot my first E30 the other day (a 325e with automatic, don’t get too excited), but first I must share a car I find far more interesting: an N-Body Grand Am with gray cloth interior and Oldsmobile Quad 4 engine. Read More >

By on August 1, 2016

1994 Audi 90S in California Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The folks at Audi got really confusing with their American-market car names for a couple of decades and I have given up trying to sort out from memory, say, when the 5000 became the 100 or the 200 or whatever the hell it became in the chaos following the Unintended Acceleration Debacle. The Audi 80 was sold in the USA as a 4000 or something — it’s all a blur — but then Audi badged it as an 80, except for the sedans, which were 90s, I think.

Anyway, this California ’94 sedan has 90 S badges and it’s a fairly interesting car. Read More >

By on July 25, 2016

1986 Honda CRX in Colorado Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Honda CRX is one of my all-time favorite cars, especially the first-generation 1984-87 models. I have owned quite a few of them and found that the CRX’s combination of reliability (if you didn’t overheat and blow the head gasket), driving enjoyment, fuel economy, and cheap purchase price was impossible to beat for a daily driver in the 1990s. CRXs are rare in self-service junkyards now, most of them having been used up and discarded decades ago, and the few that I see get stripped to nothingness within days of hitting the yard.

Here’s an unusually complete ’86 that I found in a Denver yard last week. Read More >

By on July 18, 2016

1991 Infiniti M30 in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

When Nissan decided to push some chips into the serious North American luxury-car-market game, they didn’t have the resources to do what Toyota did and build an all-new machine from scratch. Instead, they turned the President luxury sedan into the Q45 and the Leopard sport coupe into the M30. Infiniti sold the M30 for just a few years before being replaced by the J30 for the 1993 model year. It’s been nearly forgotten today.

Here’s a very rare ’91 that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard a couple of weeks ago. Read More >

By on July 11, 2016

1994 BMW 530i in California Junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Because BMWs of the last quarter-century tend to be complex machines, intolerant of owners who flake on maintenance and expensive to fix once all those deferred problems result in a major failure, American self-service junkyards are full of Bavarian machinery. I see dozens of discarded E30s, E28s, and E36s every year, and hundreds of scrapped 7 Series cars. I’m not sufficiently interested to raise my camera and document their demise most of the time. However, an E34 5 Series with V8 and manual transmission isn’t something you see every day in the junkyard.

Here’s a ’94 that I shot in a yard in California’s Central Valley last week. Read More >

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