By on January 2, 2018


Starting with a 1981 Fox-body Ford Granada and ending with a 1989 Chrysler New Yorker Landau Mark Cross Edition, the eighth year of the Down On the Junkyard series featured 52 discarded cars that I found sufficiently interesting to be worth photographing. They ranged in age from seven to 51 years old, were built in locations ranging from Abingdon to Aichi, and ended their respective roads in conditions varying from basket case to pretty clean.

Here are my favorite ten, the ones that got me the most worked up when I first spotted them gleaming from within the junkyard chaff, presented in model-year sequence.

1966 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan
I drove more miles in a 1965 Chevy Impala sedan than I have with any other vehicle, which makes any 1960s full-sized Chevrolet a noteworthy Junkyard Find in my book. On top of that, this ’66 was assembled on the same week I was born. Yes, I bought the clock, just because.


1967 Chevrolet P20 Adventure Line Motorhome
All manner of recreational vehicles were built out of bouncy, tin-canning Detroit step-vans during the 1960s, mostly by Midwestern manufacturers, and this Chevy P20 combines full-on hooptiness with a wistful view of a period when most RVs were not attempting to be rolling luxury hotels.


1972 Jeep J-4000 Pickup Truck
It saddens me that most pre-1990s American light-duty trucks have five-digit odometers, because this extremely battered ex-snowplow Jeep I photographed in a Denver yard might have more miles on the clock than any vehicle I have ever photographed. This truck worked hard for 45 years.


1975 Mercedes-Benz 240D
Here’s a car that might have more miles than the Jeep J-4000: an oil-burning, slow-as-molasses diesel W115 Benz, found in the San Francisco Bay Area. These cars should last forever, but sometimes their owners let them get towed away for unpaid parking tickets, or trade them in on youthful 1990s Mercedes-Benzes, or just discard them out of ennui.


1976 Audi 100 LS Sedan
Just about all of these cars were eradicated from the face of the earth by about 1990, thanks to a combination of Teutonic complexity and low resale value; I hadn’t seen one in a wrecking yard for at least 25 years when I spotted this one in Colorado Springs.


1981 Datsun 280ZX 2+2
Some say the Datsun F-10 is the ugliest Japanese car ever made, but I disagree. I say it’s the 280ZX 2+2, and that’s why I photographed this one in Northern California.


601,173-mile 1987 Mercedes-Benz 190E
A gasoline-powered, single-cam, five-speed W201 with the highest plausible odometer reading I have ever seen in a wrecking yard (the highest implausible reading was this ’81 Volkswagen Rabbit Cabrio, indicating 930,013 miles on a janky-looking odometer). Still looked pretty nice when The Crusher ate it.


1989 Ford Tempo All Wheel Drive
Here’s how sick I am about oddball rare-but-not-valuable Detroit cars: I shouted “YES!” and did a little dance when I spotted this car. Have you ever seen a Tempo AWD in person?


1991 Toyota Camry DX with V6 engine and manual transmission
Manual-transmission second-generation Camrys are really rare (at least in North America), but I’ll see maybe one every few years. This is the only example of a second-gen Camry with a five-speed and a V6 engine I have found in all my years of junkyard explorations. Disappointingly, you couldn’t get the All-Trac Camry with this engine/transmission setup.


1993 Plymouth Voyager with manual transmission
It was possible to buy a new Chrysler minivan with a five-on-the-floor manual transmission through the 1995 model year. Few did. After years of checking mid-1990s minivans for three pedals, I found this one in Colorado.

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20 Comments on “The Best Junkyard Finds of 2017...”


  • avatar
    IHateCars

    “Have you ever seen a Tempo AWD in person?”

    Yes, I remember there being two of them in my high school parking lot in the late ’80s up here in Canuckistan. Unremarkable at the time but unusual in retrospect, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      Funny, I also had a friend who had one in high school.. a gift from her parents to insure she had a safe reliable car to get to and from school. I liked it very much. It introduced me to the idea that a practical and comfortable awd car can be appealing (as opposed to my 300zx headache turbo). That car is probably why I drive Subarus now.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I remember them in the newspaper ads but I can’t remember seeing one in person. Same as the AWD Civics, etc. we talked about after that article. I probably saw one or two obscure 4WD/AWD small cars in the early 1990s and I would have noticed at the time because I like spotting odd cars, but I don’t specifically remember.

      Corey Lewis summed up the collection of the late 80s/early 90s small car AWD market offerings in one of his comments for the Tempo AWD article:
      Civic Wagovan 4×4
      Nissan Prairie 4×4
      Mitsubishi Colt 4×4
      Corolla 4×4
      Tercel 4×4

      (Doesn’t include Subarus, since they had it all along.)

    • 0 avatar
      scottcom36

      My ex had a white over red ’89 Tempo coupe, so I tended to notice Tempos and saw a fair number with AWD.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I have owned one and driven several AWD Tempos.

      Find a 1987 2 door AWD, now that is a rare one.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This just adds to my resolution that sometime before I die, I need to visit a wrecking yard where the cars aren’t missing the bottom 15% of the sheet metal due to corrosion.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Jack Baruth’s articles and the Junkyard Finds series are the two best things about TTAC.

    As a Brit observing the American car world from afar, these little pieces of junkyard history are fascinating.

    It’s interesting to compare attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, our cars (a lot of Ford and GM, with some German and Japanese cars as well) go to the junkyard at an average age of 13 years old, thanks to our tough annual inspection and damp, salty roads. On TTAC, if a car from the early 2000s is featured in the junkyard without major accident damage, people will criticize it for dying too early.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Here’s a tip – don’t expect the majority of cars junked in North America to resemble these Colorado and California cars. I’ve lived in the UK, and frankly you don’t know what salty roads are! Or cold. Or snow. If Murilee were photographing junkyards in the North East US and Canada, the vehicles would be younger than the UK norm and in far worse shape. Pre 2005 cars on the road around here are not common.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Conundrum is right. There’s a big difference depending on whether you drive in the so-called “salt belt” or not.

        Still, in some parts of the salt belt 13+ year old cars can be found struggling down the road. Not all states have inspection programs and the programs that do exist are not always well administered; a few of them are “slightly” controversial (my nod to our British cousins’ knack for subtle understatement).

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Inspections? Now there’s no safety component, just smog. If there are no warning lights on the instrument panel and emissions are within spec, the vehicle passes.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          You’re right Jim. When scouring craigslist (via a Google search algorithm) for rare cars, I do find older models in the salt belt. Old Datsuns, Mercury Zephyrs, Oldsmobile Achievas, V-6 Tempos, etc. Many you can tell are not driven in the winter, but some are year-round transportation but are likely to be reasonably cared for (being treated with rust preventative and/or washed often).

          I thank God that I don’t live in the salt belt. The issues down here in the Dirty South are that one, scrap prices pay decently and two, cars tend to get used up because people have to commute pretty far. My brother’s 1997 GMC Sierra, for example, would be closing in on 400k had he kept a better eye on its oil level (it ran dry at 373k and the engine seized). His 2001 Altima was recently replaced by a newer Fusion, having some issues at 283k miles. He disliked the car anyway, so when it developed an issue with stumbling and stalling from a stop, he chose to get a car he would rather drive.

          (I traced the issue on the Altima to an oil seal that lets oil deposits on a little wheel inside the distributor, which is causing the issue. I cleaned the little wheel, and the car ran normally for a while until the problem returned a short time later. I plan on replacing the distributor one day, selling the car for him, and using the money to buy a wrecked 97ish 2wd Tahoe/Yukon or a pickup with a good running 350 we can swap into the GMC. I’ve spotted a few for cheap, and I can part out what’s left of the donor truck as well.)

    • 0 avatar
      northeaster

      If it were an animate object, my 2004.5 B5 Passat would object strongly to this thread. Not a lick of body rust, original exhaust system (including cat), and only a modest amount of surface rust at the bottom of the bottom end of the engine after 14 years of ungaraged heaven in Boston.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    >Have you ever seen a Tempo AWD in person?

    I’ve actually driven one. My high school girlfriend had one. I think it was a ‘92. I remember her saying it would break a u-joint if the AWD was engaged, so unfortunately I never got to experience the Tempo under 4 wheel power. I knew it was an odd duck even back then. Never saw one before or after that…

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