The Truth About Cars » Down On The Junkyard The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:01:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Down On The Junkyard Junkyard Find: 1969 Ford LTD Four-Door Hardtop Fri, 11 Nov 2011 14:00:44 +0000 You don’t see a lot of intact 60s Detroit cars in the junkyards of Denver, where I now live. When I return to my old haunts in the San Francisco Bay Area, as I did last month, I find that a steady trickle of these old survivors still flows into the self-serve yards. Here’s a big Ford I found in Oakland.
The sight of this car gave me some weird childhood flashbacks, because my grandfather had a black LTD hardtop just like this one when I was a little kid. I remember being awed by the grandfatherly luxury of the thing as a four-year-old. The vast interior, the quiet ride. When I grow up, I thought, I’ll have one of these!
Of course, the fact that these things had all become hopeless 13-year-old hoopties by the time I got my driver’s license sort of soured me on my ’69 LTD dreams, especially since one of my scurvier high-school friends drove one with a coat hanger for a radio antenna and a bunch of Fang stickers all over the interior.
Of course, I also thought the Porsche 914 was a seriously cool car when I was a little kid, particularly the ones with the big P O R S C H E decals on the sides. At least the LTD has all these great pieces of Detroit style all over the place.
Like, for example, the hideaway headlights. Yes, I know, these things never worked once the car got past about five years of age, but you still have to admire them.
The vacuum-operated mechanism for the headlights is big, cheap, and clunky. The whole setup probably added 50 pounds to the car’s weight, but anyone who objected to that probably also thought that the F-105 was too heavy. In other words, communists. Bad people.
In 1969, the LTD was the top trim level for the full-sized Ford, and the four-door hardtop listed for $3,261. Compare that to the $2,632 price tag on the six-cylinder base ’69 Custom two-door. This car’s curb weight was listed at 3,840 pounds… or 90 pounds more than the 2012 V6 Mustang. The 302 Windsor was the standard engine for the ’69 LTD, but this one appears to have received a Malaise 400M swap at some point along its long journey… which has now come to an end.

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Plymouth Colt Mon, 08 Aug 2011 13:00:18 +0000
Chrysler spent a couple of decades selling Mitsubishis and Simcas with Dodge and Plymouth badges in North America, and the Mitsubishi Galant/Lancer-based Colt line went through the most twists and turns. At first, Plymouth-branded Colts were sold as Champs, but by the mid-1980s both the Dodge and Plymouth versions were called Colts. The difference? Damn if I can find one that goes deeper than emblems.

Imported for Plymouth! This generation of Colt has become quite rare on the street, though they seemed as common as Corollas and Civics when new.

While Japanese econoboxes of the 1980s were mostly pretty miserable machines, I do sometimes miss their weird, vaguely science-fiction-ish interiors. And remember when cars had interior space not completely used up by cockpit-style consoles and cup holders?

This is the bread-and-butter, non-turbo, non-Twin-Stick Colt, complete with 4G15 Orion engine. The Colt of this era wasn’t much known for reliability, but it was cheap and sipped gas. The entry-level Colt E two-door hatch listed at $5,372, or about 300 bucks cheaper than a new Chevette. The ’86 Subaru STD (yes, there was a car called the STD) could be purchased for $4,989, and the bottom-of-the-barrel ’86 Excel went for $4,995. The Colt was a far superior vehicle to the Chevette, STD, and Excel, and so was a pretty good deal at the time (though the much better Civic two-door hatch was just a C-note more expensive).

And now almost all of them are gone. I’d like to think that a few Colts of this vintage will stay with us, though I’m certainly not willing to rescue one myself.

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Renault Alliance: Still On the Scrapheap of History Fri, 17 Dec 2010 16:00:18 +0000
While the US government was saving Chrysler with the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, American Motors had to go to the French government for its bailout.

The debut of the AMC-Renault Alliance (essentially a Kenosha-ized Renault 9) in 1983 so impressed the writers at Motor Trend that they gave it the Car Of The Year award that year. 17 minutes later, everyone realized that the Alliance combined the very worst aspects of French build quality and Wisconsin marketing savvy, with predictable sales results. Still, enough Alliances limped out of the showrooms that we can still see them in junkyards every so often. Here’s one I spotted in a Denver self-service yard a few weeks back; looks like it was still in pretty good shape when its last owner finally gave up.
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Opel GTs Take Shortcut From Project Car Purgatory To Junkyard Tue, 14 Dec 2010 19:00:58 +0000
The life cycle of your typical Opel GT appears to have gone like this: 8 years on the street, 30 years up on blocks in the back yard, then a quick stop in the wrecking yard before getting crushed. I haven’t seen a GT on the street for years, but they’re quite common in The Crusher’s waiting room. Here’s a pair of GTs I spotted at a Denver self-service yard.

Seen by European GM fans as the “European Corvette,” (the Manta being the Camaro’s European cousin), the Opel GT had plenty of style, a very un-Corvette-like solid rear axle, and an even more un-Corvette-like 1900cc four-cylinder engine. Those manually-operated flip-around headlights were pretty cool, though!

As a former Manta victim, I admit to having something of an anti-Opel bias. But still, I think it’s sad that all the remaining GTs are being rounded up and destroyed. Let’s enjoy the original “You’re Too Fat For This Car, Old Man” German Opel GT ad, shall we?

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Trio of Doomed Fords Destined To Become Geely Hysouls, Universe Keeps Expanding Wed, 08 Dec 2010 14:00:17 +0000
After being away from the quick-turnover self-service junkyards of Northern California (where Guangzhou-bound container ships full of crushed vehicles leave the Port of Oakland every day) for a few months, I decided to check out one of the biggest when visiting from Denver last week. I found a ’62 Comet, a ’65 Fairlane, and a ’72 Mustang huddled together in The Crusher’s waiting room.

I’ve always preferred the Comet to the Falcon, and not just because Charles Bukowski drove a ’62 Comet. The first-gen Falcon was built in Argentina until 1991, but early Comets— even six-cylinder sedans like this one— are quite rare. In a couple of weeks, the number of ’62s will be reduced by one, because Schnitzer Steel will be mashing this battered-but-not-particularly-rusty example into a cube and shipping it off to China.

As I contemplated the demise of the Comet, I saw the snout of another vintage FoMoCo product peeking out from the endless line of Tauruses and Tracers. Is that an early-70s Mustang?

Why, yes, it is! About 125,000 ’72 Mustangs were built, which makes it rarer than the ’62 Comet and much rarer than its mid-1960s predecessors. Still, a higher percentage of these cars survives today, plus many of the components on this one have been harvested to keep living examples on the road, so I’m still more bummed about the Comet sedan.

Holy crap! Whoever did the bodywork on this car must have bought Bondo by the 55-gallon drum.

Is it possible that there’s a third old Ford nearby?

This 1965 Ford Fairlane coupe, complete with V8 and Cruise-O-Matic transmission, looks like it was in fairly decent shape… before someone decided to take an orbital sander to the paint. How? Why?

One rainy Bay Area winter is all it took to complete the damage. Next stop, Chinese steel factory!

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Chevette Scooter, T1000 Outlive Every 1st-Gen Hyundai Excel In the World Fri, 03 Dec 2010 19:00:55 +0000
So we now know that GM’s failure to create a decent subcompact during the, oh, forty years in which doing so would have saved the company from certain ruin… well, do we really need to get into that rant right now?

No, we’ll save that rant until we feel like combining it with the one about GM’s failure to build a minivan that anybody wanted to buy, or the one about GM’s inability to stop the small-block Chevrolet from leaking oil like crazy for its first three decades of production. For now, let’s just contemplate the meaning of these two Late Malaise Era junkyard finds, which I spotted during a visit to a San Francisco Bay Area self-service junkyard earlier in the week.

Actually, this 1985 T1000— which became the Pontiac 1000 for the 1984 model year— is a post-Malaise Era car, by my standards (as the originator of the term “Malaise Era,” I have the right to define it: the 1973 through 1983 model years). Somehow, this makes it even more depressing. After building variations on the Chevette theme all over the world for nearly 10 years, GM could build the obsolete-when-introduced T Platform cars for nickels and dimes, and did so.

The ’82 Chevette Scooter was a genuinely miserable machine, though its simplicity and cheap price tag made it seem like a pretty decent investment next to, say, the Vega/Monza. How did these two cars evade The Crusher for 25 and 28 years, respectively? Have they become—dare I say it— collectible?

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Sometimes We Pay The Price For Looking Cool Thu, 02 Dec 2010 02:00:43 +0000
Now that my ’66 Dodge A100 runs and drives, I’m contemplating what sort of stance it’s going to have once I install the new wheels. Certified Rambler-racin’ madman and Denver chop-n-channel artist Cadillac Bob suggests that I jack up the front end for that solid-axle gasser look, and he’s probably onto something. However, a cool stance sometimes leads to unpleasant sheet-metal-versus-concrete interactions.

Whether you’re jacking the rear of your ’68 Cyclone about four feet in the air in order to fit the fattest Mickey Thompson tires you can find (as I did to my daily driver at age 18) or installing 24s on your Caprice (as the previous owner of this rollover-victim Caprice I spotted in a NorCal junkyard this morning did), you’re ditching a lot of engineering man-hours dedicated to making your machine handle at least somewhat predictably. Worth it?

After seeing this bonked donk, which no doubt wrecked due to bizarre handling characteristics caused by its monster wheels, I’m reevaluating the idea of the gasser-ized A100; the handling of that van is squirrelly enough at factory ride height, the single-circuit four-wheel-drum brakes are pretty scary, and let’s not even discuss the zero crush space between driver and concrete abutment.

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Burned Dodge Truck Makes Us Sad Sat, 27 Nov 2010 19:00:36 +0000
After the Fourmile Canyon Fire in September, charred vehicle carcasses began showing up in quantity in Denver wrecking yards. Completely burned-to-hell-and-gone vehicles don’t seem to offer any usable components for junkyard shoppers, but they still show up.

This mid-60s Dodge pickup showed up at the self-service yard near my house about a week after the fire. I’m betting that exactly zero of its parts will live on in surviving Dardges, but at least it makes a nice subject for artsy photographs.
Burned Dodge truck in Denver junkyard, photo by Phil Greden Burned Dodge Truck Patina, photograph by Phil Greden

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1967 Volkswagen Squareback Thu, 25 Nov 2010 18:00:05 +0000

What kind of world is this, where nearly rust-free Squarebacks— and that’s not a combination of words you hear often— survive for more than 40 years and then get eaten by the same crusher that consumes ’91 Hyundai Excels?

The original owner of this Volks paid his or her Village of Winfield vehicle tax, and the sticker survived all these years. A little research suggests that Winfield is in Illinois, although there is a little town named Winfield 50 miles or so to the east of this Denver junkyard.

The engine and many engine accessories are still waiting for extraction. Let’s hope that someone rescues these parts before The Crusher calls for this car.

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Why Isn’t This a Chateau Brougham? Thu, 25 Nov 2010 14:30:25 +0000

Back when two major self-service junkyard chains were locked in throat-slicing competition for the Northern California market, Thanksgiving Day always featured the sacred Junkyard Half Price Day Sale. Alas, Pick Your Part has pulled up stakes— which means that Pick-N-Pull has spurious “15% off all door panels” sales instead of the real deal— but in honor of the memory of Half Price Day we bring you some junkyard goodness from Denver.

Here’s a Malaise Era Ford Econoline Chateau, which hauled six-generation extended families in bouncy, trucky comfort many years before the ’92 Chateau Club Wagon won Motor Trend‘s Truck Of The Year award. Just the sound of the name seems so vanlike: Chateau!

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