Posts By: Murilee Martin

By on May 20, 2019

1980 Plymouth Horizon in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter the Oil Crisis of 1973, Chrysler didn’t have the resources needed to design and build a subcompact economy car from scratch. Fortunately, Chrysler’s Japanese ally, Mitsubishi, was willing to ship over plenty of cars to be sold as Dodge and Plymouth Colts (we will not discuss the wretched Plymouth Cricket aka Hillman Avenger at this time). The Colt didn’t get front-wheel-drive until 1979, though, so Chrysler USA turned to Chrysler Europe for the Simca-designed Horizon platform and began selling Dodge Omnis and Plymouth Horizons in 1978.

Here’s an early Horizon in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on May 13, 2019

1989 Honda CRX in California wrecking yard, LH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Honda CRX is one of my very favorite 1980s cars, hailing from an era when Americans paid well over MSRP and/or waited for months for the privilege of getting a new Honda. Twenty years ago, I owned a few early CRXs (before giving up on the carbureted CVCC examples, which were impossible to get through California’s strict emissions tests due to the “Map of the Universe” tangle of vacuum lines), and I often thought of getting a fuel-injected late CRX.

Such cars were expensive back then, but values have plummeted to the point where I now see 1988-1991 CRXs at U-Wrench-type yards. Here’s one in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2019

1995 Ford Mustang GT in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter writing about junkyard cars since early 2007, I just realized that the newest discarded Mustang I’d documented was a 1984 model. As you’d imagine, Mustangs from the late Fox and SN95 eras are easy to find in North American wrecking yards, so I resolved to shoot the next interesting one I found… which turned out to be this much-abused ’95 GT I spotted in a Silicon Valley self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on April 29, 2019

1979 MG Midget in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBMC and then British Leyland churned out MG Midgets and near-identical Austin-Healey Sprites for 20 years, with the final example coming off the Abingdon line in 1980. Because project-grade Midgets still clutter garages, driveways, yards, and fields throughout the land and they’re not worth much, the clock runs out for many of them every year.

The next stop, usually, is among the Sephias and Jettas of the IMPORTS section at a self-service wrecking yard. Here’s a forlorn ’79 I spotted last week in California. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2019

1981 Cadillac Fleetwood in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFinding a Malaise Era Cadillac in a self-service wrecking yard is interesting, especially when it has Cadillac’s not-so-successful first attempt at a cylinder-deactivation engine. Those cars don’t make me sad, though.

A nicely customized show-car Cadillac with metalflake paint and pro-applied airbrush work in a junkyard — that makes me sad, even if it did suffer from the wretched V8-6-4 engine. I found this once-glorious Cad in a Denver-area yard last summer. (Read More…)

By on April 15, 2019

2001 Volkswagen New Beetle in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe early-21st century fad for retro-styled cars, including the PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, Mini Cooper, and Fiat 500, got its start with the late-1990s introduction of the Volkswagen New Beetle (we’re still waiting for a Nissan model made to look like the Datsun F-10). Like most people (and especially like most who had ever owned a real air-cooled Beetle), I grew weary of the sight of these allegedly cute cars after a few years, and as a result I’ve been ignoring the many examples I find during my junkyard travels.

These cars make up an important piece of our collective automotive history, though, and I resolved that I’d shoot the first one I found on a recent wrecking-yard trip. Here it is, straight from the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay! (Read More…)

By on April 8, 2019

1978 Ford Mustang Stallion in Denver wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter the first-generation Mustang went from frisky lightweight to bloated monstrosity, Ford transferred the name over to an economy car based on the Pinto. This proved to be a wise move, in light of certain geopolitical events that took place right around the time the first Mustang IIs began rolling into showrooms, but most of the old Mustang magic was lost during the Pinto-ization process.

Ford created a bunch of flashy trim packages for the car, and I spotted one of the more unusual ones in a Denver self-serve yard a couple of weeks back: the Stallion. (Read More…)

By on April 1, 2019

1952 Mercury in Denver wrecking yard, RH view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOrdinary family sedans of the 1940s and 1950s look cool and everyone claims to love them, but the sad reality is that hardly anyone with the time, money, space, and skills to restore an old Detroit car bothers with the postwar four-doors. I see 1946-1959 American sedans, mostly in pretty solid condition, with depressing regularity in the big self-service wrecking yards I frequent, and this ’52 Mercury in Denver is the latest one. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2019

1990 Buick Reatta in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Buick Reatta is one of the more interesting attempts made by The General to steal back some North American buyers who had defected to European luxury brands. For a while, I’d photograph every junked Reatta I found, but more and more kept showing up in big self-service wrecking yards and I stopped paying attention for a while.

Only about 20,000 Reattas were made, but the last 10 years have seen Full Depreciation for these cars. Still, I hadn’t done a Reatta Junkyard Find since 2012, and I spotted this shiny-looking ’90 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard a couple of weeks back, so here we go! (Read More…)

By on March 18, 2019

1981 Toyota Corona in Denver wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause my very first car was a 50-buck ’69 Corona sedan in dazzling beige, I always photograph Coronas when I see them in wrecking yards. Sadly, Toyota stopped selling the Corona in North America in 1982, which means that I might see one every couple of years these days. Here’s a luxurious, fully loaded 1981 Toyota Corona wagon in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on March 11, 2019

1994 Volvo 960 in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile I live in Denver, my family and work ties in the San Francisco Bay Area make me a regular visitor at the incredibly well-stocked self-service wrecking yards of the region between San Jose and Richmond. These yards don’t have quite the selection of Subarus and IHC Scouts that I see in the yards around Denver, but they make up for that shortage by stocking plenty of BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Volvos.

Just last week, I found a half-dozen 240s, a 780 Bertone Coupe, and a pair of 960 sedans… in a single yard. Here’s the better-preserved of the two 960s. (Read More…)

By on March 4, 2019

1991 Dodge Shadow convertible in North Carolina wrecking yard, LH side view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Dodge Shadow and its Plymouth Sundance sibling were among the last members of the extended Chrysler K-car family to be built, sold from the 1987 through 1994 model years and replaced by the Neon after that. Millions were sold, but these cars are all but forgotten today. Chrysler built a handful of convertible Shadows, perhaps inspired by GM’s feat of selling some Geo Metro convertibles, and I’ve found this ’91 in a North Carolina self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on February 25, 2019

1987 Volkswagen Golf in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf you’re a European car manufacturer in the middle 1980s, what do you do when Tercels and Excels and Justys make your value-priced econobox seem too expensive in North America? If you’re Volkswagen, you call up your Brazilian operation and start building Americanized versions of the VW Gol, successor to the Type 1 Beetle in the South American market.

Here’s a very early example of the first-year Fox, found in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on February 18, 2019

1989 Pontiac Sunbird Turbo in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince The General built cars on the J Platform from the 1982 through 2005 model years, I still see numerous examples of the J during my junkyard travels. Most of those are late-production Cavaliers and Sunfires — not so interesting — but today we’ve got a genuine high-performance Sunbird bearing one of the most important words of the 1980s: TURBO! (Read More…)

By on February 11, 2019

1978 Toyota Pickup in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Toyota Hilux pickup truck first hit the streets in 1968, shoving aside flimsier trucks based on the Corona and Crown within a few years. While the Hilux (or “Hylux”) name got a bit of marketing use by Toyota in North America, this truck was known here as, simply, the Truck. I found this well-worn-but-unrusted ’78 in a Denver self-service yard last month. (Read More…)

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