By on April 3, 2017

1976 MG MGB in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

During my 35 years of poking around in car graveyards, one thing has remained constant: MGBs keep showing up. Not in large numbers, but the rate at which these lovable-but-not-particularly-valuable British sports cars get discarded has remained about the same during that period. Here’s a purple model, from the darkest days of the British Leyland era, that I shot last week in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2016

2016 Mini Clubman

Executives at Mini are busy mulling what to introduce next, and it’s increasingly looking like that model will have a trunk.

Unlike a car modeled after a young man wearing a backward ballcap, a sedan is a logical addition to the brand’s future lineup, and comments made to Autocar by Ralph Mahler, vice-president of product development, make it clear there’s a serious business case for a three-box Mini.

(Read More…)

By on November 30, 2015

00 - 1979 MG MGB in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

MGBs continue to show up in self-service wrecking yards, with another rubber-bumper Malaise Era example today. In my junkyard expeditions prior to today, I’ve photographed this ’67, this ’71, this ’75, this ’77, this ’77, this ’79, and this ’79 with a Toyota 20R swap, and now we’ve got today’s Denver ’79.

(Read More…)

By on April 30, 2015

a genuine british lawn ornament

We go down memory lane this morning and look at some of the great cars British Leyland didn’t build.

(Read More…)

By on July 11, 2014

09 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe low-value British or Italian sports car that sits in rough condition in a yard or driveway for decades, then takes that sad final journey to the local U-Wrench-It— it’s been a staple of the American self-service wrecking yard landscape for what seems like forever. The MGB and Fiat 124 Sport Spider are by far the most common examples of this breed, followed by the TR7, Alfa Romeo Spider, and the Triumph Spitfire. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’65, this ’67, and this ’75, and now we’re getting right to the end of the Spitfire’s 19-year production run with today’s ’79. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2014

05 - 1967 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSome old cars have managed to maintain a steady trickle of fresh examples into self-serve wrecking yards since I began crawling around in such yards, back in 1981 or so. The kings of this phenomenon are, of course, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider (in a few years of this series we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80), and the MGB (so far, this ’67, this ’71, this ’75, this ’79, and this ’79 with Toyota 20R power). The MGB’s British Leyland cousin, the Triumph Spitfire, has been a rarer but just-as-steady find for me; first this ’65 and then this ’75, and the prehistory of this series gives us this Spitfire-sibling ’67 GT6 as well. What these cars have in common is near-scrap value when in rough shape, respectable price tags when in nice condition, and a tendency to be hoarded by guys who plan— someday— to turn the former condition into the latter condition. Eventually, reality sets in and a car that sat in a driveway from the time of the Chowchilla Kidnapping until a few months ago takes its final trip. Here’s a rust-free, fairly complete, restorable early-ish Spitfire that I saw last month in a Northern California yard. (Read More…)

By on November 19, 2013

12 - 1965 Triumph Spitfire Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy far the most numerous British sports car in junkyards these days— and, in fact, for the last few decades— is the MGB. We’ve seen many of these cars in this series, but today’s find is just the second Junkyard Find Spitfire, after this ’75. The Spitfire had a long production run, 19 years total, but Spitfires just weren’t anywhere near as sturdy as their MGB cousins and most of the non-perfect examples got crushed long ago. Still, every so often a forgotten project gets evicted from a garage or back yard, and that’s probably what this happened to this battered ’65 that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard last month. (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2013

06 - 1979 MGB Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinAs a former MGB commuter, I always feel a certain sadness when I see one of British Leyland’s underpowered little sports cars about to get eaten by The Crusher. The B was a surprisingly sturdy car of very simple construction, but sales were undermined by terrible build quality, a primitive pushrod engine, and electrical components made by the Prince of Darkness. These cars show up frequently in self-service wrecking yards, as abandoned project MGBs are expelled from driveways and back yards; we’ve seen this ’71, this ’75, and this Toyota-engined ’79 in this series, and today we’ll look at a very used-up ’79 that I spotted in a California yard. (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2012

As someone who spent a few years using an MGB-GT as a daily driver, my junkyard radar is pretty well attuned to detect Crusher-bound examples of the iconic British sports car. Incredible quantities of Bs were built over a run that lasted close to 20 years, and of course you’ll want to read Ate Up With Motor‘s excellent history of the breed after you’re done here. The biggest problem with this sturdy little car (other than the Prince of Darkness) was the lack of power from its antiquated pushrod engine, so a previous owner of this car solved that problem by adding a Taliban-grade Toyota truck engine. (Read More…)

By on August 4, 2012

The most successful brands in our industry don’t have much meaning to them.

Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, all of these are names that wouldn’t evoke much of any imagery had their manufacturers never existed.

Mercury and Saturn are popular planets that make you think of space and the futuristic pursuit of those faraway places. Acura should be quite accurate and precise. Rams are tough. Infiniti pays homage to the outer limits of capability and performance.

Yet all of these names experienced failure, or ultimately failed, due to the key essential ingredient within any brand’s reputation.

Product.

(Read More…)

By on June 16, 2012

You see plenty of Fiat 124 Sport Spiders in self-service wrecking yards these days, but junked MGBs— which were more commonplace back in the day— are fairly rare. The MGB was slower, less sophisticated, and sturdier than its Fiat competitor, and it still has a big following today. This could mean that more MGB projects get finished, while 124 Spider projects languish for decades before getting discarded. (Read More…)

By on February 20, 2012

We’ve seen a couple of “poor man’s TR8” race cars in the 24 Hours of LeMons: you take a TR7 and drop a junkyard V8 out of a junked Land Rover into it. This works better than both the “really poor man’s TR8″ (a TR7 with Buick V6 swap), in the sense that it sounds a lot cooler, and is (slightly) more reliable than a Triumph Slant Four-powered TR7. Plenty of folks did this swap to their street TR7s as well, and I’ve found an example in a Denver self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on November 18, 2011

A less-than-perfect Spitfire, like the MGB, typically spends a decade or three as a get-around-to-it-someday project car under a tarp in the driveway… and then it’s off to the junkyard when reality finally sinks in. I haven’t seen a beater Spitfire for at least a decade now, so this is one of many smoked out of its hiding place by high scrap-steel prices. (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2011

Even though I’ve never been in a Austin/MG Maestro, I feel fairly confident in stating that the Rover Group’s little front-drive compact was unexciting at best. Still, the advertising folks must have though (after 11 rounds of Singapore Slings down at the pub) we can make it look cute and sexy! (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2011

As the former owner of a daily-driver MGB (plus some other British Leyland steel that still causes me Prince of Darkness PTSD), junked MGBs always catch my eye. The strange thing is that you still see plenty of Bs on their final stop before The Crusher, more than 30 years after the last one clattered off the assembly line. Here’s one that I found in Denver, parked a few rows over from the ’71 Fiat 850. (Read More…)

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