Small pickups sold pretty well in the United States during the Malaise Era, and Ford and GM cashed in by importing and rebadging Mazda and Isuzu trucks, respectively. Chrysler, late to the party, turned to longtime partner Mitsubishi and began bringing in first-generation Forte pickups, starting in the 1979 model year.
Here’s a Dodge-badged version I found last week in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)
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…)
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…)
I have been doing this series at TTAC since way back in 2010. Before that, I shot junkyard cars for Jalopnik, starting with this ’60 Corvair in 2007, and these days I also do Junkyard Gems on Autoblog and Junkyard Treasures for Autoweek. In my files, I have photographs of 1,157 junkyard vehicles. Yes, I am King of Junkyard Automotive Writing! And yet, in all that time, I have never written about a discarded BMW E30 … until now.
Yes, E30 fans, that day has arrived!
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…)
In 1979, the Riviera moved onto the front-wheel-drive Toronado/Eldorado platform, continuing the tradition of rococo Riviera personal luxury coupes that started back in 1963. This version of the Riviera was built through the 1985 model year, so we’re looking at the very last year of the V8 Riviera in this weathered Denver car. (Read More…)
The Pontiac Fiero was a frequent junkyard sighting up until about a decade ago, but now they’re quite rare. So far in this series, we have seen this excessively yellow ’86, this ’88 Formula, and now today’s Iron Duke-powered ’86. (Read More…)
The Chevrolet Citation is so frustrating mostly because it was such a great opportunity for General Motors to own the 1980s; if it had worked as well in reality as it did on paper, it would have obliterated the competition. A roomy, modern, front-wheel-drive car with fuel economy far superior to the primitive late-70s Chevy Nova it replaced, and it was pretty good-looking in a genuinely American way …
… but it ended up being as much a humiliating disaster for GM as Operation Eagle Claw was for the Jimmy Carter presidency.
Citations aren’t easy to find now, but strangely well-preserved examples keep showing up in the self-service wrecking yards I frequent. Here’s a very clean ’81 I found in Denver a couple of weeks ago. (Read More…)
The Hyundai Excel had a Mitsubishi engine, and so some obscure tenet of badge engineering mandated a Mitsubishi-branded Excel so it might drive on the same roads as Plymouth-branded Mitsubishis.
This was the Mitsubishi Precis, a car that was so stunningly bad and such a poor seller that this one is the first and only example I have ever seen in all my years of crawling through wrecking yards.
That makes it one of the rarest cars … in the world. (Read More…)
These days, plenty of tuner kids want to get a E70 Corolla and turn it into a sick drift machine … but then reality sets in and they end up commuting to work in a 15-year-old Kia Rio instead. Meanwhile, the abandoned drift-project TE72 wagons become 24 Hours of LeMons cars, if they’re lucky, and the rusty SR-5s just get scrapped once something costing more than $19 breaks.
This ’81 Corolla two-door SR-5 liftback gave its all in the service of its owners, and now it awaits parts buyers in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)
Murilee loves to wax about the scourge of Miserable Econoboxes infesting our shores during the Malaise Era. Turns out, a few of them skipped daily commuter duty and went straight to the track instead.
You can’t talk about the miserable econoboxes of the 1980s without talking about perhaps the most miserable of them all: the irresistibly cheap, irredeemably terrible, front-wheel-drive Subaru Justy (the all-wheel-drive Justy could be a lot of fun, of course).
You won’t see many of these cars today, but I was able to find this 28-year-old survivor in a Silicon Valley U-Wrench-It yard. (Read More…)
Much as members of the Mopar Jihad don’t want to admit it, Chrysler took a bailout — in the form of government-backed loans — from Uncle Sam in 1979. This worked out pretty well for everyone involved, because the then-futuristic K-Cars that Chrysler developed out of desperation turned out to be both smash sales hits and the basis for most cars put out by Chrysler for the following decade.
The K Family Tree had many branches, but only the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Chrysler LeBaron, and Dodge 400 were true K-Cars. You won’t see many of the original Ks these days, but the patient junkyard crawler will find a rare survivor now and then.
Here’s an early Aries wagon that I spotted in a Denver self-serve yard a couple of weeks ago. (Read More…)
Back in the middle 1980s, demand for the Honda Accord was so strong that American Honda execs grew fat on kickbacks from dealers desperate for inventory and buyers — especially in Honda-crazed California — and you weren’t going to get a new one for list price. Once Accord production started in Ohio, the second-gen 1982-1985 cars were everywhere on the West Coast, in such numbers that you just stopped noticing them.
Then, seemingly overnight, they were gone.
After a decade or three, the head gasket blew, or the interior got intolerably nasty, or the car couldn’t pass a smog check, or the 11th owner had one too many Tricky Dicky Screwdrivers and crunched into the San Mateo Bridge toll plaza.
They’re rare in junkyards now, so I shot this red ’84 when I spotted it in a San Francisco Bay Area yard last winter. (Read More…)
The N Platform-based 1985-1991 Pontiac Grand Am was sibling to such rapidly depreciating semi-sporty-looking coupes as the Buick Somerset and Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais, and there was a time when they were common sights on American roads.
Now most of them are gone, but this Iron Duke-powered, 5-speed-equipped rusty survivor showed up recently at a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)