Announcements of businesses leaving regulation-happy and costly California or declining to do business in California are as common here in the Golden State as seeing a Prius blocking the left lane on the 405. This move is a bit of a surprise as California-based Tesla Motors said this morning that they have eliminated the state as a possible site for their $5-billion dollar battery factory, meaning only Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada remain in the running. (Read More…)
So many Fiat 124 Sport Spiders get junked, and the process has been going on for my entire junkyard-prowling career. In the three years of this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80, and we might as well add the 124′s little brother, this ’71 850 Sport Spider. I don’t even photograph every 124 Sport Spider I see, because they’re almost as common in wrecking yards as ’85 Camrys. Today’s ’76, however, holds the Junkyard Find record for Scariest California Beach Neighborhood Rust. (Read More…)
Outside North America, this little blue pill of an A-segment car is known as the Daewoo Matiz Creative. It may look an obsolete computer peripheral (or a pregnant roller skate), but GM claims that the Chevrolet Spark has more torque than a Ferrari 458 Italia. As a self-described technology lover, and card-carrying resident of the Left Coast, I had to check it out.
Did you know that the Chevrolet Chevette was manufactured in the United States through the 1987 model year? It’s true! Serious fans of Chevette trivia also know that American car shoppers could buy a new Chevette with an Isuzu diesel engine; Chevette Diesel owners could eke out tremendous range in their oil-stinking, cramped, rear-drive econoboxes, and isn’t that really what car ownership was all about in the middle 1980s? I see the occasional Chevette in my travels (not to mention on the race track), but this California find is the first diesel Chevette in this series. (Read More…)
The Datsun 810 wagon was a fairly common sight on the streets of Northern California during the Middle and Late Malaise Eras, sort of the semi-sporty wagon choice for families who wanted a family hauler with a bit of 280Z in its genes. The Datsun 810 became the Datsun Maxima by the early 1980s and the Nissan Maxima by 1984, and all of the rear-drive members of this family have become rare finds these days. We’ve seen this ’82 Maxima and this ’78 810 wagon so far in this series; those two cars and today’s 810 were all shot during trips to California wrecking yards. I don’t know if they even existed outside of a 50-mile radius from San Francisco. (Read More…)
In the late 1980s, otherwise known as the Before Lexus LS Era, American car shoppers didn’t have many choices for big Japanese luxury sedans. You had the Toyota Cressida, the Nissan Maxima, and that was pretty much it (nitpickers might add the Mitsubishi Diamante to this list, since it was possible to buy one in late 1989; the same could be said of the Lexus LS, of course). Or was it? Oh yes, there was also the Mazda 929, a car that never made much of an impact in North America. I owned an ’88 929 for a fairly brief period about ten years ago (I made a complicated four-cornered car deal that resulted in the 929 and a Volvo 244 being added to my fleet) and I thought it was a very good car. Since that time, I’ve kept my eyes open for 929s, finding about zero on the street and this ’91 in the junkyard so far. On a trip to Northern California yesterday, I spotted today’s ’89. (Read More…)
By 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…)
Remember this piece from the Honda Summer 2008 Hydrogen Collection? It was supposed to point the way to future of green fuel technology before the Tesla brought plug-in sex appeal down the ramp with their Roadster and, later on, the S, as well as the trend of compliance EVs from Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Kia.
But with sales of plug-in hybrids advancing far slower than originally expected regulators are taking another look at alternative ZEV powertrains.
Since Willys/Kaiser/Jeep/AMC/Chrysler built the Wagoneer from Biblical times until ten minutes ago (actually 1963 through 1991), and I live in Jeep-centric Colorado, I see these things just about every time I visit a wrecking yard. Mostly, I don’t photograph them (unless I see an unusually late example, such as this ’89, or one resplendent in purple paint and tape stripes, like this ’81), but today’s Junkyard Find— spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard a few weeks ago— was just so incredibly Malaise-y that I felt compelled to document it in its final parking space. (Read More…)
In response to charges that it’s California electric bus building operation has been violating that state’s labor and minimum wage laws in the way it employs Chinese nationals, the company issued a statement saying that it is ”dedicated to ensuring that its employees are treated fairly” and that it would be hiring more American employees at its California electric bus factory. BYD explained that the Chinese nationals in question were engineers and experts that had been loaned by the parent company to transfer technology and train local employees and that they are not displacing any American workers. California labor officials had hit BYD with a $100,000 fine, charging that the company was paying its Chinese employees only $1.50/hr. The company is appealing that fine. BYD currently employs about 40 local workers at the plant. The state investigation was the result of charges by labor rights group Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy of minimum wage and other labor violations. Last week, BYD had said that the group was spreading “misinformation”.
BYD is stepping up efforts to sell electric vehicles overseas. The California facility is intended to supply contracts for electric buses for the Los Angeles and Long Beach municipalities. In Europe, BYD’s electric buses are in trial service in a number of cities and Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has ordered 35. The company plans to build those buses somewhere in Europe. ”We need to have around 100 sales in Europe to justify a plant and we believe that day is really near now,” Isbrand Ho, BYD Europe’s managing director, said in a statement. As yet no location has been chosen.
BYD electric buses have been tried out in Paris, Bremen, Bonn, Madrid, Barcelona, Salzburg, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Brussels and Budapest, and trials will begin in London as well. The electric bus is 12 meters (37 feet) long and is claimed to have a range of 250 kilometers (150 miles) in urban use, powered by lithium iron phosphate battery cells.
Since I’ve been haunting self-serve wrecking yards since the early 1980s, I’ve seen some patterns in the average age of various junkyard inhabitants. Detroit cars show up in large numbers after about 10-13 years on the road. Toyotas and Hondas need about 20 years. Off-brand Japanese stuff (e.g., Mitsubishis, Daihatsus, Suzukis) appear in under a decade. 1980s Hyundais started showing up in these yards when they were under five years of age, which is a terribleness record. Mercedes-Benz cars, however… well, the stuff they built in the early-to-middle 1970s is just now appearing in large numbers at U-Wrench-It. (Read More…)
First-gen Mazda RX-7s aren’t difficult to find in self-service wrecking yards (we just saw this ’80 with Flashdance-grade custom paint and this fairly solid ’85), and so most of them don’t make it into this series. During my recent trip to California for the biggest 24 Hours of LeMons race in history, I stopped at one of my favorite East Bay wrecking yards and found this utterly rust-free example of one of the few bright spots of the Malaise Era. (Read More…)