The Best Junkyard Finds of 2015

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
the best junkyard finds of 2015

We saw 104 Junkyard Find vehicles here in 2015 (I did a few dozen Junkyard Treasures posts for Autoweek as well) and among them were some great examples of automotive history and culture.

The oldest Junkyard Find we saw here during 2015 was this ’51 Ford, and the newest was this ’09 Kia Rondo. As for the most interesting ones, I’ve selected my 15 favorite Junkyard Finds from the past year. Here we go, in model-year order.

Click on a vehicle’s photo to jump to that Junkyard Find’s post.

1953 Plymouth Sedan

I spotted this classic Chrysler at one of the bigger Southern California self-service yards while I was looking for Cheech & Chong filming locations last January. Any vehicle with a Chrysler flathead six engine is special in my book.

1960 Dodge D200

Speaking of Chrysler flathead sixes, you could still buy new Dodge pickups equipped with that engine all the way through the 1968 model year. I found this well-worn ’60 in San Jose, California.

1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88

There may be more great songs about Oldsmobiles than for any other automotive make. That, plus the Chappaquiddick Incident provenance for the ’67 full-sized Olds, made this Denver Junkyard Find an important one.

1968 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Coupe

It turns out that three-quarters of TTAC readers polled

1968 Saab 95 Station Wagon

Just a few rows away from the Corvair at the same yard, this four-stroke Swede didn’t have any serious rust but wasn’t deemed valuable enough by its final owner to keep alive.

1972 Volvo 145 Station Wagon

Volvo fanatics say that every 140 is worth huge sums, but they show up in these yards frequently enough to indicate that many Volvo fanatics may have a less-than-firm grip on car-value reality. This car came with maps, registration information, and other ephemera indicating that it was well-loved for decades by its last owner.

In fact, I was able to use the address on the registration to find a satellite photo of this Volvo at its former San Francisco Bay Area address, thanks to Google Earth.

1976 Dodge Colt Carousel

The Colt Carousel was a slightly sporty version of Chrysler’s rebadged Mitsubishi, complete with denim seat inserts and red-white-and-blue tape stripes. This example, spotted in Northern California, got thoroughly nuked by decades of Golden State sunshine.

1977 Ford LTD II Station Wagon

The LTD II was a midsize car based on the Torino, while the LTD was a completely different car on the full-size Ford platform. This San Francisco Bay Area first-year LTD II wagon had suffered from a bit of an engine fire but still had plenty of green-on-green-on-yet-more-green vinyl interior to show off.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon Fastback Brougham Sedan

The name of this Detroit classic, photographed in Oakland, tells the whole story.

1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Four-Door Hatchback

The VW Dasher — also known as the Passat, Audi 80, and Audi Fox — didn’t sell well in the United States (Japanese competitors were cheaper and fell apart more slowly) and it’s an exceedingly rare sight in self-serve wrecking yards these days. Here’s a lichen-encrusted California example with just 87,377 miles on the clock.

1983 Toyota Cressida Station Wagon

With San Francisco neighborhood parking permits stretching back to 1994 plastering the hatch and plenty of hopeless attempts to fix ocean-spray-induced rust with body filler, I felt compelled to shoot about three times the usual number of photos for this Junkyard Find.

1987 Cadillac Sedan de Ville

The yellowest interior in automotive history.

1988 Cadillac Allanté

Ah, the Allanté. When new, it cost about the same as a Mercedes-Benz 300SEL, and GM had to fly the bodies from the Pininfarina shop in Italy to Hamtramck, Michigan, in custom-fitted 747s. I spotted this one in Denver, and TTAC’s own Aaron Cole pulled the cool-looking tubular intake for use as garage art, when we shopped at the All You Can Carry For $59.99 Sale at our local self-service yard.

1989 Oldsmobile 98 Regency

Every junkyard car has a story to tell, and the narrative offered by this star-spangled Olds offers more than the normal quantity of plot twists and turns. Was it a Fred Thompson campaign vehicle? Driven by Border Patrol activists? The American-flag paint-and-decal job looked both professional and around the same age as the car, so this car offered much fuel for speculation.

1997 Lexus LS 400 Coach Edition

Complete with sad wind-up toy crab creeping through the Denver slush.

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2 of 28 comments
  • Make_light I drive a 2015 A4 and had one of these as a loaner once. It was a huge disappointment (and I would have considered purchasing one as my next car--I'm something of a small crossover apologist). The engine sounded insanely coarse and unrefined (to the point that I wasn't sure if it was poor insulation or there was something wrong with my loaner). The seats, interior materials, and NVH were a huge downgrade compared to my dated A4. I get that they are a completely different class of car, but the contrast struck me. The Q3 just didn't feel like a luxury vehicle at all. Friends of mine drive a Tiguan and I can't think of one way in which the Q3 feels worth the extra cost. My mom's CX-5 is better than either in every conceivable way.
  • Arthur Dailey Personally I prefer a 1970s velour interior to the leather interior. And also prefer the instrument panel and steering wheel introduced later in the Mark series to the ones in the photograph. I have never seen a Mark III or IV with a 'centre console'. Was that even an option for the Mark IV? Rather than bucket seats they had the exceptional and sorely missed 60/40 front seating. The most comfortable seats of all for a man of a 'certain size'. In retrospect this may mark the point when Cadillac lost it mojo. Through the early to mid/late 70's Lincoln surpassed Cadillac in 'prestige/pride of place'. Then the 'imports' took over in the 1980s with the rise of the 'yuppies'.
  • Arthur Dailey Really enjoying this series and the author's writing style. My love of PLC's is well known. And my dream stated many times would be to 'resto mod' a Pucci edition Mark IV. I did have a '78 T-Bird, acquired brand new. Preferred the looks of the T-Bird of this generation to the Cougar. Hideaway headlights, the T-Birds roof treatment and grille. Mine had the 400 cid engine. Please what is with the engine displacements listed in the article? I am Canada and still prefer using cubic inches when referencing any domestic vehicles manufactured in the 20th century. As for my T-Bird the engine and transmission were reliable. Not so much some of the other mechanical components. Alternator, starter, carburetor. The vehicle refused to start multiple times, usually during the coldest nights/days or in the most out of the way spots. My friends were sure that it was trying to kill me. Otherwise a really nice, quiet, 'floaty' ride, with easy 'one finger' steering and excellent 60/40 split front seat. One of these with modern mechanicals/components would be a most excellent highway cruiser.
  • FreedMike Maybe they should buy Twitter now.
  • FreedMike A lot of what people are calling "turbo lag" may actually be the transmission. In this case, Audi used a standard automatic in this application versus the DSG, and that makes a big difference. The pre-2022 VW Arteon had the same issue - plenty of HP, but the transmission held it back. If Audi had used the DSG, this would be a substantially quicker, more engaging car. In any case, I don't get these "entry lux" compact CUVs (think: Cadillac XT4, Lexus NX, BMW X1, etc). If you must have a compact CUV, I can think of far better options for a lot less money. And, no, the Tiguan isn't one of them - it has the Miller-cycle 2.0T, so it's a dog. But a Mazda CX-30 with the 2.5T would fit the bill.