By on October 16, 2017

1985 Chrysler LeBaron in Arizona wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
While Chrysler made a bewildering array of vehicles based on the staving-off-bankruptcy K Platform, only four models could be called pure K-cars: the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Dodge 400, and Chrysler LeBaron. All the rest, from the Town & Country minivan to the Imperial, were based on mutated K hardware.

Here’s an example of a fully luxed-up LeBaron convertible, featuring body trim made from the stately trees of the Magical Petrochemical Forest, spotted in a Phoenix self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet - Image: © Timothy Cain250 years ago, in Prince Edward Island’s 1767 land lottery of 64 parcels, Lot 20 was scooped up by Theodore Houltain and Thomas Basset.

Encompassing the communities of Malpeque Bay, Clinton, French River, Park Corner, Sea View, and other hamlets, and possessing fewer than 1,000 people, Lot 20 is a gem along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s a gem I thought I knew well, at least until I took possession of our new family home earlier this week. Last night, with my friend Jeff The HR Manager operating as a tour guide, we traversed virtually every road on Lot 20 in the company of a 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet.

We reached antisocial speeds, as AMGs are prone to do. We consumed fuel, as twin-turbo V6s are inclined to do. We made inappropriate noises, as Mercedes-Benz’s Dynamic Select Sport+ mode (with the Performance Exhaust System’s button also depressed) is wont to do.

And we made friends, as convertibles have always and will forever do. (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

Image: 1981 AMC Concord Sundancer

Today’s Rare Ride is fairly old compared to the rest of the cars in this series, and it’s the first look at quirky and long-expired manufacturer American Motors Corporation (AMC).

A few years before being swallowed up by Chrysler in its desire to own Jeep, AMC produced this very unique PLC-TC, or Personal Luxury Coupe Targa Convertible.

Come and have a look.

(Read More…)

By on May 17, 2017

Chevrolet Corvette C7 convertible roof gif - Image: giphy

Intending to ask your advice before I actually made a purchase, I was left alone with no family to entertain me last Friday night and, well, something happened. To go along with our long-term 2015 Honda Odyssey EX, I exchanged a large sum of cash for a new vehicle.

Tell people what you’re going to name your baby, and they will tell you what they really think. Tell people what you named your baby, and they’re more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you named him Dwayne.

Similarly, tell people what car you’re planning to buy, and they’ll be forthright with their opinions. Tell them what you’ve already bought, and they’ll be more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you bought a Outlander.

So we’re going back in time to last Thursday. The automotive universe is littered with options. My choices are limitless. Major life changes have presented our family with new opportunities, but also new challenges. Regardless, it’s time to double the size of our fleet. (Read More…)

By on April 19, 2017

2017 Mazda MX-5 Sport

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base model in which it might be more prudent to spend one’s extra cash on aftermarket upgrades and not a more expensive trim. Here’s a candidate.

Many songs of praise have been penned and much digital ink spilled of Mazda’s rear-wheel drive, two-seat roadster. From the original version in 1990 to the current fourth-gen model, Mazda has always managed to keep a lid on cost and weight, two things which generally spiral out of control in both successive iterations of a popular vehicle and my own personal lifestyle as I age.

A total of $5,150 separates the base MX-5 Sport from the top rung Grand Touring model. Is that sum of cash better spent on DIY upgrades? Or should buyers spring for the high-zoot MX-5? Let’s find out.

(Read More…)

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 March 21, 2017

1995 Mitsubishi 300GT VR-4 Spyder

Over time, certain terms begin to evoke very specific images in the minds of human beings. For instance, when someone utters the word “truck,” a medium-blue color circa-2010 F-150 comes to mind. “Luxury sedan” triggers competing images of a circa 1998 Lexus LS400 (in gold) and a W126 Mercedes-Benz S-Class of two-tone variety, probably black over light grey.

And “sports car”… well, that’s a red basket-handle Toyota Supra, or our Rare Ride of today: a Mitsubishi 3000GT.

(Read More…)

By on March 16, 2017

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF, Image: © 2017 Seth Parks

Let’s get right to it. Retractable hardtop MX-5 owners will pay a 113-pound penalty for their motorized, targa-topped fun. 113 pounds. Mazda engineers and marketers do not take that sum lightly. But we can, because unless you are stripping down your Miata for competitive track work — in which case you will select the softtop anyway — you will not feel the difference.

The hardtop does absolutely nothing to diminish the balanced, driver focused, analog pleasure of the fourth generation MX-5. And for the purists, consider your baby may one day only be visible in the rearview mirror if Mazda can not expand the audience for this little icon.

(Read More…)

By on January 12, 2017

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk Roof, Image: © 2015 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Update: Added detail about next-generation Jeep Wrangler roof.

A vehicle is no Bronco unless owners can remove its roof in some way. Thankfully, it looks like the next-generation SUV won’t disappoint.

According to two well-placed sources, the next Bronco won’t feature a canvas top or fiberglass cap. Instead, it will look to the Wrangler’s little brother, the Jeep Renegade, for inspiration.

(Read More…)

By on December 19, 2016

1996 BMW 328i E36 in California junkyard, front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Internet Car Experts have spent the last decade explaining to the rest of us how every example of the BMW E30 3 Series, no matter how decrepit, is worth at least a couple of grand. This claim is even more ridiculous than most of the bad information with which ICEs clog comments sections and forum threads, and I still see plenty of solid-looking E30s at U-Wrench-It-type wrecking yards.

However, the quantity of discarded E30s has declined a bit in the last few years (from a half-dozen per big California yard to two or three), and the E36 has become the reigning King of the Junkyard 3 Series.

Here’s one of six E36s that I spotted at a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard a few weeks ago. (Read More…)

By on October 28, 2016

1990 Shelby CSX (P), Image: Shelby Automobiles

It was impossible to escape the word “Turbo” in the 1980s.

There were Turbo Aviators and Turbo Hoover vacuums. Turbo was a character on American Gladiators. There was even Turbo chewing gum, which came with a cool mini car poster wrapper. Turbo was a helluva drug in the 1980s, and Chrysler took note.

BMW offered one turbocharged gasoline model. Porsche offered three. But Chrysler? Over a 10 year span, the Pentastar turbocharged its entire car lineup, bringing us some 20 turbocharged models powered by no less than six different variations of the 2.2- and 2.5-liter inline-fours.

(Read More…)

By on May 10, 2016

readerZ

Here’s a quick update from a previous Ask Bark questioner:

Hey Bark,

I wanted to drop you line to give a quick update and say thanks.

First and foremost, thanks for taking my question! I really appreciate your advice, and that of the B&B. It’s definitely safe to say that everyone’s thoughts pushed me to listen to the shoulder-devil that was saying, “You’re only young, dumb, and have no kids, wife, or dogs in your life once! Get something fun, impractical, and fast!”

However, I ended up going in a different direction than mentioned by pretty much everyone.

(Read More…)

By on May 4, 2016

1992 Geo Metro Convertible in California Junkyard, RH front view - © 2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Geo Metro, a Suzuki Cultus imported by GM, came after the Chevrolet Sprint version of the Cultus but before GM axed the Geo brand and started selling Chevrolet Metros, which sold in respectable numbers during its 1989-1997 run.

There was a convertible version of the Metro, which allowed thin-walleted drivers to enjoy open-air driving without having to take a Sawzall to a 20-year-old Corolla, and I’ve found one of the few remaining ones at a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on April 25, 2016

2016 Buick Cascada Front 3/4 Top Down, Image: © 2016 Jeff Jablansky/The Truth About Cars

After years of covering the automotive industry, I’m still amused by the enormous gulf between auto enthusiasts and “real people.” (I’m talking to you, B&B!) We get excited when Honda decides to offer a manual transmission in the V6 Accord, despite the tens of buyers who will come running for it, or General Motors’ confidence to sell the Chevrolet SS here at all. “Real people” like it when there’s a less expensive way to get into a BMW M product, as well as the ability to go into a showroom and walk out the same day with the same nameplate they know and trust.

A great example of this chasm/schism is the Buick Cascada. Here’s how we imagine the reaction of each affinity group:

Auto enthusiasts/press: “Buick’s decided to rebadge an aging Opel and try to pass it off in the United States as The New Thing in the segment abandoned by the Volkswagen Eos and Chrysler 200 convertible?”

Real people: “There’s a convertible Buick now?”

(Read More…)

By on April 20, 2016

00 - 1990 Cadillac Allante in ColoradoJunkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Yes, from the Volaré to the Troféo, Detroit marketers of the 1970s and 1980s knew that an accent in the car’s name meant “no need to buy one-a-them fancy imports with no pushrods in the engine, we got your class right here!” to American car shoppers. Unfortunately for General Motors, the Cadillac Allanté cost much more to make than those other accented cars, what with flying the bodies (on customized Boeing 747s) between the Pininfarina shop in Italy and the Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class-grade price tag on the Allanté scared off most buyers.

That makes this car one of those Holy Grail Junkyard Finds, so it’s a stop-the-presses moment when I find one. Here’s a snazzy gold ’90 I spotted over the winter in a Denver yard. (Read More…)

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