By on September 3, 2018

1993 Geo Tracker in Illinois wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

When The General created the Geo brand in 1989, the idea was that cars designed and/or built by Toyota, Isuzu, and Suzuki could be sold in the United States under the GM flag (Geos became Chevrolets after 1997). Of all the cars that bore Geo badging, the Tracker stayed in production the longest, when a Suzuki Grand Vitara-based Chevy Tracker could be purchased through 2004.

Here’s a frighteningly corroded 1993 Geo Tracker, spotted in a self-service wrecking yard in Joliet, Illinois.

I visited this yard while in Illinois for the Joliet Prison Break 24 Hours of Lemons race, and it has some of the best junkyard ambience I have ever experienced. Much of the inventory is kept indoors, in the ruins of an ancient factory.

Right next door is the now-closed Joliet Prison, which is best-known for serving as the setting for the opening scenes of the 1980 film, The Blues Brothers. Other than Martin Salvage in northeastern Colorado, I can’t think of a more beautiful wrecking yard.

1993 Geo Tracker in Illinois wrecking yard, rust - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsCars in the Upper Midwest rust real good, especially when they’re little (Canadian-built) Japanese cars.

1993 Geo Tracker in Illinois wrecking yard, rust - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe final owner of this Tracker was willing to put up with numerous slush-scooping openings into the passenger compartment. I didn’t feel like crawling in the mud beneath, but we can assume that the suspension mounting points were in less-than-safe condition.

1993 Geo Tracker in Illinois wrecking yard, instrument cluster - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsStill, this Tracker made it to age 25, with nearly 150,000 miles on the clock.

1993 Geo Tracker in Illinois wrecking yard, gearshift - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost of the first-gen Trackers (and their Suzuki-badged siblings, the Sidekick and Vitara) came with manual transmission, even in the United States, but this one has the automatic.

1993 Geo Tracker in Illinois wrecking yard, interior - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe festive tape stripes and pink-and-gray interior remind us of what strange times the early 1990s were.

At least we remember the Tracker today, unlike the Geo Spectrum.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Treasure: 1993 Geo Tracker, Illinois Rust Edition...”

  • avatar

    I actually know exactly where this is, I was in Joliet earlier this year, if you go into any Dairy Queen in the country and look at one of the time line plaques on the wall you will see Joliet listed as the location of one of their major milestones.

  • avatar

    My high school and college years were littered with 1st gen Trackers (lots of people in the area were eligible for employee pricing) and I don’t remember any of them rusting like that in Ohio where there was a fair bit of salt used.

    I kinda wanted one at the time, manual transmission, manual hubs, and rare hardtop version was my ideal. I can even remember when you could find adds in off roading magazines for grille guards etc for these little mountain goats.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      I think I’d take a Rocky instead (also profiled by Murlee a while back).

      • 0 avatar

        ^agreed. BOF or not, these belong in college parking lots. I know why they dumped the Samurai for these, but its just a shame.

      • 0 avatar

        Having grown up in NW Ohio surrounded by corn fields and cities dotted with the Ford Lima Engine Plant, the GM Foundry, and Jeep in Toledo there was only a hazy awareness that a world existed outside the “Big 3”.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t recall that these rusted particularly badly, either. Early-’90s Japanese cars were hugely improved over their ’70s predecessors in this regard.

      Although 150,000 miles isn’t truly astronomical mileage, the 2010s renewal sticker on the license plate makes me think this was winter driven for a good 20 years – i.e., this was neither the industry’s best nor worst effort. Northeastern Illinois isn’t the wintriest place in the world, but it may well have the most heavily salted roads. Ever since the 1979 Chicago mayoral primary, area politicians and governments have skewed toward over-preparing for snow.

      • 0 avatar

        Cleveland, my old hometown, is pretty stout on the salt too.
        Giving birth to the descriptor “Cleveland Cruiser” where the lower 10/20/30 percent of the body is missing, depending on age of the vehicle.

        • 0 avatar

          I like that term. :-)

          Cleveland’s need for road salt would be more pressing, being to the south-southeastern side of a Great Lake rather than the west-southwestern side. The internet informs me it gets almost 70% more snow than does Chicago annually (36″ vs 61″).

    • 0 avatar

      Drove off-road a little in a friend’s. Manual with lockers is surprisingly capable.

  • avatar

    Fun fact, most people don’t realize these are Body On Frame construction. So the cancer on this one, while terminal, probably means it’s only about as (un)safe as most of the pickups of this vintage I see leaving clouds of iron oxide dust in their wake.

    These things have really bottomed out in their depreciation curve; I see not-terribly rusty drivers in my area for sale under $1000. Wouldn’t be surprised if, as the last real B-O-F compact SUV, values start ticking up in a decade or two. BUY ONE NOW BEFORE THEY”RE ALL GONE!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Oops they already all gone methinks.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh gen 1 trackers have been on the upswing price wise for some time now, ever since the last stock Samurais either rusted or were nodded into oblivion. It’s no tracker with its solid front axle, but trackers are real offroad mountain goats in their own right, and have quite a following. A clean 4wd 5spd tracker is a $3000 truck now, and even the automatics are seen as desirable by the more hardcore rock crawler types.

  • avatar

    I’ve been a long time reader, but this post motivated me to finally make an account!

    Owning a 93 Tracker myself (at almost the same mileage as the one in this article), this is a good anatomy lesson on what I’m supposed to look for for rust spots! I found mine nestled away in a barn in a rural town, so it has earned a few more years on the road before the tinworm sets in. It helps that I’m in north Texas where the rust isn’t QUITE so… adamant about eating cars the minute they hit the pavement, but I have heard horror stories of these trucks, even down here:

    I had to have the windshield replaced so I set up an appointment with Safelite, only to have the guy call me and ask if he had just done mine last week. Turns out another Tracker in the area had their windshield pulled and the pillars were so eaten up they couldn’t guarantee the window would even stay on!
    Luckily mine’s completely rust free and is hopefully going to be a weekend cruiser car since it’s only a 2WD base convertible.

    Here’s a photo of it, I’m hoping to slap on the fancy LSi exterior bits to get rid of MOST of the black plastic:

  • avatar

    Trackers and Sidekicks are pretty popular with the RV crowd around here as a tow behind vehicle since the transfer case features a neutral position. I’ve had customers offer me a finder’s fee which leads them to a low mile, rust free, manual trans example. Too bad I haven’t seen a Tracker or a Sidekick come through the shop in about three years now. They’re still out there but they’ve reached the age where owners aren’t paying dealership shop rates to fix them anymore.

  • avatar

    Who is your daddy, and what does he do?

  • avatar

    She caught the katy, and left me a mule to ride….

    Looks like a cool spot! Would love to visit that prison just out of BB nostalgia.

  • avatar

    Lots of good junkyards in and around Chicago just ask bad, bad Leroy Brown…

  • avatar

    Ad shows that it’s OK to drive it in the ocean.

  • avatar

    Brings back good memories from HS. My best friend had an early 90’s version with removable hardtops. He had a good set of winter tires to combat Central PA winters. I’ll second the billy goat comment.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I too spent my teen years in these. My best friends dad owned a Chevy store,and I was a lot boy there.After his older sister slid off an icy road and totaled her new IROC, he was destined for very slow cars during his youth.
    His was a black 2 door hardtop with oh-so early 90s black,yellow,orange decal stripes on the sides. Instead of being fast, the thing was very loud.Car stereos were the hallmark of our youth, and that thing was deafening with such a little interior and upright rear hatch to amplify the sound. My ears are still ringing from the Beastie Boys.
    It was much more stable than the Samurai, also popular at the time, but only so much. Much of it probably had to do with it being so slow.

  • avatar

    I just disposed of my father-in-law’s cars (3) from the Midwest. As he likes to say, “the tin worm got to em”. Full of rust. They reminded me of the SNL Skit about the Adobe car I can’t believe cars still rust like they do in Iowa. 10 year old trucks with rust holes the size of softballs. I thought there were rust protection warranties for 10 years on all new cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually think some of the stuff sold in the last 5-7 years has gone backwards on the corrosion scale.

      Newer Ram pickups look worse than a lot of 10-15 year old ones.

      • 0 avatar

        IME the worst were the DR generation (2003-2008.) Which coincides with the worst of nickel-and-Daimler’s cost cutting enforcement. these always rust out the rear wheel arches, and when enough rots away you can see why. there’s a minimal bead of sealer between the wheel house and bed side, and it obviously was not sufficient to prevent water and other contaminants from getting in there and rusting it from the inside out.

        I haven’t had any DS (2009+) trucks catch my eye as being particularly rusty.

  • avatar

    With the unique color combination it looks like it belonged to either Barbie or Angeline.

  • avatar

    I worked at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario that built these vehicles from 91-97. It was a decent vehicle with decent build quality. Later I worked at a Hummer Dealership in Service. I remember a GM rep saying the only vehicle in GM’s lineup that was as capable as a Hummer was the Tracker!

    • 0 avatar

      He probably wasn’t too far off- these things were pretty hard to high-center and almost impossible to low-center. I doubt many of them saw much offroading though, not counting things like hitting curbs or parking in the grass at adult kickball games.

  • avatar

    HA!! I live less than hour from this u-pull and go there a time or two each month. It’s called Ashley’s Pick-A-Part and they do not charge an entrance fee. I believe I have pictures of this same Tracker in my phone.

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