The Truth About Cars » station wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » station wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Atlantic Pays Tribute To America’s Automobile: The Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-atlantic-pays-tribute-to-americas-automobile-the-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-atlantic-pays-tribute-to-americas-automobile-the-station-wagon/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:42:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861737 1024px-Oldsmobile_Custom_Cruiser

This summer marks two years since my impulse-buy manual Volvo wagon departed in favor of an impulse-buy Miata. I will hopefully make the same mistake again, assuming I can find a nicely maintained (for a change) manual wagon, and I don’t buy a Fiesta ST. Or perhaps, we’ll see the wagon come back into the collective consciousness of American consumers?

Writing in The Atlantic, Charles Moss laments the demise of the American station wagon, taking us through the history of the wagon, its eventual usurping at the hands of the CUV and the lasting influence of its aesthetics on the automotive landscape. Rather than spoiling the article, I’ll direct your attention to the comments section, where numerous Millenial commenters (with families) display their displeasure with the minivan, a vehicle that Moss blames as one of the chief architects of the wagon’s demise. There’s also a smattering of wagon love sprinkled throughout, including the Jetta TDI contingent.

The only missing link in the article? The unintended consequences of CAFE, and how it pushed auto makers to kill off wagons in favor of everyone’s favorite anti-environmental object, the SUV.

Side note: I had no idea Oldsmobile sold a B-Body wagon. It turns out that the Custom Cruiser was never sold in Canada.

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Junkyard Find: 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1978-toyota-corolla-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1978-toyota-corolla-wagon/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=830033 20 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe third-gen Corolla was the car that made Toyota in the Unites States; you saw the occasional Corona or Celica and maybe a rare Crown once in a while before the mid-70s, but the 1974-79 Corolla was the first Toyota that sold in sufficient quantity to make the marque an everyday sight on American streets. These cars rusted fast east of the Rockies and— once they got to be 15 or so years old— weren’t worth fixing when they got ugly in the non-rusty parts of the country. That makes them fairly rare in junkyards today; in this series so far, we’ve seen this ’76 Corolla liftback and this ’74 Corolla two-door, and that’s about it prior to today’s find.
11 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost cars don’t rust much in single-digit-humidity Colorado, but these cars were very eager oxidizers.
23 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe High Plains sun is hard on paint.
13 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 75-horse 2T-C engine was a sturdy, if noisy, pushrod unit.
15 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAir-conditioning was a rare option on these cars, because frugal buyers of gas-sippers didn’t mind a little sweat. I’ll bet it felt like someone pulling the parking brake when you activated the cold air in this car.
05 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis looks like an aftermarket setup.
03 - 1978 Toyota Corolla Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRear defrost! Rear wiper! Even most Country Squire owners didn’t get that stuff!

This ad was hitting Chrysler below the belt.

Didn’t Lee Iacocca use the “if you can find a better car, buy it” line a few years later?

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Junkyard Find: 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1972-ford-pinto-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1972-ford-pinto-wagon/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 13:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=825650 08 - 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere was a time, say from about 1973 through 1983— a timespan that corresponds exactly with the Malaise Era— when the Ford Pinto was one of the most numerous cars on America’s roads. You saw way more Pintos than Vegas, Chevettes, Corollas, Civics, Omnis, just about any small car you can name. When I was in high school, the Pinto was one of the cheapest first-car options available for wheels-hungry teenagers; you could get an ugly runner for a C-note, any day of the week. The Pinto wasn’t a good car, but it wasn’t intolerable by the (admittedly low) compact-car standards of its time. Then, rather suddenly, all the Pintos disappeared. The Crusher grew fat on Pinto flesh, then switched to Hyundai Excels. They’re rare finds in wrecking yards today, and we’ve seen just this ’74 hatchback in this series prior to today. During a recent trip to Northern California, I found this early Pinto wagon, short quite a few parts but still exuding its essential Pinto-ness.
11 - 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSome bottom-feeder East Bay car dealership hoped to sell this “perfect classic” for $1,499, but was not successful.
04 - 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMore than 20 years ago, I grabbed every early-70s Fasten Seat Belt light I could find, for an ambitious project that I’ll complete someday. I have many examples of this Ford version.
06 - 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe hood once had some sort of JC Whitney hood scoop, which was made quasi-functional by the rectangular hole.
05 - 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s no telling what sort of connection went between the scoop and the carburetor, because everything above the engine block is long gone.

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The strength to climb the Rockies and the brakes to stop quickly on Los Angeles freeways.


From the Model T to the Pinto!


The little carefree car that could withstand a rank of giant fans placed at the roadside.


A few years later, Jackie Stewart boasted that the Pinto was faster than the Datsun B210, the Toyota Corolla, and the Honda Civic.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagovan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1988-honda-civic-4wd-wagovan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1988-honda-civic-4wd-wagovan/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=810810 17 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBefore Subaru finally nailed down the sales-clinching formula for a car that had four-wheel-drive but didn’t seem too truck-like, all the major Japanese car manufacturers took at shot at building little sedans and wagons with power going to all the wheels. Since I live in Colorado, I get to see examples of each of those 1980s efforts, most of which didn’t result in much showroom action but are still pretty interesting today. In this series, we’ve seen a Camry All-Trac, quite a few Corolla All-Tracs, lots of Tercel 4WD wagons, countless elderly Subarus, and so on. The Honda Shuttle aka Civic Wagovan shows up in Denver wrecking yards as well, and I don’t bother to photograph most of them. This late Wagovan with the futuristic “Real-Time” four-wheel-drive system, however, is a rare find even in Colorado.
26 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinReal-Time 4WD didn’t require the driver to throw a lever or push a button when snow or mud threatened, and thus you didn’t have to worry about leaving the car in four-wheel-drive on dry asphalt and tearing up the tires (or worse). Of course, there was a fuel-economy penalty for using a center differential and driving all four wheels all the time, but Subaru proved that this doesn’t hurt sales.
22 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere are emblems boasting of this technology all over the car.
03 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe ’88 4WD Wagovan also got a super-low (I assume that’s what the “SL” stands for) first-gear, which was probably great for climbing steep driveways and busting CV joints.
12 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinUnder the hood, the pretty-potent-for-1988 106-horse D16A6.
02 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNearly 180,000 miles. No rust on the body, interior not too bad, so my guess is that a blown head gasket doomed this car.

I couldn’t find any Japanese-market ads with the screeching tires and macho voiceovers that the Civic Shuttle deserved.


At least they still appreciate the 4WD Wagovan in Sweden.

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Junkyard Find: 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1960-plymouth-valiant-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1960-plymouth-valiant-station-wagon/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808866 12 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy my calculations, we will stop seeing Chrysler A bodies in wrecking yards by about the year 2109; so far in this series we’ve seen this ’61 Valiant, this ’63 Dart, this ’64 Valiant wagon, this ’67 Valiant, this ’66 Dart, this ’68 Valiant Signet, this ’73 Valiant, this ’75 Duster, and this ’75 Dart, and today I’m adding a first-year Valiant wagon that sat abandoned for about 40 years before being sent to a California self-serve yard.
18 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow do I know it sat for that long? From the yellowed but otherwise intact stack of 1970 newspapers I found in the back. Here’s the first paragraph of the Herb Caen column from the February 25, 1970 San Francisco Chronicle. Those damn Traditional Hippies (Caen invented the term “hippie”), donating blood for the SFPD! My very first job was delivering the Chronicle on my Schwinn, about 8 years after this issue came out, so it was cool to find this paper.
05 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Slant-6 engine was fairly modern in 1960. I can’t tell a 170 from a 225 by glancing at it, but the 170 was more common in the early Valiants. Someday I will buy an NOS Slant-6 scale model.
01 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is pretty well cooked from those decades in the California sun.
11 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe early Valiant wagon had some interesting body lines.
27 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAll right, back to the 2/25/70 newspaper! Here’s an ad for the 70 Plymouth Duster, complete with cartoon woman in psychedelic bell-bottoms.
22 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAn unusual time to announce the somewhat delayed second-gen Camaro. Stewart Chevrolet is still around, though not in San Francisco.
33 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinConservative columnist Joseph Alsop had some concerns about Nixon’s plan to abolish the draft, citing Philip II of Macedonia.
32 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNews stories out of the Middle East haven’t changed much in 44 years, although big-nosed caricatures of Arabs in American editorial cartoons have been toned down a bit since then. Also, busing nowadays isn’t quite the issue it was in 1970.
21 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t see help-wanted ads separated by gender these days.
28 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember Gordo and his cat, Poosy Gato? Only if you’re old.
24 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow about a sharp ’65 Chrysler for $595?
09 - 1960 Plymouth Valiant Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, old newspapers in junked cars are quite interesting, as we saw with this 1982 Denver Post I found in the trunk of a 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air. Just think of all the big news stories that happened while this Valiant sat, forgotten, in a back yard or driveway since the early 1970s. Soon it will return to the steel from which it came.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1984-oldsmobile-firenza-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1984-oldsmobile-firenza-wagon/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=781729 05 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOf all the GM J-bodies sold in America, the Olds Firenza may be the rarest. In 1984, most Oldsmobile wagon shoppers wanted a stately rear-wheel-drive behemoth with a V8 engine, not some newfangled small wagon with a little communist-inspired four-cylinder engine driving the wrong wheels. Thus, Firenza wagons are rarer today than early AC Cobras. Here’s one that I found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard last weekend, while I was in town for the fifth annual Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons.
02 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is the 2.0 liter version of the GM 122 pushrod engine. The 122 was a little less thrashy and rattly than the Iron Duke, but it also made less power. This LQ5 put out 86 horsepower, which was pretty miserable even by 1984 standards.
23 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHowever, at least this car had genuine electronic fuel injection. And not-so-genuine “wood paneling.”
19 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBrown-and-tan velour bucket seats.
03 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last owner of this car must have had glaucoma or some other illness that requires the completely legitimate application of medical cannabis. If Mr. ex-Firenza Driver lived in my state, of course, he could just throw away the medical card, ride his Lambretta to the local dispensary, and buy some shatter hash.
20 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI must assume that this pin was applied when the car still had That New GM Velour Smell.
25 - 1984 Oldsmobile Firenza Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSay what you will about the early J-bodies, but at least this one outlived most of its Japanese peers.

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-toyota-cressida-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-toyota-cressida-wagon/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770506 20 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Toyota Cressida is now at its moment of peak junkyard availability, with most examples finally getting to the point at which repairs just aren’t justified by the car’s value. The Cressida was an extremely well-built car by 1980s standards, and a pretty good car even through our jaded 21st-century eyes (which view vehicles that get scrapped before 200,000 miles as suspiciously crappy and/or abused). We’ve seen this ’80, this ’82 this ’84, this ’87, this ’89, and this ’92 in the Junkyard Find Series so far, but today’s Cressida is the first wagon.
07 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one had 234,392 miles on the clock when it finally took that last tow-truck ride.
17 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI shot this in Northern California in January, and this temporary registration expired in August. That means the car was probably still legal when it got towed away for parking tickets and its fines not paid (most likely) or sold for scrap.
08 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo rust. None at all. Fans of old Japanese cars in rusty areas, you’d better come west and rescue some stuff like this.
12 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe same DOHC 5M-GE engine that Supras got. In fact, the whole car is full of Supra drivetrain and suspension hardware.
01 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWorth restoring or converting into a drift car? Not in California!

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I Don’t Care About The Mercedes-Benz E63 Wagon Anymore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-dont-care-about-the-mercedes-benz-e63-wagon-anymore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-dont-care-about-the-mercedes-benz-e63-wagon-anymore/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 22:15:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=757857 2014-jaguar-xfr-s-sportbrake-15

 

I’m known for dumping on wagons constantly, but I think it’s important to understand the difference between what I report on, and my own tastes. Take, for example, this car, the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake.

This car is basically irrelevant. We’re not going to get it in North America. It will be sold in limited quantities in Europe, and nobody would actually buy it in any meaningful numbers here. From a business standpoint for North America, it’s a non-starter.

And I love it. Now that the E63 AMG is all-wheel drive, where else can you get a blown V8 putting down 550 horsepower in a station wagon body?

 

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-aries-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-aries-station-wagon/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=735681 22 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Chrysler K platform spun off many K-based descendents, but genuine, pure Ks have been fairly rare in this series. We’ve seen this ’83 Dodge Aries sedan, this ’85 Dodge 600 Turbo, and this ’88 Dodge Aries wagon so far, though I’ve passed over many dozens more. Still, when I see a first-year Aries wagon in this weird chalky gray-green color and it has a “Hemi 2.6″ engine, I break out the camera!
13 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars depreciated just as fast as all the other Detroit front-drivers of the 1980s, which means that only relatively trouble-free ones managed to survive 33 years on the street. One expensive problem after about 1989, good-bye!
12 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Hemi 2.6 was really the good old Mitsubishi Astron 4G54 engine, which made 114 not-so-bad-for-1981 horses. Sadly, Chrysler never used any Simca-derived engines in the K family.
07 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis wagon has plenty of options, including air conditioning and futuristic digital chronometer.
05 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAs the street price of a battered Aries-K approached scrap-value levels, the socioeconomic status of the average K-car owner also dropped.
03 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, you can see hints of former luxury in the much-used faded-mint-green vinyl interior.

As you can see here, the ’81 K-cars were sold on price, period.

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Junkyard Find: 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 700 Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1962-chevrolet-corvair-700-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1962-chevrolet-corvair-700-station-wagon/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734457 07 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOther than the many Corvairs in the Brain Melting Colorado Junkyard, we haven’t seen any examples of GM’s rear-engined compact so far in this series. As recently as ten years ago, Corvairs were not uncommon sights in self-serve wrecking yards, and trashed ones are worth little more than scrap value today, but it took until a couple of weeks ago and a trip to California for me to find one.
14 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis ’62 was parked in the import section of a huge Los Angeles yard, and my first glance at the engine-cooling vents gave me the impression that I was looking at a Volkswagen Type 3 Squareback. Nope!
04 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has been picked over pretty well, so we can assume that some Corvairs that remain among the living have benefited from its organ donation.
05 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt doesn’t have rust in the usual places that Maine or Michigan residents might expect— the rear quarters are solid, for example— but the floors have suffered from decades of leaky weatherstripping. You’ll get weeks of constant rain during Southern California winters, the carpets stay wet, and this happens.
03 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNice minimalist instrument cluster, which reminds me a lot of the ones in French cars of the same era.
10 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car still has a few bits to offer up, including the wagon-only glass. Let’s hope that stuff gets rescued before The Crusher goes squish.

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First Drive Review: 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/first-drive-review-2015-volvo-v60-t5-sport-wagon-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/first-drive-review-2015-volvo-v60-t5-sport-wagon-with-video/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725274 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior

There was a time when wagons roamed the interstates, ferrying families from one National Lampoon vacation to another. With the rise of the crossover, those looking for the original “looks practical but handles like a sedan” mode of transport have few options, and most of them live in the luxury segment. Let’s count them before we go too far. We have the soon-to-be-cancelled Acura TSX, the last-generation Cadillac CTS , the Volkswagen Jetta, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 3-Series and the Toyota Prius V. Even if you expand things to include “off-road wagons”the list only grows by three (Audi Allroad, Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70.) Despite the shrinking market, Volvo’s brand has long been associated with practical wagons. It’s almost hard to believe it has been three full years since Volvo sold one in America. That’s about to change with the 2015 V60.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Back in 2010 Volvo was selling two wagons in America. The V50 was based on the compact S40 sedan and the V70 shared its underpinings with Volvo’s 5-series competitor the S80. Although the V70 is still sold in Europe and the V40 (the replacement for the V50) splashed down in 2013, Americans will have to settle for Volvo’s middle child, the V60 wagon. Based on Volvo’s S60 sedan, the V60 competes internationally with wagon variants of the 3-Series, C-Class, Audi A4 and many others. But this is America and Volvo’s only direct competitor is the BWM 328i xDrive wagon. More on that later.

Despite ditching the boxy form years ago, Volvo’s style remains the automotive Birkenstock to BMW’s Prada. The entire Volvo lineup in America (except for the XC90) received a 2014 face lift with a more aggressive grille and more creases in the hood. Volvo has finally tucked their radar cruise control module behind a plastic panel that blends into the grille rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Out back we get bumper cover integrated exhausts, a large black surround on the rear glass that made me wish it was separately hinged, and a continuation of those oh-so-sexy Swedish hips. Volvo’s engineers kept the V60′s roofline fairly high at the rear, but even the Swedes have given in to modern “coupé” styling cues, most notably in the greenhouse shape. The raked rear glass looks sexier, but takes a toll on cargo space.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-003

Interior

Birkenstocks are comfy. Prada? Hit and miss. (Or so I’m told.) And so it is with Volvo and BMW interiors. The S60 on which the V60 is based is now 5 years old.  Aside from massaging color and trim options, the only substantive changes to the interior since it was launched is Volvo’s LCD disco dash, a new steering wheel with shift paddles (optional) and a new gear shift knob. Despite its age, the Scandinavian chic cabin has what it takes to complete with BMW, especially now that the 3-Series has gone slightly down-market with more hard plastics in this generation. My only major gripe is the small 7-inch infotainment display that is clearly outclassed by BMW’s ginormous iDrive screen.

Despite lacking the range of motion that the competition affords, Volvo’s thrones continue to be the segment’s ergonomic benchmark. Volvo equips all V60 models headed to America with aggressively bolstered front seats and even more bolstering is available in a sport package.  If you’re a larger driver, you will find the sport seats confining and may even have issue with the standard seats as the bolstering seems to be designed for slim to average builds. Rear passengers are in for a mixed bag with less rear leg room than Acura’s TSX and quite a bit less than BMW’s 3-Series. Checking the numbers, the 2015 V60 actually slots in behind my old V70R, which wasn’t exactly spacious in the rear.

Wagons have long been about practicality and cargo capacity. The V60 scores points on the practicality front with a fold-flat front passenger seat and a standard 40/20/40 folding rear seat back. Volvo also tosses in a plethora of shopping bag holders, a built in cargo divider and additional cargo capacity below the load floor. Unfortunately the sexy profile cuts storage behind the rear seats to 43.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The pursuit of fuel economy has meant the loss of a spare tire which may be a tough pill for road trippers to swallow. Volvo says buyers can option up some form of spare tire but details were sketchy.

2015 Drive-E Engine, 2.0L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Volvo

Drivetrain

The V60 lands at the same time as Volvo’s new engine family. If you want to know more about Volvo’s four cylinder future, check out our deep dive from a few days ago. Volvo’s engine lineup is getting a bit confusing as they transition to their new engine family resulting in two totally different “T5″ models. Front wheel drive T5 models use a new four-cylinder direct-injection engine good for 240 HP and 258 lb-ft while T5 AWD models get the venerable 2.5L 5-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This is the point where most companies would stop. Indeed, BMW is only offering the 3-Series with a 241 horsepower 2.0L turbo gas engine and a 180 horsepower diesel I4 in America. The TSX isn’t long for this world but is only available with the familiar 2.4L 4-cylider engine.

In an unexpected twist, Volvo confirmed that there  will be a third engine with two performance levels bound for America. The T6 AWD model will get a 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline six cylinder engine cranking out 325 HP and 354 lb-ft. This engine takes the S60 sedan from 0-60 in 5.05 seconds and I expect the V60 to post similar numbers. If that isn’t enough, Volvo will go one step further and bring a 350 HP, 369 lb-ft Polestar tuned variant to America good for sub-5-second runs to Ikea.

The new 2.0L engine is mated exclusively to Aisin’s new 8-speed automatic transaxle, also found in the 2014 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport. The new cog swapper enables standard start/stop on the V60 along with a coasting mode (similar to ZF’s 8-speed) which essentially shifts into neutral when you let off the gas on a level road. Due to packaging constraints, 2.5 and 3.0 liter engines get an Aisin 6-speed automatic and standard Haldex AWD.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-012

Drive

The only V60 model Volvo had for us to play with was a front-wheel-drive T5 model with the new 2.0L turbo. Lacking the supercharger for low-end response (available in the S60), the T5 model felt very similar to BMW’s 2.0L N20 engine in the 3-Series with a hint of turbo lag to start and a broad power band. The German mill cranks out less torque, but is required to motivate less curb weight, so I suspect 0-60 times will be fairly similar. Because of the limited time I had behind the wheel we don’t have verified 0-60 numbers but Volvo says the V60 will do the sprint in 6.1 seconds, which is about 1.5 seconds faster than the TSX.

Despite the healthy torque numbers, the V60 presented relatively little torque steer. Volvo didn’t say what they had done to improve on things vs the last T5 FWD model I drove but they did say no suspension designs were changed. (This is a contrast to the S60 T6 FWD which had plenty of torque steer in first gear.) Volvo’s test fleet consisted of Sport Package models only, which are tuned toward the firmer side of the segment. The tuning is certainly firmer than BMW’s standard 3-Series suspension and on par with the Sport Line wagon.

The V60 handled winding roads with composure thanks to wide 235/45R19 (part of the sport package) tires all the way around but the lighter and better balanced 328 wagon feels more nimble out on the road. Meanwhile the TSX and Audi Allroad feel less connected. Since the BMW is only available in America in AWD trim, a comparison to the T5 AWD and T6 AWD may be more appropriate, so check back when we can get our hands on one.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-006

No Volvo would be complete without new safety tech and the V60 spearheads several improvements to existing systems. Volvo’s blind spot system has moved from a camera based system to radar. The switch improves accuracy, allows it to operate better in fog and inclement weather and increases the range. There’s also a new self parking system to parallel park the V60, but we didn’t have an opportunity to test it. City Safety, Volvo’s autonomous braking system, now operates at up to 31 MPH and can now detect cyclists in addition to cars and pedestrians (optional packages apply). Volvo tells us that they expect the system to provide autonomous braking for large animals like moose in the next 1-2 years.

The V60 has been priced aggressively for 2015 starting at $35,300,  an $800 upsell over then S60 and $6,150 less than a base 3-series wagon. Adjusting for feature content, the base V60 is still $5,000 less. If bargain wagons with premium badges are your thing, the TSX is king at $31,985, but the delta shrinks to less than two grand when you adjust for the V60′s feature set. The $36,800 might be the more appropriate competitor for the AWD-only 3-wagon, but a more interesting match up is the $44,300 V60 T6 AWD. Configuring a 3 or the CTS wagon with the same equipment you find on the Volvo will set you back at least $2,000 more. In addition to the value factor, the Volvo brings 35% more power to the fight. The extra power and AWD go a long way in compensating for the better weight balance in the BMW or the Caddy. Since GM hasn’t refreshed their wagon yet, the 3.0 and 3.6 liter V6 engined are outclassed in every metric by the Swede. Option your V60 with every conceivable option and you end up at $54,480.

As a former Volvo wagon owner, I’m probably biased, but all the reasons I opted for a Swedish cargo hauler in 2006 apply to the V60. Aside from the fact that “value” strikes a fire in my loins, the Volvo is the clear performance option in this segment. Want more shove than the $44,300 Volvo? Pony up $64,900 for the CTS-V wagon or $102,370 for an E63 AMG wagon. I’ll reserve my final judgement until I can get my hands on one for a more thorough evaluation, but in the mean time the V60 is quite simply the best performance and value option in this phone booth sized segment.

 

 Volvo provided travel, lodging, meals, the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Datsun 810 Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1977-datsun-810-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1977-datsun-810-station-wagon/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 14:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=682914 18 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 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.
06 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhile the 810 sedans got the independent rear suspension of the Datsun Z, the wagons had a good old suitable-for-heavy-loads solid axle out back.
12 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 280Z in 1977 had a 2.8 liter L6 engine, while the 810 kept the 2.4 liter displacement of the earlier 240Z.
09 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one probably did some surfboard-hauling duty in its later years.
02 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is worn out, but you can see that it must have been a nice place in 1977.
05 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI thought about pulling this mechanical-digital clock for car-clock collection, but 95% of these things are broken and I didn’t have 12V source to test this one.
08 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFaux woodgrain on the tailgate, just like a Country Squire!

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Junkyard Find: Lada Niva http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-lada-niva/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-lada-niva/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=663946 01 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen I went to Iceland to abuse some Subarus, I managed to visit a couple of Reykjavik junkyards and poke around a bit. In addition to the weird-to-American-eyes French cars and puzzling quantities of 1990s Chrysler products, I found this VAZ-2121 aka Lada Niva 3-door wedged nose-to-tail with a green Megane.
05 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe car’s doors were locked and the yard’s proprietor didn’t speak much English, so I couldn’t determine this Russian’s year of manufacture. The marker lights and some comments by Lada-admiring Icelanders later suggest that this car is from the early 1980s.
07 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s no way this car could have competed in the United States market, what with all the cheap Subarus, reliable Toyota Tercel 4WDs, and the perception that Ladas were just Fiats built by enslaved Stakhonovites in dirt-floored tents in the Gulag. Elsewhere, however, the Niva built up a reputation for T-34-grade toughness.
02 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThese days, the Niva’s appeal in Iceland has waned, and so this car will likely end up getting crushed soon.


Not many products benefit from association with the Soviet Union. The AK-47 and the Niva, that’s about it.


That’s how you treat a Lada.


In Iceland, they’re a little rougher on their Ladas.

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Junkyard Find: 1978 Subaru Leone 4WD Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1978-subaru-leone-4wd-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1978-subaru-leone-4wd-wagon/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=661010 01 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne thing that makes Colorado wrecking yards different from those in the rest of the country is the large numbers of Subarus in every yard. We’re talking the history of Subaru North America in every yard here. In fact, you’ll see more 1980s and 1990s Leones aka GLs, DLs, and Loyales in a typical Denver-area self-serve yard than you’ll see Corollas or Civics. You’ll also find lots of more recent Legacies and Imprezas, not to mention XTs, BRATs, SVXs, and even the occasional Justy 4WD. 1970s Subarus, however, are getting pretty rare here; in this series, we’ve seen just this ’79 Leone wagon and this ’79 GL sedan so far. Today, we add this very-much-of-its-time ’78 wagon.
22 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBack in 1978, your choices in four-wheel-drive vehicles were very limited; you could get a truck, you could get an AMC Eagle that drove like a truck… or you could get a Subaru.
12 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese things were ludicrously underpowered, rusted quickly, and didn’t come close to the reliability standards set by Honda and Toyota, but they got decent fuel economy and were competent in mud and snow.

Subarus were quite rare in the United States back in the Malaise Era, but the marque made it into popular culture with songs like this one.

Or this one.
07 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJudging by the quantity of pine cones and animal nests in this car, it hasn’t run for many, many years.
13 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot many places in Colorado damp enough for moss to grow on cars.
29 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in Colorado, will be crushed in Colorado.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Hell Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1989-oldsmobile-cutlass-cruiser-hell-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1989-oldsmobile-cutlass-cruiser-hell-edition/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=649778 02 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPlenty of front-wheel-drive Cutlasses go to The Crusher without being photographed for this series, but here’s one with an interesting customization job that attracted my attention. Why didn’t GM ever make a wagon with a red-glass option?
11 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen a car is on its last owner and that owner knows it, the space-saver spares seem to appear right away.
03 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car’s final owner must have scored a deal on some of that “fix-a-taillight” red tape. Inspiration!
04 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA little packaging tape over the top, you know, to provide strength.
15 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRiding in the back of this wagon must have felt like riding on the Hell Highway System.
13 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOldsmobile’s little line of flags, allegedly from nations with GM employees, lasted for a good chunk of the 1980s and 1990s.
08 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin3800 power, of course! Note: Sajeev Mehta, having joined the Cutlass Jihad, points out that this is actually a 3300 engine.

The wagon version of the Cutlass Ciera became the Cutlass Cruiser. The Judds preferred the sedan.

01 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Volvo Revives The Wagon With Three Different Powertrains http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/volvo-revives-the-wagon-with-three-different-powertrains/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/volvo-revives-the-wagon-with-three-different-powertrains/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 14:03:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=517353 2011_volvo_s60_r_design_and_v60_r_design_03-4c993d9c6427d

Starting in January of 2014, consumers will be able to buy a real wagon again from Volvo. The brand will re-introduce the V60 “sports wagon”, with a lineup of 4, 5 and 6-cylinder turbocharged engines, with the 4-cylinder motors eventually filtering down to the rest of the lineup.

At launch, Volvo’s current family of turbocharged inline-5 and inline-6 engines will be offered, but the V60 will be the first to get the new family of 4-cylinder engines as well. The standard 2.0L version will make 240 horsepower, while reaching 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and achieving 29 mpg on the highway. A hotter version, which will use a turbocharger and a supercharger, will pack 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Both 4-cylinder engines will be paired with an 8-speed automatic, while the carryover engines will use the current 6-speed ‘box. No manual will be offered.

Interestingly, Volvo claims that any growth in sales from the V60 will be “incremental”. This suggests that the V60′s return is as much a brand building exercise as much as a way to grow volume. After all, what is Volvo without a wagon?

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/junkyard-find-1987-nissan-stanza-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/junkyard-find-1987-nissan-stanza-wagon/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501297 11 - 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler scored big in the North American market with their K-car-based minivan in the early 1980s, and the Japanese automotive manufacturers wanted to cash in on the demand for front-wheel-drive (or four-wheel-drive) small van-like machines. Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi brought over the Master Ace, Vanette, and Delica, respectively, and you could get all sorts of little Japanese wagons as well, but nothing seemed able to pry many sales away from the Caravan. So, Nissan took their top-heavy-looking Prairie, slapped some badges from the unrelated Stanza on it, and shipped a bunch across the Pacific. Few bought the Stanza Wagon, which makes them very rare Junkyard Finds. Here’s one I found in Denver a couple weeks back.
03 - 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has just 151,369 miles on the odometer. Practically new!
04 - 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Stanza Wagon was a pretty good vehicle for its time, but it was funny-looking and didn’t have as much interior space as Chrysler’s minivans.
LWV12-Winners-HeroicFixIt turns out that the Stanza Wagon does acceptably well (relative to expectations, which are quite low) on the race track, as the Sputnik Racing Stanza proved in the 24 Hours of LeMons.
09 - 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith 102 horsepower, the Stanza Wagon wasn’t the slowest thing on the road in the late 1980s.


Such a happy little crypto-van!

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Plymouth Volaré Premier Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/junkyard-find-1977-plymouth-volare-premier-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/junkyard-find-1977-plymouth-volare-premier-station-wagon/#comments Mon, 19 Aug 2013 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499810 09 - 1977 Plymouth Volare Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe successor to the incredibly successful Dodge Dart/Plymouth Valiant was the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volaré. These simple rear-wheel-drive cars sold fairly well, but for every Aspen or Volaré I see in high-turnover wrecking yards today, I find ten Darts and Valiants. Part of that reason is a short production run, part is (arguably) lower build quality, but I’m guessing the main reason is that Americans just didn’t love the F-body Chryslers the way they did the A-body. When a Valiant got sick (which wasn’t often), it got fixed; when a Volaré came down with some expensive problem, it got crushed. Now these things are almost nonexistent, but here’s a very rare Volaré Premier wagon I spotted in a California yard a few months back.
12 - 1977 Plymouth Volare Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStrange to think that there was once a time in which station wagons outnumbered SUVs and minivans for family-hauling use, and even stranger to recall that small station wagons were once fairly good sellers.
10 - 1977 Plymouth Volare Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSlant Six power, not much to go wrong here. Still, this car with the Slant Six was quite sluggish. If only Chrysler had installed the Hemi-6 in this car, Things Would Have Been Different.

So sensible!

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Honda Crosstour http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/vellum-venom-2012-honda-crosstour/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/vellum-venom-2012-honda-crosstour/#comments Tue, 30 Jul 2013 12:42:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497250 title

Here are a few books I consider required reading for Transportation Design students: The Reckoning, Rude Awakening, All Corvettes are Red and Car: A Drama of the American Workplace.  These show what it takes to make a car…to make a designer’s work come to fruition.

Sadly, during my (short) time at the College for Creative Studies, we focused on creativity at all costs: pay no attention to the business behind the curtain.  So while the Honda Crosstour is a curious stylistic exercise, does this dog hunt in the real world?

 

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First, let’s just be surprised (impressed?) this design made production.  The Crosstour’s XXL-sized grin proves something in the land of bloated CUVs, perhaps giving the impression there’s a big rig Cummins Turbo diesel behind it? This grille needs a good head shrinker, so to speak.

 

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While the grille’s 2013 redesign (scroll to the end) helps tremendously, this frame’s massive size combined with its dull gray plastic frame doesn’t impress.  To the 2012′s credit, the wraparound grille’s teeth add visual excitement not available with the 2013′s thick, wholly generic chrome rim.

The hard angles and modest chrome trim catches the eye, though a body color paint job in lieu of the gray plastic is price appropriate.

 

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One of my more favorite angles: the hood sports sweeping and fluid creases, in the proud Detroit tradition of long noses for overt style and swagger.  Unlike every other CUV, the Crosstour has some Vista Cruiser DNA. Not enough wretched excess, but the proportions and general attitude are the closest we’ve seen in a long while to yesteryear’s Olds wagon.

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Aside from the appealing wedge at the bumper’s base, this nose is way over-styled. Note the headlight’s uncomfortable transition from the pleasantly proportioned yellow reflector to that massive center signal light with oversized black plastic frame: necessary to integrate the bloated grille into the bumper’s demure-ish form. Honda designer’s did a reasonable job cramming 10lbs of shit into a 5lb bag, indeed.

Then clock the fog light: the negative area (in the paint) at the leading edge of the fog light assembly needs to disappear to reduce the bumper clutter.

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That said, the over styled negative area is trick when zooming in. Except for the fake slots in the black plastic: a smarter-textured alternative wouldn’t cost much more! Hell, make it out of  fake carbon fiber instead of this Band-Aid look.

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The bumper’s strong lower wedge is also present from here.  The lower grille’s texture is simple, logical, and remarkably well proportioned…unlike so many elements on the Crosstour.

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Shades of the Accord: the Crosstour’s headlights, fender flares and the fender/door’s swage line harken back to the last-gen Accord.  It’s all good, because the Crosstour is a station wagon at heart.  Aside from the suspension lift kit, clearly seen here by the big wheels and poseur-tall ride height.

But just wait…the lifted station wagon theme gets worse as we go further back.

6The chamfered edge of this flare is unique, and worthy of possible implementation elsewhere in automobilia.  The only problem? It tends to fight other elements presented on the Crosstour’s body.

7

Like the rim of the 1999-ish Chevrolet Silverado (and countless other GM products from this era) these fake wheel holes don’t evoke extra strength, performance or curb appeal. They merely look cheap. Either you add a hole at the bottom of this space or you fill it in. No excuses.

 8

The Crosstour’s cowl is tidy enough, except that it’s not: the A-pillar’s bulk(?) requires a plastic filler panel for the fender to meet with the base of the windshield. A poor implementation, perhaps stemming from the Accord cowl’s inadequacies for CUV duty?

9But wait…did this just happen?  NO DLO FAIL?  The A-pillar, fender and door are so happy together?  ZOMG SON THE CROSSTOUR IS TEH BOMB!

9_1Another shot of the Accord-esque swageline.  Unlike most swagelines that start small but grow upwards, the Crosstour’s goes down as it enters the front door.  While not hideous, it’s certainly bizarre…you’ll see why in the next shot.

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Combine the odd swage line with the fake slots (nestled in a negative area in the rocker panel) and there’s a lack of correlation. The design gets undefined, busy and generally messy.  That bolt-on mudflap could keep more dirty lines from entering the equation, but the Crosstour’s undersized affairs don’t match the fender flare’s prodigious width, nor do they hide that line separating the fender and the rocker panel.

Visualize the alternative: reduce the fender flare’s width, fatten the mud flap and make the swage line “bend” at the deepest part of the negative area (i.e. the top row of slots) and bingo: a cleaner implementation.

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Speaking of, make the fake slots go away!  Banish them to the land of silver painted interior trim and faux fender vents! And, by the way, thank you for not putting fender vents on this beast. 

Unlike the Pontiac Aztek’s profile, the Crosstour isn’t wholly hideous.  There’s a bit of five-door hatch, a smidgen of AMC Eagle wagon, and the sky high beltline of a modern vehicle. Which definitely makes the Crosstour something unique, if not outstanding.

While this Evox image is too perfectly manicured, the Crosstour’s front-to-back flow works well.  There’s a smart up kick around the rear door handle, a tough shoulder line (that shadow) above the taillight, a fast D-pillar, and a strong static line at the base of the doors that elengantly merges with the rear wheel’s arch. It all flows nicely without being too bubbly or too square.

And no DLO fail to speak of. Woot!

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Not so pretty in the flesh, eh?  First, the matte black C-pillar needs to be shinier to go with the chrome trimming. Second, the door cut line crashes through the fender flare, instead of following/dancing with that arch. More to the point, integrate the door cut line into the lowest point of the fender flare’s negative area. Sure, this exposes more rocker paneling, but draping door sheetmetal over everything looks decidedly…cheap.

Lastly, the swage line (what’s left of it) slams through the door handle’s negative area instead of flowing over: not elegant.

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In case you missed it, here’s how the swage line intersects with the door handle’s negative area.  The line should be further north to avoid this mess. And while you don’t see the BIG problem yet, the body’s increasing height and bulk is becoming a problem.

 

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That’s not to say the rear isn’t without charm: the fast D-pillar, tapered greenhouse (i.e. gets slightly smaller past the rear door) and slight tumblehome looks elegant and somewhat muscular. No other CUV can pull this off…hell, even the Porsche Panamera looks flabbier from this angle.

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And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…drum roll please…the moment when the Crosstour goes from quirky and interesting to just plain offensive.

Because of the increasing height, the hatchback needs glass between the taillights and below the integral spoiler. (to improve visibility?) While that spoiler adds excitement, highlighting the acres of glass with a bubble dome hatchback like the Fox Body Mercury Capri woulda been so much sweeter.

Well, not sweet enough.  The Crosstour’s rounded bottom tries too hard to be a sporty 5-door hatchback. At this (ahem) elevation, that dog won’t hunt.  Instead of soaring upwards (at the side windows) the body’s belt line should remain static, emulating the height of the front door.  Combine that with a flatter/boxier butt (keeping the bubble dome hatchback idea) and there’d be a quirky cool version of the AMC Eagle instead.

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The glass has interesting touches, like the floating Honda emblem. The defroster/defogger lines delightfully contour around said emblem and the integral washer nozzle at the top (not pictured, my bad) are also a minimalist’s treat.  In a world of afterthought CUV emblems, oversized and haphazardly slapped on a tailgate’s limited real estate, the Crosstour did a good job right here.

 

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Too bad the wiper arm can’t hide under that spoiler!  While the Crosstour’s strong haunches (above the taillights) and tumblehome are both sporty and elegant, everything goes horribly wrong south of the license plate. No more tall buffalo butts, please!

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While the taillights start at the “end point” of the spoiler, they aren’t flush with the hatchback.  The lense’s silver insert has no logical reason for its location: moving lower, where the hatch bends at the base of the glass would help integrate the form and reduce unnecessary “lines” on the body. (i.e. start the silver where that indoor light’s hard reflection is on the hatchback.)

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What a mess! These hard lines make no sense with the upper half’s round glass and muscular haunches in the quarter panels. They are too harsh for too “long” of a form on this body.  Unrefined!

Either the northern hemisphere needs some hard bends or this area needs softening up.  Much like how the rear doors blanket over the natural location of the rocker panels, the tail lights shouldn’t be exposed in this bumper fold.  The lights should be smaller to let the painted bumper flow naturally from the bottom of the tailgate to the base of the roof: one simple, logical sweep of painted body. Too bad about that!

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Once more: too many harsh lines, accentuated by rounded and beveled tailpipes.  Combined with the softer stuff up top and the excessive height brought about from the rear doors, the Crosstour’s butt steals defeat from the hands of victory.**

**provided you believe that a quirky alternative to a CUV is a good thing!2013_redesignAnd yes, a quirky alternative to a CUV is a worthy endeavor for any designer.  And any would-be CUV buyer, at least in theory.

While the 2013 model looks a bit more interesting (especially in brown, ‘natch) the Crosstour doesn’t fit the CUV bill. When you combine CUV, hatchback and station wagon in this manner, you insult all three automotive genres in one vellum rendering. Too bad about that, because this idea has potential. And possibly merit.

Thanks for reading, have a great week.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Buick Skyhawk Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1985-buick-skyhawk-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1985-buick-skyhawk-wagon/#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 12:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494869 22 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Buick Skyhawk started out as a badge-engineered upscale version of the wretched Chevy Monza, took 1981 off, then returned as a front-wheel-drive J-body in 1982. This car is largely forgotten today, and the station wagon version manages to be even more forgotten. Still, a few remain, and this ’85 hung on for nearly 30 years before washing up in The Crusher’s waiting room.


Put a little Skyhawk in your life!
12 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is about as used up as it gets.
08 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo, this isn’t an Iron Duke, nor is it the Opel pushrod four used in the Chevette. This is the overhead-cam 1.8 liter version of the GM 122 engine, which produced a not-so-zippy 84 horsepower in 1985.
04 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHowever, the 5-speed vampired fewer horses than the slushbox.
06 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinGM used five-digit odometers well into the 1990s, so we can’t tell whether this car did 35,000 miles, 135,000 miles, or 735,000 miles. My money is on the second guess.
10 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOverhead cams and fuel injection were still semi-futuristic in 1985, at least for Detroit. Bragging rights for Skyhawk drivers!

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Volvo Station Wagon Delights Derek’s Parents, Gives CAFE The Middle Finger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/volvo-station-wagon-gives-cafe-the-middle-finger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/volvo-station-wagon-gives-cafe-the-middle-finger/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 12:20:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494518 BOmYi3RCYAAaFBg

 

What you’re looking at here is

  1. A big “F U” to CAFE regulations
  2. Very likely the next vehicle my parents buy

When Volvo killed off the V70 wagon in 2010, it marked a turning point for the brand; how could Volvo continue on without its signature product, the station wagon? It seemed as absurd as the idea of a Caterham crossover.

Crossovers, even those like the XC70 which had a slightly higher ride height and some cladding, were much more advantageous to get around CAFE loopholes (and could be sold at a higher profit). In most cases, car makers are better off selling pseudo-crossovers to their customers for these reasons, as wagons tend to linger on showroom floors and then command a premium on the used market (for more on that see the 2005 Subaru Legacy GT).

Not so with Volvo. The much-rumored scuttlebutt was that many longtime Volvo customers were unhappy that the faux-crossover XC lineup was all that was available to replace their wagons. Enter the V60. It’s a compact station wagon with a couple of I6 powerplants (likely for North America) that are likely not terribly efficient. Volvo will pay dearly for this in terms of CAFE, but we should applaud their guile. We may get a diesel or a plug-in hybrid powertrain option, but I’m holding out for a Polestar-tuned T6 and AWD.

One can only imagine that dealers were screaming for this car, and now Volvo has sent out this tweet confirming its stateside launch. Although Volvo sales have been on the up-and-up, they’ve never really recovered from the best years when Volvo had some strong wagon offerings. My cynicism towards the commercial viability of this bodystyle may be well documented, but if any auto maker needs to offer one, it’s Volvo. Wagons are the heart and soul of the Volvo brand.

I suspect this product will have a wide open niche, now that Audi no longer offers an A4 Avant. There are enough buyers out there who will want to buy any premium wagon that is not a BMW 3-Series. My parents are a prime example, though they ended up buying a 2011 Volvo XC60 T6. They’ve had their eye on the European market V40 for some time, but the V60 T6 would be just the ticket to replace the XC.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1975 Volvo 245 DL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1975-volvo-245-dl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1975-volvo-245-dl/#comments Sun, 09 Jun 2013 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491329 10 - 1975 Volvo 245 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIn a Northern California self-service wrecking yard not far from the one in which I found the Volvo 262C Bertone Coupe, I found an example of a first-year Volvo 240 wagon. The 240 didn’t change much during its near-two-decade run, but the very early ones stand out in this setting.
12 - 1975 Volvo 245 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIf you want to do a lot of engine modifications in a California-registered car, the easiest way is to use a 1975 or earlier model. That makes this year 240 the only one in which Golden State Volvo freaks can, say, swap in the powerful L6 out of the S80 T6 without getting the OK from the smog referees. This was the logic behind the rescue of this ’75 coupe a few years back (as far as I know, it is still awaiting its Ford 302 swap).
06 - 1975 Volvo 245 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThat wasn’t enough to save this one, of course. Look, only 99,224 miles on the clock!
02 - 1975 Volvo 245 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is pretty beat, so I’m guessing this is a case of either a busted odometer or a car that did 1,099,224 miles.
14 - 1975 Volvo 245 Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinAs I’ve pointed out before, San Francisco Bay Area junkyards always have plenty of Volvo 240s. The early 1975-80 ones have become quite rare in recent years; I suspect that we’ll be seeing the late-80s 240s for another decade at least.

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Ford LTD Country Squire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1987-ford-ltd-country-squire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1987-ford-ltd-country-squire/#comments Sat, 01 Jun 2013 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490126 01 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill the faux-woodgrain Country Squire Junkyard Finds never stop? Not if I can keep finding them! We started this sequence with this ’76, then followed up with this ’77 and this ’86. Today’s Squire is another Panther platform “woodie” wagon, Detroit’s traditional rear-drive family hauler for the late 1980s.
04 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car couldn’t carry the staggering volume of cargo that its gigantic 1970s predecessors did, but it still made the Taurus wagon seem cramped.
08 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith an EFI-equipped 302-cubic-inch V8 and overdrive automatic transmission, these cars got pretty good fuel economy for the time. Yes, the Taurus was a lot more frugal.
14 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis example, which I spotted in Denver a couple of weeks ago, seems pretty solid except for the bashed-up left front corner.
11 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt drove to the accident, but nobody wants to spend $1500 to fix a car that’s worth— at best— a grand. Next stop, Crusher!
10 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSuch class!

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Ford LTD Country Squire LX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1986-ford-ltd-country-squire-lx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1986-ford-ltd-country-squire-lx/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 13:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490109 01 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince we’re on a Country Squire Junkyard Find roll, with a ’76 Squire on Wednesday and a ’77 Squire yesterday, let’s take a look at a Panther Squire today. Yes, Panther Love even extends to Reagan-era woodie wagons!
09 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 1979-91 Panther-based Country Squire was much smaller than the dreadnaught that preceded it, but it still had room to haul a family of six in relative comfort.
04 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThanks to the lightweight Panther chassis and electronic fuel injection (starting in the 1983 model year), owners of 1980s Country Squires were able to crack the magical 20 highway MPG fuel-economy barrier. The mid-70s Squires were lucky to get double-digit fuel economy (downhill, drafting 18″ behind a semi).
10 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to imagine phony wood paneling worse than the stuff used by Ford in the 1970s, but the bean counters managed to find an even cheaper source for the stuff by the 1980s.
02 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese were pretty good wagons, in spite of the archaic 60s-flashback decorative touches, and you still see quite a few on the street today.

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Ford LTD Country Squire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1977-ford-ltd-country-squire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1977-ford-ltd-country-squire/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489981 02 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe saw a 1976 Country Squire Junkyard Find yesterday, after going seven months since seeing this ’75 Country Squire, but this Denver yard has given us back-to-back (actually, tailgate-to-tailgate) Malaise Era Country Squires. Today’s find is in far better shape than yesterday’s (which is both cool and saddening), so let’s check it out!
11 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin1977 was the second-to-last year of the extra-huge LTD Country Squire, and the factory shipping weight of this machine was a mighty 4,674 pounds. That’s 554 pounds more than the 2013 ZL1 Camaro, so you know we’re talking about a pretty hefty car here.
10 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 400M V8 in this car didn’t make a lot of power by 21st-century standards (if I look up the horsepower number for the ’77 400, we’ll all get depressed), but the torque was sufficient to haul a family of nine in comfort. Note the high-altitude spec on this sticker.
20 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLooks like this car was sold in Denver, and— 36 years later— it will die in Denver.
06 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s in pretty decent shape overall; no rust, most of the upholstery looks pretty good.
17 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinManual windows, Ford Aeronutronic AM radio, and hideaway headlights. Not exactly luxurious by current standards, but these cars were very comfy on long road trips. Anyway, Blondie sounds best on AM.
13 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith scrap cars going for $240/ton, this car was worth more as parts and steel than as a street-driven vehicle. How many remain?

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