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 >

By on September 28, 2020

1997 Toyota Camry CE in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve spent years documenting the rise of the Toyota Camry through the lens of the junkyard, from the homely-but-rugged 1983-1986 V10s through the Taurus-sales-pummeling 1987-1991 V20s to the very last US-market Camry wagons of the middle 1990s. After that, the ubiquitous Camry faded into the boneyard background for me… until about a year ago, when I decided to search for the newest possible manual-transmission-equipped discarded Camry. Read More >

By on September 21, 2020

1989 Lincoln Mark VII in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFord began selling Lincoln Mark Series cars starting in 1956, with the hand-built Continental Mark II, then mass-produced the first go-round of the Mark III, Mark IV, and Mark V for the 1958-60 model years. Fast-forward to the 1968 model year, for which Lee Iacocca decreed that a luxury-for-the-well-off-masses Thunderbird-based Mark III would be built, and we get to the period of Lincoln Marks that I’ve covered in this series; we’ve seen discarded examples of the III through the final VIII, but no Mark VII… until today. Read More >

By on September 14, 2020

2001 Mercedes-Benz ML 55 AMG in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince trucks, truck-shaped cars, and generally truck-influenced vehicles dominate American roads in the present day, it’s about time I started paying attention to high-end luxurious German truck-like machines in the vehicle graveyards I frequent. Such machines have been easy to find in such places for quite some time now, due to the notoriously quick depreciation of large-dollar German cars that don’t get the meticulous maintenance they deserve, but prior to today, we’d just seen a single BMW X5 in this series. Let’s go right to an AMG for our first Mercedes-Benz SUV: this 2001 W163 ML55 AMG. Read More >

By on September 8, 2020

1989 Honda Accord LX-1 in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOnce Honda started building second-generation Accords in Ohio, the limits of the Voluntary Export Restraint agreement between Japanese automakers and the United States government ceased to mean much for American Honda shoppers. The third-generation Accord debuted in the 1986 model year and sales of these Marysville-built cars boomed. Most were sensible, low-priced Accord DX hatchbacks and sedans, but some rakehell Accord shoppers went for the sporty fuel-injected coupes packed with snazzy options. Here’s one of those cars, a 1989 LX-i Coupe in a Denver-area yard. Read More >

By on August 31, 2020

The Pontiac Fiero started out as an innovative sports-car design, got bean-countered into an overweight parts-bin commuter car with embarrassingly public reliability problems, then got a complete redesign in 1988… which turned out to be the year of its demise.

Here’s one of those final Fieros, found in a Colorado car graveyard last year. Read More >

By on August 24, 2020

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDuring my years of documenting discarded Saabs in junkyards around the country (and in Saab’s homeland), I’ve managed to cover the pre-GM American-market models well enough, with a special focus on the 900. In recent years, I’ve been working to cover some of the Saabs from the period of General Motors influence (1989-2000) and control (2000-2010).

I may never find an example of the ultra-rare 9-4x, but it’s easy to find used-up Opel Vectra-based 9-3 these days — and I vowed to photograph the first one I saw on a recent Denver junkyard expedition. That car turned out to be this Silver Metallic 2002 9-3 SE hatchback. Read More >

By on August 17, 2020

1988 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsChrysler sold various Mitsubishis badged as Dodge or Plymouth Colts from the 1971 model year all the way through 1994.

Here’s a Mirage-based fifth-generation Colt in California, the final model year for the Colt station wagon, and it sports both a five-speed manual transmission and the very rare all-wheel-drive powertrain. Read More >

By on August 10, 2020

1973 Buick Century GS in California junkyard, RH view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter writing about more than 2,000 discarded vehicles during the past 13 years, I haven’t found many legitimate machines from the Golden Age of the Detroit Muscle Car. I believe this era started with John DeLorean’s brilliant marketing of the 1964 Pontiac GTO and ended at some point during the 1972-1974 period, depending on how many beers you’ve consumed before beginning the debate about the edge-case vehicles.

Today’s car meets most of the requirements: a GM A-Body coupe with spiffy graphics, a thirsty big-inch V8 engine, and school-of-hard-knocks small chrome bumpers. Read More >

By on August 3, 2020

2005 Volvo S60 in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve documented 60 discarded Volvos since I started my junkyard history project, but 58 of those Swedes were born in the 20th century, and 44 of those rolled off the assembly line before 1990. Just as I’ve done with BMWs in recent years, I’m going to try to document some of Göteborg’s (and maybe Hangzhou’s) newer products in my favorite kind of car museum.

Here’s a Ghent-built S60 with a super-rare three-pedal setup, found in a Denver self-service yard. Read More >

By on July 27, 2020

1988 Chevrolet Cavalier in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsGM may have produced the W-Body for a few more years than the J-Body (W-based Impala Limited production continued until 2016), but Chevy Cavalier sales continued like money-printing clockwork via the increasingly antiquated J platform from 1981 all the way through 2005.

More than five million Cavaliers rolled off assembly lines in the United States and Mexico, so we still see the later ones on the street. 1980s Cavaliers — particularly Cavalier coupes — have all but disappeared from the street, so I keep my eyes open for interesting examples as I tread the oil-saturated soil of American junkyards. Here’s an ’88 coupe still showing the personality of its final owner, found in the shadow of Pikes Peak a few months ago. Read More >

By on July 20, 2020

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolkswagen of America used model names that didn’t match up to those of its European counterparts for much of the 1970s and 1980s. The Golf was the Rabbit through 1984 and the Passat started out as the Dasher and then became the Quantum over here. I find the occasional Dasher or Quantum during my junkyard voyages, but nearly all of the Quantums that have survived into our current century will be gasoline-burning Syncro Wagons. Diesels? After the Oldsmobile Diesel 350 debacle of the late 1970s and early 1980s, few Americans had the guts to buy a new oil-burner.

Here’s an extremely rare ’85 Quantum sedan with turbocharged diesel engine and manual transmission, finally laid to rest in a Denver self-service yard last month. Read More >

By on July 13, 2020

2012 Fiat 500 Gucci Edition in Denver junkyard, RH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe junkyard tells me that the Fiat 500 depreciates nearly as quickly as the New Mini and Mitsubishi Mirage, though the current generation of 500 remains sufficiently recent that most examples I see are crash victims.

This car, though crashed, is still special: a genuine, numbers-matching Gucci Edition Fiat 500, found in a Denver car graveyard. Read More >

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