Junkyard Find: Where Tired Tauruses Go To Die

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find where tired tauruses go to die

The Junkyard Find series is all about the interesting and uncommon stuff I find during my travels to wrecking yards in Colorado and California, but what kind of cars form the backdrop to the Peugeots, Merkurs, and ancient Detroit iron? The demographics of this population tend to shift over the decades; 20 years ago, the GM B body reigned supreme in the high-turnover self-service yards I tend to frequent, but there’s no doubt about the 21st Century’s current Junkyard King.

Lately, the Chrysler LH has been moving up in the junkyard ranks, perhaps even displacing the GM H Body for second place. California junkyards always have substantial numbers of Volvo 240s, as the brick-buying demographic transitions to the Prius, and the high cost of repairs to big Benzes means there’s always a long line of W126s before The Crusher’s hungry steel maw.

But the numbers of junked Ford Tauruses (and Mercury Sables) dwarfs everything else. I visited a large steel-company-owned self-service California yard a couple days back and started counting the Taurus/Sable population. The Ford section of this yard has about 300 vehicles, and 118 of them are Tauruses and Sables.

Obviously, this is mostly due to the vast sales figures for these cars over the last quarter-century; the Taurus was #1 in North American sales for most of the 1990s, and most junked Detroit cars are 10-15 years old these days.

But where are the junked Accords and Camrys? Granted, the typical junked Honda or Toyota is 20-25 years old in California (due to perceived-value assumptions of West Coast used-car buyers and resulting higher values for allegedly bulletproof Japanese iron) but we should be seeing the import sections of self-serve yards overflowing with early-90s Accords… and that’s just not happening. Right now, the VWs are jostling with the 626s, Tercels, early Infinitis, and a new influx of disposable late-90s Koreans in these yards, but you’re lucky if you can find more than a half-dozen Accords or Camrys (and don’t get me started about the near-zero availability of fifth-gen Civic parts in the cheap self-serve yards; every time I need something for my daily driver, I have to visit at least two yards to find it).

Taurus sales went downhill fast when so many Americans switched to trucks as daily drivers during the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, which means that we can expect to see the Taurus Junkyard Era start to wind down in another five years or so. The early, game-changing ’86s and ’87s are already rare enough that I notice them on the street. Maybe it’s time to find a clean ’86 and stash it away?

Join the conversation
2 of 93 comments
  • Distorted Humor Distorted Humor on Jan 24, 2013

    All Those Volvo 240's make me kinda sad - a '89 Volvo 240 was my first car, and a solid one at that. Drove it from 75k-275k miles, with only a a few repairs needed. Sadly the windshield wiper motor died and I couldn't justify spending the part cost to fix a car with almost 300k miles on it. Traded it in for a New Mazda3 in 2006 which is my daily driver and just hit 100k. I am sure my old volvo is now crushed with steel prices as they are. The trick we found was that there was a electrical gremlin that would short out one of the rear lights, and it was much less expensive to replace that bulb at inspection then keep changing out electrical parts to hunt down the problem. Sorry to bring up a dead message, but Volvo 240s have a soft spot for me car wise.

  • Miklo1968 Miklo1968 on Dec 11, 2013

    I owned a 1988 Mercury Sable LS with the 3.8 liter V6. It was 10 months old and had 19k on the clock when I bought it. The car was loaded with every option except for leather and sunroof. I paid about $11k for it and thought I was a financial wizard because I had saved myself over $8,000 buying a used Sable compared to the almost $21k for a new 1989 model. I begrudgingly purchased an extended 12 month warranty with the car thinking to myself that it was a waste of money. In hindsight, I realized that the Mercury salesman who sold me the car was doing me a favor because he knew what was in store for me in the near future. The first 9 months were trouble free and then I got the first of many recall notices from Ford Motor Company. The motor mounts were defective and were replaced free of charge but the Mercury mechanics found other issues while they were under the hood some were covered under warranty but most were not and I got socked with a repair bill of $300 for some BS adjustments to the throttle and other "tweaks". Then it all began to go downhill one month after the warranty expired. The infamous 3.8 head gaskets began to leak. The water pumps and alternators were failing at an alarming rate. It began to run on 5 cylinders because the mechanics I went to hated mangling their hands trying to access the rear spark plugs and wires. Every interior option that was electric failed completely or had an intermittent issue and I repaired most of them. The Auto Climate A/C was the biggest culprit of electronic repairs and the root of most of the mechanical issues I had with the Sable. At 66k I was waiting at a stop light. The light turned green and I pressed the gas pedal when all of a sudden the car lurched forward about a foot and a loud bang came from under the hood. The 4 speed automatic transaxle just quit on the spot. Soon after at 71k the second set of head gaskets failed and both heads were warped and cracked. In addition the water pump seized and the radiator was shot. By now, 44 months of my 48 month loan had passed and I was going broke from the repair bills and the only thing that kept me going was the fact that in 4 months I can unload this monstrosity and go out and buy myself a new Honda Accord. That didn't happen. With the giant repair bill for the transmission and the giant repair bill for the head gaskets so close together my ability to juggle the money to pay for everything became too much and the car was repossessed 2 months later and 2 months short of making the final payment. It took almost 10 years for my credit to recover and 15 years before I finally bought my Honda Accord.

  • Tassos The EQS is the best looking BEV, better than even the only Tesla I would ever consider (the S) and more luxurious inside etc etcThe self driving features will come in handy when I'm 110 and my eyesight and reaction times start to suffer.But that's four decades away, and only Tim recommends 40 year old "used cars"
  • Tassos "Baby, Baby light my fire!""Oh God please give me a Kia Forte" --Janis Joplin
  • Tassos The fugly looks of any Subaru, and especially the non-sporty non-elegant, fugly, low-rent looks and interior of the WRX are alone a sufficient turnoff to never want to own one.One can be a 100% car enthusiast but ALSO demand a beautiful AND luxurious vehicle one can be truly proud of and which makes one very happy every time one drives it.The above is obviously totally foreign to Subaru Designers and managers.
  • Thehyundaigarage Am I the only one that sees a Peugeot 508?
  • Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.