By on November 14, 2016

1982 Ford LTD Country Squire in California Junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Before Real American Families drove SUVs and minivans, they drove full-sized Detroit station wagons.

I’m not a wagon fanatic and it doesn’t break my heart that wagons are no longer mainstream (although it does break my heart that Chrysler didn’t bring back wagons with huge tailfins instead of the PT Cruiser), but I recognize that the archetypal Detroit wagon of the 1960s and 1970s was the Ford Country Squire. I can’t resist photographing a junked Squire when I see one in the junkyard, and so here’s a Late Malaise Era Country Squire I spotted in a San Francisco Bay area wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2016

1982 Dodge Aries Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin

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…)

By on May 9, 2016

1988 Volkswagen Fox Wagon in California Wrecking Yard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

In the 1970s, the Audi 80 was sold in the United States as the Audi Fox. In the following decade, Volkswagen decided to sell the Brazilian-made Volkswagen Gol as a Volkswagen Fox in the United States, presumably using the Fox name because it was so good.

The Fox was cheap and disposable and most were crushed before the end of the 1990s, so this ’88 wagon is an unusual find these days. (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2016

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Station Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, RH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

During the late 20th century, General Motors managed to get at least a couple of decades out of most of their platforms, but GM sold the Chevrolet Celebrity for just the 1982 through 1990 model years. Its A-body platform held on just through the 1996 model year. Celebrities sold very well, but broke often, depreciated in fall-off-a-cliff fashion, and few made it into the current century.

Here’s a rare Celebrity wagon I found yesterday in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2016

2016 Audi A3 Sportback E-tron Exterior Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Emissions legislation politics is a hairy subject at the company holiday party. But there are some unexpected benefits regardless of your take on California’s ZEV mandate or the EPA’s CAFE standards.

Without this legislation we may never have seen Audi’s smallest station wagon return to America. Yep, Audi’s first plug-in hybrid comes in the form of a small hatchback-cum-station-wagon. That means if you want an Audi plug-in, a compact wagon is in your future. If you want a compact wagon, you aren’t going to get one without a plug.

Fortunately, the Audi in question is the tasty new A3 Sportback E-tron.

(Read More…)

By on March 2, 2016

1991 Subaru Loyale front in Colorado junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

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…)

By on February 16, 2016

15 - 1977 Dodge Aspen Station Wagon in California Junkyard - Photo by Murilee Martin

Everyone loves station wagons, right?

We saw three junkyard station wagons last week (a 1980 Toyota Corolla, a 1982 AMC Eagle, and a 1984 Ford Escort), and now we’re going deeper into the Malaise Wagon Era with this San Francisco Bay Area Dodge Aspen (Read More…)

By on February 12, 2016

08 - 1980 Toyota Corolla wagon in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The fourth-generation Corolla was a gigantic sales success in California, but you won’t see many of these TE72 wagons even in rust-free regions these days; nearly all of them were driven into the ground and replaced by RAV4s or Priuses a decade or two back.

Since we had wagon Junkyard Finds on Monday and Wednesday, let’s make this a Junkyard Wagon Week with this third one! (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2016

00 - 1982 AMC Eagle wagon in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

I live in Colorado, where the AMC Eagle sold as well in the 1980s as the Subaru Outback does now, and so I see the all-wheel-drive versions of the American Motors Concord and Spirit everywhere here. This means they show up in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards like clockwork, and I photograph them when they do (and I walk right by most air-cooled Beetles, which I know is wrong).

So far, I have documented the demise of this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this white-with-plaid-interior ’80 wagon, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’83 SX/4 Sport, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 “woodie” wagon, and this ’85 wagon. Now we’ve got this gloriously brown-and-tan-and-beige-and-brown example of Malaise Era proto-crossover Kenosha goodness. (Read More…)

By on February 8, 2016

00 - 1984 Ford Escort wagon in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The first North American Ford Escort went on sale for the 1981 model year; it was related to its Mark III Escort European counterpart but was more of a cousin than a sibling. It wasn’t a great car, but was such an improvement over its miserable Pinto predecessor that it flew off the showroom floors in great quantities. These cars were cheap and disposable, so nearly all of them disappeared during the 1990s.

I see quite a few of the Mazda 323/Kia Sephia-related second-gen Escorts in junkyards these days, but a genuine, early Escort wagon is nearly as rare as a numbers-matching Geo Prizm GSi today. Here’s a solid-looking ’84 wagon that I shot in Denver earlier this winter. (Read More…)

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