Back in the 1960s and 1970s, quite a few Midwestern RV manufacturers would take new Chevrolet Step-Vans and build them into motorhomes. Most spent productive decades ferrying retirees between Michigan and Florida, then settled into long-term retirement in driveways and dirt lots, serving as homes for many generations of raccoons, possums, and wasps.
For most of the 1960s, the forward-control, mid-engined small van, with the driver sitting atop the front axle and crowded against the door by an engine-containing box known as the “doghouse,” was quite popular in the United States. These things were bouncy, ill-handling, dangerous steel boxes, but they could haul absurd loads with their 1904-technology solid axles and leaf springs all the way around and were easy to maneuver in tight spaces.
Nearly all these vans were used up or crashed decades ago, but xillion-mile survivors still trickle into wrecking yards to this day. Here’s a rare long-wheelbase late-’60s ChevyVan that I spotted in Denver last week. (Read More…)
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…)
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…)
Living in Denver, I see plenty of International Harvester Scouts in local wrecking yards. IHC pickups and SUVs show up as well, including this ’72 pickup, this ’71 Travelall, this ’71 pickup, and now today’s non-rusty ’67 pickup. (Read More…)
Somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, someone must be hoarding a big stash of Thunderbirds from the mid-1960s through early 1970s, because I’ve been seeing disconcerting quantities of these cars in East Bay self-service wrecking yards going back at least five years (not to mention the 35 Thunderbirds from the 1970 and 1971 model years that I saw at auction before that).
Mostly they’re so rough that I don’t photograph them (though I did shoot this ’65 Landau about a year ago), which suggests that the T-Bird Hoarder is purging hopeless parts cars, one at a time. Here’s another ’65 Thunderbird Landau, seen in Oakland back in September. (Read More…)
Chrysler’s flathead (aka “L-head”) straight-six engine is one of the forgotten heroes of prewar and postwar Detroit, being produced from 1929 through some undefined year in the early 1970s (for stationary use, e.g., in generators and irrigation pumps). There was even a five-bank, 30-cylinder version made for tanks. It appears that it was possible to buy a new Dodge truck with the flathead six through the 1968 model year, though some say that Uncle Sam was the only buyer for the last few years of flathead Dodges. Most buyers opted for futuristic overhead-valve engines by the 1960s, anyway, but here’s a D-series pickup in a California wrecking yard that still has its L-head. (Read More…)
Fully three-quarters of you who took our “Ralph Nader, Angel or Demon” poll voted to give ol’ Ralph a halo instead of a pitchfork, so we don’t need to explain how his book wasn’t really the cause of the Corvair‘s plummeting sales after the initial burst of enthusiasm following the car’s release. No, most likely it was that more traditional Chevy II that did that, but the case can be made that The General kept on building Corvairs all the way into 1969 as a way of proving that Ralph Nader can’t push around (what was then) the Most Powerful Corporation In the World. In 1968, only about 15,000 Corvairs were sold, which makes this rusty Denver example fairly uncommon. (Read More…)
The Saab 96 (and its station-wagon sibling, the 95) is one of those iconic cars that just about everybody claims to love, but few are willing to rescue. Most of the 96s in the country passed through the junkyard gates and into the recycled-metal continuum a couple of decades back, with only the nicest examples deemed worthy of saving, but a few have hung on in side yards and cornfields long enough to show up in wrecking yards now. We saw this ’68 sedan in California last year, and now there’s this ’68 wagon in Denver. (Read More…)
Even though Oldsmobile has been gone for more than a decade— doomed in the marketplace, no doubt, by the focus-group-dismaying first three letters in its name— we still celebrate the marque in music to this day. You don’t see many 1965-70 Olds 88s, on the street or otherwise, these days, so this non-cancerous Colorado ’67 four-door hardtop is a good junkyard find. (Read More…)
I went back to Martin’s Salvage, located midway between Denver and Cheyenne, earlier this week. The last time I’d been there was in 2011, and the place is still full of so many staggeringly great 1930-1970 vehicles that I get overwhelmed and can’t shoot individual cars for this series. This trip, though, I held still long enough to shoot this crazy-rare example from the final years of the Rambler marque. (Read More…)
A perfectly restored example of a 1964-66 Ford Thunderbird is worth plenty. A beat-up example, even a non-rusty California car, on the other hand… well, it’s one of those cases where you can start with a thousand-dollar car, apply 15 grand to get it into pretty nice shape, and end up with a car worth $9,500. This cruel math is the reason that today’s Junkyard Find was spotted at a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard a few weeks back. (Read More…)
During my recent trip to Sweden, I took in a Folkrace, saw many old American cars on the street, visited a farm full of restored classic Chryslers, and, of course, went to the junkyard. We’ve seen this 1966 Toyota Crown station wagon and this 1963 Ford Taunus 17M at Bloms Bilskrot in Söråker, and now here’s a very rusty example of a car that was popular in Europe but never made much of an impression in North America: the Simca 1000. (Read More…)
I see plenty of Saab 900s in self-service wrecking yards these days, but Saabs older than that have all but disappeared from the U-Wrench-It ecosystem. I did see a truly ancient Saab 92 at a yard over the summer, but that was in the heart of Saab’s homeland. So, it came as a big surprise to spot this Saab 96 three weeks ago in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Read More…)
I spent a week in Sweden back in June, and I’m only now getting caught up on the photos I shot of interesting machinery at the Bloms Bilskrot yard, located in Söråker. We saw this ’63 Ford Taunus 17M a while back, there was this straight-outta-1978-San Diego customized ’69 Econoline van, and now we’re going to admire one of the earliest Toyotas sold in Europe. (Read More…)