By on April 18, 2016

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I wonder how many of the Best and Brightest have been watching, waiting for this column to descend once again upon a subject automobile that has had a truly mystical device bestowed upon it by its creator. I’m talking about the equipment that blew the expression right off your neighbor’s face when showing off your new purchase in the driveway. A true novelty lost to time. Something that probably should be capitalized on currently by automakers in an updated form in this age of “let’s fill this humorless pod full of unusable gadgetry so it doesn’t look like a rolling flip-phone.”

I’m talking, of course, about a little thing called voice warning.

You see kids, something magical happens when that speaker chimes in to apprise you of things you probably already knew about. And while we’re on the subject of cars so equipped, why not focus on something with … soul?

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By on April 18, 2016

1979 International Harvester Scout in Colorado Junkyard, LH LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Is it fair that I photograph just about every reasonably intact International Harvester Scout that I see in wrecking yards, while ignoring nearly all air-cooled Volkswagen Beetles that I find in the same yards? Probably not, though I’m making an effort to shoot the more interesting Beetles now. No matter what happens with Beetles in this series, though, when I see a Scout in the junkyard, I’m going to document it. Read More >

By on April 15, 2016

00 - 1998 BMW Z3 in California Junkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

One of the interesting things about frequenting high-inventory-turnover wrecking yards is that you get a sense of when a vehicle’s value has reached a certain “not worth fixing when it breaks” threshold.

There will be no examples of this type of car in such yards, and then suddenly I’ll see a half-dozen in the space of a few months; the Mazda Miata was such a car, being extremely rare until about 2008, at which point you could count on finding a couple at most California U-Wrench-It-type yards. The BMW Z3 appears to have reached that point about now, with this one showing up in a Northern California yard that I visited last week. Read More >

By on April 13, 2016

1985 Buick Skylark in California Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Remember the misery of the Chevy Citation, which had such outstandingly bad build quality and horrifying public reliability problems that the damage to Chevrolet’s image took decades to repair? Only the staggeringly nasty Pontiac Phoenix (a Pontiac-badged Citation sibling) might have been worse; meanwhile, the Buick Division leaped on board the oil-leaking, prematurely corroding, Iron Duke-powered X-Body bandwagon, and fired a full spread of torpedoes into the once-beloved Skylark name.

Not many of these best-forgotten automobiles remain uncrushed, but I was able to spot this ’85 sedan in a Northern California wrecking yard last winter. Read More >

By on April 11, 2016

1985 Dodge Daytona in California Junkyard, © 2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

After the near-miraculous success of the K platform dug Chrysler out of the pit of its near-bankruptcy and controversial government bailout (no, not that bailout, the earlier one), Lee Iacocca led the company to produce a bewildering number of vehicles based on the K. Chrysler had some sporty machinery based on the Simca-derived Omnirizon (not to mention some hot rebadged Mitsubishis), but the Dodge Daytona and its Chrysler Laser sibling were the bread-and-butter factory hot rods of the 1980s and a bit beyond.

Here’s an ’85 I spotted at a now-defunct Los Angeles-area yard a while back. Read More >

By on April 8, 2016

1983 Nissan Sentra in California Junkyard, RH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The first-generation Nissan Sentra first appeared on American roads in 1982, early in the very costly Datsun-to-Nissan rebranding process. The lightweight, fuel-efficient Sentra was a big sales hit, because drivers in the early 1980s (with vivid memories of the gas lines of a few years earlier) were willing to put up with double-digit horsepower and lots of NVH in a car that promised decent reliability and cheap point-A-to-point-B costs. Now, of course, nearly all of the early Sentras are gone, so this well-worn example in a San Francisco Bay Area yard gives us an interesting history lesson. Read More >

By on April 6, 2016

1969 Volkswagen Beetle in California junkyard, LH Front View - © 2016 Murilee Martin

The production run of the Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle, which was built using essentially the same design from 1938 through 2003, will never be surpassed; the runner-up Morris Oxford II/Hindustan Ambassador was made from 1954 through 2014, and we feel fairly sure that the Chinese Communist Party will put a stop to Chinese production of the first-gen Kia Pride/Ford Festiva long before it beats the Beetle in the year 2053.

I see quite a few Beetles during my junkyard travels, but rarely photograph them. This one, found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard, had enough of a story to tell that I felt compelled to document it. Read More >

By on April 4, 2016

1974 Toyota Land Cruiser in Colorado Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Toyota Land Cruiser has been around since the Sengoku Period (OK, since 1951), and all varieties of this truck tend to have plenty of obsessively devoted single-interest fanatics here in Colorado. You’ll see the occasional FJ60 Land Cruiser in junkyards here, and I’ve even seen a well-stripped FJ40 in a Denver yard. Today’s well-thrashed Junkyard Find is the first example of an FJ55 Land Cruiser I’ve found. Read More >

By on April 1, 2016

00 - 1993 Jeep Cherokee in Colorado junkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Examples of the XJ Jeep Cherokee are everywhere in Denver junkyards (nearly as numerous as late-1990s Subaru Outbacks, these days), and it takes a special one to make me deploy my camera. I thought the factory-installed orange tape stripes on this ’91 Cherokee Sport were interesting, and now today’s ’93 with innovative tree-branches-and-rattlecans camo job has made the cut. Read More >

By on March 30, 2016

1968 Volvo 144 in California junkyard, RH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

How is it that there are still sufficient Volvo 140s left, more than 40 years after production of the original Swedish brick ceased, that you’ll still find plenty of them in American wrecking yards? Not in the quantities you’ll find of their 240 descendants, of course, but anybody driving a 140 today should have no problem getting parts. Read More >

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