Posts By: Murilee Martin

By on January 11, 2021

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Quite a few hallowed (and not-so-hallowed) Detroit brands got axed forever during the decade of the 2000s (whatever we’re calling it now— the Noughts? the Oh-Ohs?), and the one that went to the slaughterhouse first was Plymouth. Starting in 1928 (not-so-coincidentally, just a couple of years after the birth of Pontiac), Americans and Canadians could buy low-priced Plymouths with the same running gear as the costlier Dodges and Chryslers, and life was good. Then the outlines of the brand became increasingly blurred as the 20th Century waned until finally just one Plymouth was left: the Neon. Last week, we saw one of the very last Pontiacs ever made, so we’ll follow that up with one of the final Plymouths. (Read More…)

By on January 4, 2021

2010 Pontiac G6 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen The General decided to eliminate the Oldsmobile brand— I’m still convinced that the main reason for the execution was the syllable Old in the marque’s name— the process took nearly a half-decade, with nostalgia-drenched “Final 500” editions of the last Oldsmobile models released with great solemnity. Even the ho-hum Silhouette minivan got a Final 500 version for its sendoff. When the Pontiac Division’s time came at the close of the 2000s, the 84-year-old marque was shoved out the door to stagger to an ignominious death, unloved and alone in a Michigan drainage ditch. Here’s one of the very last Pontiacs ever built, found in a Denver boneyard last month. (Read More…)

By on December 28, 2020

1990 Mitsubishi Galant GSX in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAs we’ve seen in this series, Coloradans bought plenty of all-wheel-drive-equipped AMC Eagles, VW Quantum Syncros, Audi Quattros, and Toyota All-Tracs during the 1980s. The suits at Mitsubishi Motors saw all those AWD-enhanced car sales in snowy American regions and decided to sell some rally-influenced Galants on our shores. A few decades later, this rare-but-not-valuable Galant GS-X appeared in a Colorado Springs self-service car graveyard. (Read More…)

By on December 21, 2020

1985 Mercedes-Benz W123 300D in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI like to search for junkyard vehicles with exceptionally high final odometer readings, a task made more difficult by the fact that just about every manufacturer besides Volvo and Mercedes-Benz used five-digit odometers well into the 1980s. Even in the middle 1980s, most cars weren’t really expected to hit the 100,000-mile mark … unless they were Mercedes-Benzes with diesel engines, in which case their owners expected them to make it to 300,000 miles. Here’s an oil-fueled W123 in Colorado that exceeded even that expectation. (Read More…)

By on December 14, 2020

1959 International Harvester Metro-Mite van in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Looking at my Junkyard Find posts for 2020, I find that I’ve been neglecting American trucks for much of this year (I don’t consider the PT Cruiser to be a true truck, despite being categorized as one by the federal government). For that reason, I’ve decided to share this thoroughly used-up IHC Metro-Mite stepvan before the year ends. (Read More…)

By on December 7, 2020

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsChrysler’s run of selling rebadged Mitsubishis began way back in 1970, when the rear-wheel-drive Colt Galant arrived here for the 1971 model year. Those cars sold very well in North America, with sales continuing through 1978. After that, Colt badges went onto the front-wheel-drive Lancer Fiore (later sold here as the Mirage). Here’s one of those first-year FWD Colts, found in a Denver-area yard in nice condition and equipped with the extremely cool Twin-Stick dual-range transmission. (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2020

1996 Saturn SW1 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
We’ve had back-to-back oddball three-pedal cars in this series (a Suzuki Forenza and non-SHO Taurus), so let’s make it three weeks in a row with today’s Junkyard Find! Saturn S Series cars were always cheaper with manual transmissions, but nearly every Saturn wagon shopper insisted on an automatic. I knew I’d find a manual Saturn SW if I kept searching junkyards, though, and here it is: a low-end ’96 with single-cam engine, Ignore Me Silver paint, and a 5-on-the-floor manual. (Read More…)

By on November 23, 2020

A 2006 Suzuki Forenza in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
After the Daewoo brand fled these shores in 2002 (leaving Manny, Moe, and Jack in charge of warranty service and the company’s founder on the run from the long arm of the South Korean law), the sprawling GM Empire found a means to continue selling the Leganza and Nubira here: as the Suzuki Verona and Suzuki Forenza/Reno, respectively. Here’s a banged-up Forenza in a Denver yard with the extremely rare five-speed manual transmission. (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2020

1986 Ford Taurus MT-5 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen I visit a car graveyard, I’m always on the lookout for three things: puzzling examples of badge engineering, crazy high odometer readings, and manual transmissions in unexpected cars. One of the rarest of all is a non-SHO Ford Taurus with three pedals, sold under the MT-5 designation for the 1986 through 1988 model years. After a decade of searching, I found my first discarded Taurus MT-5 in Phoenix, three years back. Now a junkyard near Pikes Peak has provided the second example of this extraordinarily rare Junkyard Find. (Read More…)

By on November 9, 2020

1974 Mercury Montego MX Brougham in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFor the connoisseur of Malaise Era Broughams, the Mercury Montego MX Brougham checks all the boxes: long hood, “stitches” molded into plastic door panels, unapologetically phony “wood” dashboard trim, low-compression smog V8, and obvious kinship with a much cheaper corporate twin. That’s what we’ve got with today’s Junkyard Find from the year of Richard Nixon’s resignation. (Read More…)

By on November 2, 2020

1990 Geo Prizm in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The General established the Geo brand for the 1989 model year, as a way to move low-priced iron designed and/or built by Toyota, Suzuki, and Isuzu (for some reason, Daewoo-built cars didn’t get sheltered under the Geo banner, so the LeMans retained Pontiac badges for its entire 1988-1993 sales run here). Of all the Geos, the Corolla-twin Prizm proved the most durable, and so I still find plenty of Prizms during my junkyard travels. Here’s a ’90 with an exceptionally high final odometer reading, found in a Denver-area yard last month. (Read More…)

By on October 26, 2020

2002 Toyota Corolla CE in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Not long ago, I became curious about the production longevity of the good old three-speed automatic transmission in North America. The first really successful true automatic had four forward speeds and the two-speed Powerglide delivered the slushbox to the masses, but the three-speed Detroit automatics of the 1960s truly converted the continent to the two-pedal religion. During the last couple of decades of the 20th century, the three-speed got sidelined by more sophisticated transmissions. What was the final new car you could buy with a three-speed transmission in North America? That’s today’s Junkyard Find: a 2002 Toyota Corolla CE, found in Denver last week. (Read More…)

By on October 19, 2020

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Blinged-up personal luxury coupes based on big land yachts and cushy midsize cars printed money for Detroit during the mid-to-late 1960s, and so it made sense to extend the treatment to the lower reaches of the model range. Eventually, Chrysler took two-door hardtop versions of the Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart, made some comfort and styling features standard, and gave them kicky, youthful names: the Scamp and the Swinger. These cars sold like mad during the early 1970s, but most of them disappeared from American roads before the dawn of our current century. Here’s a ’73 Dart Swinger, complete with V8 engine, found in a Denver yard last week. (Read More…)

By on October 12, 2020

2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile it seems that we have always been at war with Eurasia Eastasia and hated the PT Cruiser, the loathing for Chrysler’s retro-styled, Neon-based “truck” didn’t become widespread until well into the smartphone/social-media era of the late 2000s and early 2010s. That was the time when the PT started showing up in large numbers in the big self-service junkyards I haunt. Now I see so many discarded PT Cruisers that I can be picky about which ones I document, and this first-model-year example in Deep Cranberry Pearl paint and screaming flames qualifies for inclusion in my Junked PT Cruiser Hall of Fame. (Read More…)

By on October 5, 2020

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve documented quite a few discarded Volvos in this series, from the PV544 through the S60, and I never fail to stop and photograph a genuine Italo-Swedish Volvo Bertone Coupe. Here’s the latest, a 1989 780 in a Denver car graveyard over the summer. (Read More…)

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