By on July 15, 2019

1960 Chevrolet Brookwood wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, RH side view - ©2019 Murilee Martin- The Truth About Cars

Once the original 1955-1957 Chevy Nomad two-door wagon became a sacred icon among those who prize Detroit machinery of the Eisenhower Era, all GM two-door wagons attained a certain prestige among those who enjoy cruise nights, car shows, Time Out dolls, and the 119,544th repetition of Hot Rod Lincoln (no, not the gloriously hillbilly original 1955 Charlie Ryan version, the still-excellent-but-now-overplayed 1971 Commander Cody version, which incorrectly refers to the souped-up Lincoln motor as a V8). I would have thought that a genuine two-door 1960 Biscayne wagon ought to have found someone willing to keep it on the street, but this car in a northeastern Colorado yard proves me wrong. Read More >

By on July 8, 2019

2005 Audi S4 in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Keeping any Audi on the road can be costly, once the car gets a decade or so old, and I see plenty of solid-looking four-ringers in the self-service junkyards I frequent. You’d think that the factory-hot-rod Audis would be worth enough to keep them out of the clutches of The Crusher, but such is not the case; just in the last year, I have seen a 2001 S8 and a 2001 S4 in low-priced self-service yards. Now I’ve spotted this even newer S4 in Denver, with the allegedly valuable Recaro seats still inside. Read More >

By on July 1, 2019

1994 Mazda Navajo in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Mazda and Ford go way back when it comes to the badge-engineering game, what with all those Mazda-built Ford Couriers, Mazda-based Ford Escorts, Mazda-badged Ford Rangers, and so on. Since I love weird examples of badge engineering in the junkyard, I’m always on the lookout for the likes of a Saab-badged Chevy or Acura-badged Isuzu, and so I have been keeping my eyes open for a rare Mazda-ized Ford Explorer for quite a while. Most of them got crushed long ago, as the early Explorer has very little value today (due to its laughably small size and lack of luxury features, by 21st-century American-market suburban commuter-truck standards), but this ’94 just showed up in a Denver self-service yard.  Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

1988 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, RH view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Toyota Tercel 4WD Station Wagon, known in its homeland as the Sprinter Carib, sold very well in Colorado, where I live, and tended to be both reliable and well-loved by owners. I still see them in wrecking yards here, so many that I don’t photograph any but the most interesting. This one in a Denver yard had an impressive-even-by-Toyota-standards odometer reading, so it made the cut for a Junkyard Find. Read More >

By on June 17, 2019

1972 Chevrolet Vega in Phoenix wrecking yard, RH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The General made more than two million Chevrolet Vegas during the car’s 1971-1977 run, and the numbers climb much higher if you include the Vega-derived Chevy Monza and its siblings. The Vega’s many quality problems and rapid cheap-subcompact depreciation led to nearly all of these cars disappearing from American roads well before the dawn of the 1990s, but I still find the occasional example during my junkyard travels. Here’s an early Vega two-door hatch that seemed to be in pretty good shape before it hit a large animal on an Arizona road a couple of years back. Read More >

By on June 10, 2019

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome of the most interesting examples of GM badge engineering during the last few decades involved the Isuzu brand; first, the Chevrolet LUV pickup (Isuzu Faster) arrived during the late 1970s, followed by the Chevrolet/Geo Spectrum (Isuzu Gemini) and Geo Storm (Isuzu Impulse), and finally the Trailblazer-based Isuzu Ascender. Mixed in there was the Isuzu-ized second-gen Chevy S-10, also known as the Hombre.

You won’t find many Hombres in your local wrecking yard, but I kept my eyes open for one until this ’96 showed up in Denver. Read More >

By on June 3, 2019

1978 Mercury Zephyr Z7 in California wrecking yard, RH view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn between the homely Ford Maverick/Mercury Comet and the punitively sensible Ford Tempo/Mercury Topaz, the folks at Dearborn provided North Americans with the Ford Fairmont and its Mercury sibling, the Zephyr, as reasonably modern rear-wheel-drive compact commuter machines. For those car shoppers wanting to get a bit devilish with their selections, Ford dealers offered the Fairmont Futura coupe, while your local Mercury store had the Zephyr Z-7 coupe.

Here’s a tan-beige-brown Zephyr Z-7 in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard. Read More >

By on May 28, 2019

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBack in the early 1980s, when I began my junkyard-crawling career in the East Bay, I would find examples of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider on a depressingly regular basis. I still find them today, in about the same quantities; the only difference is that now they’re 40 years old instead of six years old.

Here’s the latest: a black ’79 without a speck of corrosion, spotted in my old East Oakland junkyard stomping grounds (though at a yard that didn’t exist in 1982). Read More >

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 >

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