Richard Teague is probably my favorite car designer. No disrespect intended towards the many other talented people who design cars and trucks but Teague was the original silk purse from a sow’s ear guy. He’s best remembered for heading the styling department at American Motors from 1961 to 1986, where limited development budgets forced his team to be creative.
We see quite a few AM General DJ-5 mail Jeeps in this series, but what about all the big FJ-series mail trucks built by AMC with help from its Overland-Willys-Kaiser ancestry? For that, I had to venture to Southern California. Most of those 1970s FJ-8s seem to have become more or less sketchy ice cream trucks, and it’s hard to find a creepier Junkyard Find than a dead ice cream truck. (Read More…)
While the US government decided Chrysler was too big to fail and bailed out the company with loan guarantees in 1979, American Motors was judged just the right size to fail and had to get bailed out by the French government. This led right to the weird history of the Renault Alliance, which included a Wisconsin-ized Renault 11 hatchback called the Encore. The Encore wasn’t a huge seller in North America and the car tended to deteriorate quickly under American conditions, so today’s Junkyard Find is a rare one. (Read More…)
Some say the huge US Postal Service contract to buy Jeep DJs saved AMC (well, postponed AMC’s final downward spiral by a decade or so), and everyone will agree that vast quantities of USPS-surplus Mail Jeeps gave cheapskate Americans low-cost steel boxes to drive for the last few decades. These things must have been extremely popular in Colorado, because I see them all the time in Denver-area wrecking yards; in this series, we’ve had this Chevy-powered ’68, this Audi-powered ’79, this AMC six-powered ’72, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’82, and now today’s AMC-powered ’71. (Read More…)
The AMC Spirit-based ’82 Eagle SX/4 Junkyard Find that we admired last week was an interesting car, but it was pretty well picked over and started its junkyard career as a basket case. In the very same Denver junkyard, however, sits this much nicer and more complete ’79 Spirit DL. It was so nice, in fact, that I had to buy some parts from it! (Read More…)
The AMC Eagle may have disappeared from public consciousness decades ago outside of Colorado, but Eagles are still all over the place in the Mile High City. I can think of a couple of daily-driven Eagle survivors within several blocks of my house (not to mention several VW Vanagon Syncros, but that’s another story), and fallen Eagles show up in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards with great regularity. In this series, we’ve seen this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon. As for the very rare AMC Spirit-based Eagle SX/4, we’ve seen just this Iron Duke-powered ’81 prior to today’s find. (Read More…)
Here are a few books I consider required reading for Transportation Design students: The Reckoning, Rude Awakening, All Corvettes are Red and Car: A Drama of the American Workplace. These show what it takes to make a car…to make a designer’s work come to fruition.
Sadly, during my (short) time at the College for Creative Studies, we focused on creativity at all costs: pay no attention to the business behind the curtain. So while the Honda Crosstour is a curious stylistic exercise, does this dog hunt in the real world? (Read More…)
The used baby-shit green AMC Gremlin arrived in the Stork’s driveway about the time their long lived 1967 Chrysler Newport made its last tip out of the driveway and into its final resting place in the forested acreage behind the house. The oil shock had meant a lot of changes, but Wayne had been willing to deal with the high prices so long as it hadn’t meant purchasing a new car, but by the time the old Chrysler finally gave up the ghost it was a given that the next vehicle he purchased would be smaller and more fuel efficient. Compared to the Chrysler, the Gremlin was smaller and more fuel efficient, but compared to my family’s Opel Kadett it was an anachronistic piece of junk. It’s a wonder it lasted an entire year before it broke down. (Read More…)
When we had a 1960 Nash Metropolitan Junkyard Find a couple months back, you may have thought “Well, that was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion!” As it turns out, finding examples of the little Austin-built proto-AMC commuter in cheap self-service wrecking yards isn’t difficult at all— here’s another one, discovered at a yard in Denver. (Read More…)
The Jeep Wagoneer was made for about 180 years (OK, actually just 28 years), going through three corporate owners during that period. This is only our second Wagoneer Junkyard Find (after this late-in-the-game ’89), though I walk past many more every time I hit my favorite Denver wrecking yard. This ’81 grabbed my attention with its super-Malaise-y purple paint, so here we go! (Read More…)
It was 1984. Van Halen, Iron Maiden, and the Scorpions were on the radio stations I listened to, while Prince, Wham, and some guy named Michael Jackson were on the stations I avoided. I was a young punk and I ran with a fast crowd. Whatever, I was into fast.
After I found the very rare Audi-engined ’79 AM General DJ-5G “Mail Jeep” in a Denver junkyard, I thought I’d go back to ignoring most junked DJ Jeeps. They’re very common in Colorado, and this series has always been more about historically significant vehicles than just plain old ones. However, DJs built before AMC bought Kaiser-Jeep, and featuring the nearly-forgotten Chevrolet Nova four-cylinder engine, deserve some attention. (Read More…)
Even though the DJ Jeep was two-wheel-drive, Coloradans must really love them. I see DJ-5 “Mail Jeeps” in Denver-area wrecking yards all the time (for example, this ’82 and this ’72). I’ve mostly stopped photographing them for this series, because how much can anyone say about the steel box on wheels that delivered our mail for much of the 1970s? However, a Jeep with a factory-installed Audi engine is interesting, so here we go. (Read More…)
Back when I wrote the Automotive Survivors series (Part I and Part II), I specified that I was only considering cars built for 20 or more years, and I included boldface text stating NO TRUCKS! NO TRUCKS! Naturally, I got barraged with weeks of hate mail from the Land Rover Jihad (because Land Rovers were being slapped together out of mud and sticks by Celtic tribesman circa 600 BC and thus my cars-only restriction was fatwa-worthy), but that was nothing next to what I heard from the Wagoneer Jihad. Legendary industrial designer Brooks Stevens drew up the original SJ platform-based Wagoneer for Willys-Overland in the year 1905 (OK, the early 1960s), and Kaiser-Jeep, AMC, and Chrysler kept building great big SJ Cherokees and Grand Cherokees until the sun collapsed and became a red giant (OK, until 1991). That meant that Chrysler was building AMC 360s in addition to Franco-Swedish PRV V6s into the 1990s. And, just as you could buy Super 8 movie film at ordinary stores until the early 1990s, so could you buy Jeep SJs with Simu-Wood™ plastic woodie siding. Here’s an example I found last week in a Denver self-serve yard. (Read More…)
A couple of days ago, I accompanied a friend on a journey to pick up a couple of Rabbits at a mysterious not-open-to-the-public yard that sprawls across a couple of square miles of prickly-pear-covered prairie east of Colorado Springs. I’ll tell the story of that adventure soon, but I just couldn’t wait to share this car that I spotted during our visit: one of the finest examples of Malaise Era special-edition marketing madness in the history of the universe! (Read More…)