By on January 1, 2013

I wrote a lot of vaguely-car-related stuff in 2012, and here’s my chance to show off the stuff that made me proudest (or at least took the most work to create). Enjoy.
When I Build My Spaceship, It Will Be Equipped With This Cordia Instrument Cluster
After years of an unhealthy fascination with science-fictiony Japanese digital dashes of the 1980s, I finally bought one from a junkyard and began the process of getting it to display its Mars Base 2115 stuff on my garage wall. As 2012 progressed, I obtained this 1984 50th Anniversary Edition Nissan 300ZX digital dash, then this ’84 Toyota Cressida dash, then the Holy Grail: this 1985 Subaru XT Turbo instrument cluster.
1965 Impala Hell Project, Part 20: The End
The 20-part series telling the 10-year tale of my art-car-turned-daily-driver-turned-drag-racer 1965 Chevy Impala sedan, which began in May ’11 and took for-freakin-ever to create (due to the hundreds of pre-digital-camera-era 35mm slides and negatives that had to be scanned), finally came to a close in January of 2012. I plan to make a Very Expensive Coffee-Table Book version of this story, ideally during 2013.
Image by Phillip GredenBored On a Long Road Trip? Bad Car Bingo!
I was hoping to summon up a record-breaking number of fatwas issued by the single-interest automotive jihadists enraged by my inclusion of their favorite vehicles in my sample Bad Car Bingo card (I still get the occasional enraged email from members of the Chevy Vega Jihad who can’t let go of Vega-themed disses I wrote in 2008), but it turned out that aficionados of the Acura Vigor and Cadillac Catera have retreated into world-weary sulking and couldn’t be arsed to fire up Microsoft Office’s Fatwa Wizard.
When Embarrassing Presidential Relatives Got Model Kits: Billy Carter’s Redneck Power Pickup!
When a team racing a Billy Carter-themed Ford Fairmont gave me a judicial bribe of this Malaise Era Revell model kit at the 2010 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons, it inspired me to lobby Revell to create a complete series of Embarrassing Presidential Relative kits. Imagine, Onyango Obama’s DUI-enhanced Montero, or the luxury car Donald Nixon bought with not-so-legit Howard Hughes cash!
When You See a Clean Corinthian Leather Bench Seat In the Junkyard, You Buy It!
I shot this ’78 Chrysler Cordoba for the Junkyard Find series, then bought the Corinthian Leather bench seat and made a garage couch out of it. Since that day, I’ve been able to provide comfy, Ricardo Montalban-grade seating for my garage guests.
Possibly the Greatest Badge Engineering Feat In History: Isuzu Statesman Deville!
This car, an Isuzu-badged, Japanese-market version of the Australian interpretation of the Chevy Caprice, is the pinnacle of General Motors badge engineering. Someday, I will own one (and park it next to the Mazda Roadpacer I plan to obtain).
Junkyard Jackpot: The Missing Pieces For the A100 Hell Project Puzzle
When I bought my ’66 Dodge A100 project van, I had some idea that it wouldn’t be so hard to find parts for it. That idea, like so many project-vehicle ideas, proved to be wildly incorrect… but then I got a tip that a complete A100 had been seen at a wrecking yard near me. Unfortunately, that tip came in the night before I was due to fly off to a 24 Hours of LeMons race on an early-morning flight, which meant that I had to do all my parts-grabbin’ on the way to the airport. In Denver in February.
Automotive Lawsuit History Unearthed, Junkyard Style: The Ford Park-To-Reverse Warning Label
Ever wonder what made Ford slap those ugly “Make sure the gear selector lever is engaged in Park” stickers on the dashes of millions of slushbox-equipped vehicles built during the 1966-1980 period? After seeing a bunch of those stickers in junked Fords, I did some research on the problem that was as real as the Audi “unintended acceleration” problem was hysteria.
How Honda Survived the Vigor, the Del Sol, and the Lawsuits: Super Cub!
In March, I spent a couple of weeks in Vietnam and developed a new appreciation for the most-produced motor vehicle in history: the Honda Super Cub motorcycle. It turns out that an 8-horsepower bike can transport an entire family and a bedroom set.
Time Machine Dilemma: It’s 1973 and You Have Enough Cash For a New LTD. What Do You Buy?
The premise of the Time Machine Dilemma goes like this: Your time machine drops you off on Auto Row in a particular year, and you have enough money to buy a certain car. You have many other choices in the same price range. What do you do? ’73 LTD… or ’73 Opel Manta?
My Introduction To Panther Love: Inaugural Police Interceptor Road Trip!
Sajeev Mehta and Jack Baruth have this Panther Love thing going on, but they’re not the only TTAC writers who appreciate the Ford Panther platform. Here’s the story of 400-mile road trip I took immediately after buying an ex-San Joaquin County Sheriff’s ’97 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor at auction.
Corvairs, Kaisers, and Cadillacs: Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard Is a Mile High… and a Mile Wide
This yard east of Pikes Peak has so many thousands of great old cars that I had no choice but to buy a ’41 Plymouth there. During my visits, I shot lots of photographs of the cars I didn’t rescue.
Kill Switch Thwarts Denver Civic Thieves Once Again, Junkyard Parts To the Rescue
For the second time in 11 months, the homebrewed kill-switch system in my ’92 Civic prevented Denver car thieves from making off with my Japanese hooptie. Once again, I had to grab junkyard parts to repair the steering-column damage.
What’s It Really Like To Obliterate a Press Car?
There was a lot of discussion about car writers and press cars after a Motor Trend writer rolled a Cadillac in July, so I interviewed veteran automotive journalist and 24 Hours of LeMons founder Jay Lamm about the Range Rover he destroyed at a press launch in the Rockies (when it turned out that he couldn’t drive off-road as fast as Baja 1000 winner Malcolm Smith).
Hooptie Harley Adventures: Hell Project Shovelhead Hauls LeMons Judge To Road America In Style
Just when it seemed that Americans had lost the will to limp their half-finished projects several hundred miles in bad weather, my cousin and fellow 24 Hours of LeMons judge rode his nowhere-near-ready Harley from Minnesota to the Chubba Cheddar Enduro at Road America.
Real-World Review: Fleeing Hurricane Sandy Across 8 States In a Rented 2012 Kia Sorento
How a former pro racer drove several 24 Hours of LeMons organizers through the hurricane and to a functioning airport 900 miles away.
Auction To Crusher: 12 Weeks In the Lives of Two Cars At a Self-Service Wrecking Yard
In which I con a big self-service wrecking-yard chain into granting me behind-the-scenes access to their operation, then follow a ’91 Civic and a ’94 Camry during their final three months on the planet.
New Car Reviews
I don’t do many reviews of new cars, because it’s so hard to do anything different with the genre, but I did manage to write up a few new cars in 2012, including the ’11 Mazda RX-8, the ’12 Audi A7, the ’13 Mazda CX-5, the ’13 Scion FR-S, the ’13 Mazda Miata Club, and the Piaggio Ape Europe.
Junkyard Finds
Mostly because I ended up spending so much time at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver while visiting the protagonists of the Junkyard To Crusher story, the Junkyard Find series evolved into a near-daily event. A few of the cars I shot really stand out as favorites, including the ’48 Pontiac Hearse, the ’51 Nash Airflyte, the unintended accelerator ’84 Audi 5000, the Über-Rare BMW 700, the ’70 Toyota Corona coupe, and acres of old Subarus.
Project Car Hell
While most of my keyboard-pounding is done on behalf of TTAC, I do write some stuff for other venues. I began writing the Project Car Hell series for Jalopnik back in 2007, and my old friend and former Year One coworker Andy Stoy at Autoweek talked me into reviving it as a quasi-weekly feature a while back. In 2012, PCH saw such matchups as a ’51 Frazer versus a ’57 Hudson, an all-Malcolm-Bricklin Subaru 360-versus-Bricklin SV-1 challenge, and a Shelby-centric Dodge Spirit R/T-versus-Dodge Daytona IROC battle.
24 Hours of LeMons Ranting
Since the 24 Hours of LeMons managed to hoodwink Eddie Alterman at Car and Driver into inexplicably sponsoring the race series, LeMons HQ has me slaving away as C/D‘s official LeMons Correspondent. During 2012, I covered some real masterpieces of hooptiedom, including LeMons Weddings, Cars That Should Do Well In LeMons But In Fact Suck, Cars We’d Like To See In LeMons Part I and Part II, How Porsche Crapcan Racers Build Character, Epoxy Engine-Block Repair Tips For Celica Racers, Racing AMCs, Beauteous Benz LeMons Racers, Big Fat Luxury Racers, the Twin-Turbo Taxi, and many more individual car features.
Guilty Pleasures
I also wrote a series about “cars you shouldn’t want but do want,” aka Guilty Pleasures, for Motor Authority. This series ran until April and has some decent tirades about such gems as the Asüna Sunfire and Trophy 4-engined Pontiac Tempest.
Then there’s my own site, where you’ll find lots of old and new stuff from the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand. What’s in store for 2012? That’s like asking how long Hindustan Motors can keep building the Ambassador!

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19 Comments on “12 Golden Country Greats: The Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™’s Greatest Hits of 2012...”

  • avatar

    Excellent content as always, Murilee. It was a great year for the Lifestyle Brand.

  • avatar

    You’re an odd duck but I like your writing and knowledge .


  • avatar

    I too found it very interesting,as I am new to most of the contents, but always willing to learn “History” Well done and all the best for 2013!

  • avatar

    Great stuff! Your articles are genuinely been some of the most entertaining things I have read on the web. Here’s hoping for more in 2013!

  • avatar

    Your stuff is always revealing/amusing/quirky/thoughtful – here’s to more of it in 2013.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Thanks for all that you do. Now you need to listen to those marketing types whispering in your ear. T-shirts will be donned, hats will be worn.

  • avatar

    Yeah, I just wrote my self-eval, too. You’ll probably get a better performance rating than me, though.

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  • avatar

    Thanks for all you contributions in 2012. Looking forward to more great articles in 2013

  • avatar

    Your eclectic collection of writings is my favorite on the TTAC website; I enjoy the history as well as the memories your postings provide. The Junkyard Findings series is what brought me to the TTAC website.

    The Isuzu Statesman Deville profile shot reminds me of the 1974-1976 full size Plymouth Fury/Grand Fury; the Plymouth equivalent of the Dodge Monaco made famous in the Blues Brothers and other movies. My first car was an ex-company car, a 1974 Fury III.

  • avatar

    My 85 New Yorker was equipped nicer than that Mark Cross E-class! The E-class wins for rarity only.

    I enjoy all the junkyard adventures and trips to yesteryear, looking forward to more of the same!

  • avatar

    Keep up the good work, Murilee. You really have an eye for the stuff the rest of us miss, or have forgotten.

  • avatar

    We’ll be watching for more in 2013.

    I’ve actually witnessed the Ford tranny issue. Early 80’s, late 70’s wagon (LTD/Country Squire?). A friend and I were in the driveway parked beside the Ford. Driveway had an incline. He’s outside talking with the owner and leaning on the front of the car. There was a little ping, and it started moving down the driveway with that ratcheting sound the tranny makes when it’s not in gear. My friend was trying to open the door like an idiot while it was moving. Luckily there was no one driving by at the time. It rolled across the road and bumped into the curb. The owner was mortified. I think he got rid of it soon after. /CSB

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Sorry, but the Echo and the ’12 Civic just don’t belong on that list.

  • avatar

    You do good work, please keep it up.

  • avatar

    Thanks for all the great articles. My personal favorites are the nostalgia oriented ones. I’ve been told, by my girlfriend, that I’m not allowed near the fabled Colorado junkyard. She has a vision similar to going to a pet store with a child. Lots of yelling “No, put it down. You are NOT bringing that home!”

  • avatar

    I’ll be around looking for more entertaining pieces from you this year too!

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    Your Junkyard finds this year mentioned the Book “On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors” after searching many used book stores for this out of print title I found a copy and read it. It still seems relevant 40 years later. Thank you for passing on your depths of automotive knowledge.

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