For most of the 1960s, the forward-control, mid-engined small van, with the driver sitting atop the front axle and crowded against the door by an engine-containing box known as the “doghouse,” was quite popular in the United States. These things were bouncy, ill-handling, dangerous steel boxes, but they could haul absurd loads with their 1904-technology solid axles and leaf springs all the way around and were easy to maneuver in tight spaces.
Nearly all these vans were used up or crashed decades ago, but xillion-mile survivors still trickle into wrecking yards to this day. Here’s a rare long-wheelbase late-’60s ChevyVan that I spotted in Denver last week. (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…)
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…)
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…)
The Toyota Land Cruiser has been around since the Sengoku Period (OK, since 1951), and all varieties of this truck tend to have plenty of obsessively devoted single-interest fanatics here in Colorado. You’ll see the occasional FJ60 Land Cruiser in junkyards here, and I’ve even seen a well-stripped FJ40 in a Denver yard. Today’s well-thrashed Junkyard Find is the first example of an FJ55 Land Cruiser I’ve found. (Read More…)
The first-generation Mercury Sable, like its revolutionary Ford Taurus sibling, was a smash sales hit. Then, well, the plastic in those cool-looking “lightbar” grilles yellowed after a few years, sales of later Sables declined, and then the 1986-1991 Sables were just about all gone. I don’t see many first-gen Sables at U-Yank-It yards these days, though they were not uncommon just a few years ago.
Here is an appliance-white ’89 that I found in a Denver yard recently. (Read More…)
I have an extensive formative history with the 1965-70 (third-generation) Toyota Corona, and so I photograph them whenever I find them in junkyards. So far in this series, prior to today, we’ve seen this ’66 sedan, this ’68 sedan, this ’70 sedan, and this ’70 coupe. Much harder to find in the United States is the 1979-83 Corona, which was replaced by the Camry in the U.S. market for the 1983 model year.
Here’s an extremely rare 1980 Corona liftback that I spotted in Denver last month. (Read More…)
The Toyota Starlet was sold in the United States for the 1981 through 1984 model years, though not in large numbers. It was rock-and-stick simple, had rear-wheel drive and an unkillable pushrod engine, and it got a (claimed) 54 highway mpg. But it was tiny and cramped even by Miserable Econobox standards and had to compete with the Corolla Tercel on the very same showroom floors. Since the Tercel was cheaper, roomier, more powerful (everything is relative!), and generally more modern, American Starlets were rare to start with. They have become even more rare today, as generations of wild-eyed engine-swappers tripled Starlet horsepower and stuffed the handful of remaining examples (that didn’t succumb to rust) into concrete abutments and dragstrip K-barriers.
Here’s a Colorado ’82 that is as close to being completely used up as any vehicle I have ever seen in a wrecking yard. (Read More…)
The greatest Oldsmobile song of all time is Public Enemy’s 1987 masterpiece, “You’re Gonna Get Yours” (from all the many great Oldsmobile songs out there), but just what kind of Olds 98 was it that Chuck D used to get all those suckers to the side? I say it was the 1977-1984 tenth-generation 98, and here’s an example of a luxurious ’79 Regency Coupe, complete with landau roof and plenty of fake wood trim inside. (Read More…)
I moved from California to Colorado in 2010, and the stereotype of the stony Subaru driver who snowboards/hikes/camps/rock-climbs, has some sort of retriever dog, and drinks super-hoppy craft beers turns out to be based on reality.
Everyone here drives Subarus — hell, even I have an Outback in the fleet — but we’re talking about the beat-to-hell, 15-to-30-year-old cars here, and not shiny new Crosstreks in the REI parking lot. Last week, I saw the perfect example of that type of Subaru in a Denver self-service yard: this rusty, crusty, 200,000-mile, Pleiades-badged Colorado veteran, which spent its long life driving to trailheads and brewpubs, is now set to donate its metals to the global commodities markets. (Read More…)