Down On The Junkyard

Junkyard Find: 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca

By the early 2000s, Fuji Heavy Industries was raking in fat piles of yen by selling slightly lifted Subaru Legacy wagons with plastic cladding, weather-band radios, and a general air of outdoorsiness. The real money, though, would come from selling SUVs in North America, and so the Legacy chassis got the growth-hormone treatment and a truck-inspired body. This was the Subaru B9 Tribeca, which made its debut as a 2006 model.

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Junkyard Find: 1986 GMC S-15 Jimmy 4X4

GM sold Isuzu Faster pickups with Chevrolet LUV badging in North America from 1972 through 1982, replacing that Japanese truck with the all-Detroit S-10 starting in that final LUV year. An SUV-ized version of the S-10 ( the S-10 Blazer) followed for the 1983 model year, and a GMC-badged twin known as the S-15 Jimmy went along with it. Here's one of those first-generation mini-Jimmies, found in a self-service yard near Sacramento, California.

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Junkyard Find: 1964 Plymouth Valiant V-200 Sedan

We haven't seen a 1960s Chrysler A-Body Junkyard Find since 2014, so the time seemed right to share this well-preserved '64 Valiant V-200 sedan that I spotted recently in a Denver-area boneyard.

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Junkyard Find: 1975 Volvo 245 DL

Volvo began selling its now-legendary brick-shaped sedans and wagons here in the 1968 model year, with the 140, and continued with the rear-driven sensible square Swedes all the way through the 1998 S90/ V90. Of all those cars, though, the most iconic is the 240. The first of the 240s showed up in North America for the 1975 model year, and here's one of them: a 245 DL wagon in a Denver self-service boneyard last summer.

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Junkyard Find: 1994 Subaru Loyale 4WD Wagon
Subaru's first major sales success in North America came with the Leone, which debuted in Japan in 1971 and here in 1972. It went through several generations…
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Junkyard Find: 1992 Ford Crown Victoria LX

Since we admired a 1993 Mercury Grand Marquis as last week's Junkyard Find, it makes sense to follow that up with its near-identical Ford sibling: an early-production 1992 Ford Crown Victoria.

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Junkyard Find: 2004 Pontiac Aztek

When the Pontiac Aztek concept SUV was unveiled in 1999, it was a bit odd-looking but no more so than the Isuzu VehiCROSS. It looked angular, low, and menacing, which is just how plenty of Americans wanted their truckish vehicles. When the production Aztek appeared as a 2001 model, however, some changes had been made.

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Acura Legend Sedan

Honda was the first of the Japanese car companies to create a separate luxury brand to sell abroad, beating Nissan and Toyota by several years. When the first Acuras appeared here in late 1986, there were two models: a dressed-up, hot-rodded Civic and an innovative midsize luxury machine co-developed with Austin Rover. Here's an early example of the latter car, found in a Colorado self-service car graveyard.

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Plymouth Voyager Conversion Van

Plymouth sold trucks through 1942, gave up on the idea, then returned to the truck business with the Trail Duster (rebadged Dodge Ramcharger) and Voyager (rebadged Dodge Sportsman) for 1974. Sales of the big Voyager van continued through the 1983 model year, after which the name went onto the new K-platform-derived Plymouth minivan. Here's one of those all-but-forgotten first-generation Voyagers, found in a Denver self-service yard recently.

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Junkyard Find: 1969 Ford LTD 2-Door Hardtop

Ford updated its full-sized cars for 1969, stretching the wheelbase a couple of inches and adding a completely new snout. Production of this generation of big Fords continued through 1978, with well over a half-million sold just for 1969, so these cars were everywhere on American roads well into the 1990s. Here's one of the sportiest models you could buy in that first year, found in a Colorado self-service car graveyard last month.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Subaru GL Sedan

Prior to the 1980s, Subarus were known by Americans more for being tiny and cheap than anything else (though some car shoppers in snow-prone areas came to appreciate Subaru's optional four-wheel-drive system during that time), but then the bigger second-generation Leone went on sale here for the 1980 model year and Subaru became quite a bit more mainstream on our shores. Today's Junkyard Find is one of those second-gen cars, found in a Colorado self-service yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Suzuki Samurai


Because of all the rebadged Daewoos sold in North America via the Suzuki brand during the 2000s (as well as actual Suzukis), you'll find no shortage of cars bearing the big S logo in most car graveyards these days. But what about the first highway-legal four-wheeled Suzuki sold on our shores, the Jimny?

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Junkyard Find: 1972 Saab 99

When the arms manufacturer known as Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget built its first production automobile, the goofy-looking 1950 Saab 92, that company's best-known product was the goofy-looking fighter jet known as the "Flying Barrel." Both the aircraft and cars got the job done, but it wasn't until the late 1960s that Saab built a jet that looked just as cool as the hippest Lockheeds and Mikoyan-Gureviches. At around the same time, Saab introduced its first car that wasn't viewed by non-Scandinavians as an oddball machine for eccentrics: The 99. Here's one of those cars, found in a self-service yard just south of Denver.

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Junkyard Find: 2003 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Sedan

After all these years of writing about junkyard-found vehicles (15 years, to be exact), I'm trying to fill in some of the thin spots in these automotive history lessons. I've caught up on some of the post-1980s BMWs I'd neglected, I'm trying to add more SUVs to the mix, and now I realize that I haven't paid much attention to discarded VW Passats built since we called that model the Dasher or the Quantum over here. So, I decided to document the very first Passat I found in a junkyard with a manual transmission (just to make the search more of a challenge), and that turned out to be this '03 GLS.

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Junkyard Find: 1938 Oldsmobile Touring Sedan

Most of the inventory at your typical Ewe Pullet-style big self-service car graveyard will be vehicles between about 15 and 25 years old, though you'll see some much newer 500s and Mirages while discarded machinery of the 1970s and 1980s remains easy enough to find. The 1930s, though— that's a different story. While you will run across prewar iron in a generations-old family junkyard, I've managed to document but a single 1930s car in a U-Wrench-type facility prior to today. Here's the second: a once-glamorous 1938 Buick in an excellent yard in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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Junkyard Find: 1993 Suzuki Sidekick JX Four-Door Hardtop

The General began selling rebadged Suzukis on our shores for the 1985 model year, with a Chevrolet-badged Cultus called the Sprint. A few years later, GM's Geo brand came into being, with the Cultus becoming the Metro and the Escudo aka Vitara, rolling into Geo dealerships bearing Tracker badging. Meanwhile, Suzuki began selling its own versions of both vehicles here, with the Tracker's sibling known as the Sidekick. Here's one of those trucks, a rusty '93 in a Denver car graveyard.

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Junkyard Find: 2006 Toyota Camry With Manual Transmission

When I walk the rows of a big Ewe Pullet-style self-service car graveyard, I always take a look inside every 2000s Toyota Camry I see. I do this because I wish to document one of the most elusive of all junkyard inmates: One of the final Camrys sold in the United States with a factory-installed manual transmission. Prior to today's Junkyard Find, the newest discarded three-pedal Camry I'd found was a 2001 model in California. We're pushing the record another five years forward today because I've found this five-on-the-floor-equipped 2006 Camry in the very same yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Datsun 620 King Cab Truck

The middle 1970s through early 1980s were the Golden Age of small Japanese pickups in the United States, when truck shoppers could choose from various models made by Isuzu, Mazda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Nissan. The decade of the 1970s began with Nissan selling the Datsun 521 here and finished just around the time the first Datsun 720s appeared in showrooms, with the workhorse 620 in between and proving a tough competitor for the Toyota Hilux and (Mazda-built) Ford Courier.


This week's Junkyard Find is a much-battered 1977 Datsun 620 King Cab, found in a self-service yard located on the High Plains between Denver and Cheyenne.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Volvo 242

Volvo built the 200 Series for nearly 20 years and the owners of those sensibly rectangular machines tended to keep them for decade after decade, so I have no problem finding plenty of discarded examples during my junkyard travels despite the last ones rolling off the assembly line in 1993. Most of those machines have been the fourcylinder/ fouror fivedoor cars, though, because more cylinders and/or fewer doors didn’t seem stolid enough for your typical American Volvo shopper. In fact, prior to today, I had documented as many junked 262C Bertones as 242 twodoors (and just a single 264 sedan). Now I’ve found this rusty 242 in a self-service yard between Denver and Cheyenne.

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Ford Taurus LX
Ford sold just a hair under two million first-generation Tauruses during the 1986 through 1991 model years, so these cars still show up regularly in the car graveyards I frequent. I won’t bother documenting an early Taurus at Ewe Pullet unless it’s something interestingly rare and/or weird— say, an MT-5 model with manual transmission or a factory-hot-rod SHO or a Groovalicious Purple Princess of Peace wagon— and today’s Junkyard Find certainly qualifies. This wretched-looking hooptie began life as a top-trim-level Taurus LX with just about every possible option, found in a Denver-area self-service yard recently.
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Junkyard Find: 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe Sedan

I’ve been living in Colorado for 12 years now, and I’ve found that the junkyards here have plenty of both the rust-free Japanese cars you’d find in California yards and the late-model Detroit machinery of the Midwest yards (the liquor stores here also stock the watery yellow beers of both the Pacific Northwest and the Upper Midwest, great news if you’re throwing a Denver party that requires both Rainier and Hamm’s). The one thing that really sets Colorado car graveyards apart from those elsewhere (besides all the Scouts and edge-case 4WD cars) is the huge numbers of pre-1960 American vehicles that end up in the U-Wrench-It-type yards here. Here’s the latest, a 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan in a big self-service yard between Denver and Cheyenne.

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Junkyard Find: 1993 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Mazda Miata has been with us for well over three decades, becoming the best-selling two-seat sports car in history along the way. Miatas were popular as quasi-sensible commuter cars in North America well into our current century, which means that I should have been seeing at least a couple in every junkyard I’ve visited for at least the last 15 years. In fact, I still see many more discarded MGBs and Fiat 124 Sport Spiders than I do Miatas, so this reasonably intact ’93 in Crystal White paint caught my attention immediately (naturally, there was an ’81 Fiat Spider 2000 a few rows away).

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Junkyard Find: 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Club Coupe

Ah, the Chevrolet Corvair. Easily the most controversial American car ever made, nearly two million examples were sold during the 1960 through 1969 model years. It remains one of the most common 1960s Detroit cars in Ewe Pullet-style car graveyards to this day. I found this sporty 1962 Monza Club Coupe in a Denver-area yard last month.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Mazda 626 DX
After selling a rear-wheel-drive 626 here starting in the 1978 model year, Mazda introduced a brand-new front-wheel-drive version for 1983. That was the same year the Camry first appeared on our shores, and the cheaper 626 lured many car shoppers away from Toyota showrooms with its impressive list of standard features. The Camry got a major update for 1987, and a new generation of 626 appeared the following year. Here’s one of those cars, photographed in a Northern California self-service yard last winter.
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Junkyard Find: 1986 Ford Escort GT
Ford sold Escorts in North America from the 1981 through 2003 model years, with the ’91 and later cars based on Mazda designs. I’ve never been much interested in the 323/Protegé-derived Escorts, instead keeping a junkyard lookout for the increasingly rare Dearborn– designed 1981– 1990 machines and especially the hot– hatch Escort GTs. Here’s a once-mean-looking black ’86 Escort GT in a Colorado Springs self-service yard.
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Junkyard Find: 1991 Geo Prizm GSi Sedan

When The General began building the AE82 Toyota Corolla (actually based on the JDM Sprinter version) at the NUMMI plant in California, that car got Chevrolet Nova badges. When Toyota debuted the E90 Corolla platform in 1987, it made sense for the NUMMI-ized version of the new E90 Sprinter to join the Suzukis and Isuzus of the new Geo brand. That car was the Geo Prizm, and I’ve found one of the super-rare factory-hot-rod GSi Prizms in a Denver-area self-service yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1966 Ford Falcon Club Wagon
During the 1960s and well into the 1980s, plenty of vehicle manufacturers decided that passenger trucks and vans could be called wagons ( I disagree with that idea), and so you got the Volkswagen Transporter, Toyota Land Cruiser, Corvair Greenbriar, Dodge A100, and many other trucks marketed as wagons. That was confusing enough, but then Ford took it one step further by taking the passenger version of the Econoline forward-control van and badging it as a Falcon Club Wagon. Here’s one of those [s]vans[/s] wagons, found in a Denver-area yard last month.
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Junkyard Find: 1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat Edition

During the bling-and-horsepower-crazed 1960s, The General’s Buick Division took the full-size B-Body platform, added a hot engine and flashy trim, and called it the Wildcat. Not many well-heeled grandfathers felt interested in doing land-yacht burnouts in the VFW parking lot, it turned out, so Wildcat sales ended after 1970… but a yearning for the glory days of the Wildcat must have inspired some Buick dealers to create their own Wildcats during the 1990s. Here’s one of those rare special-edition cars, found in a Denver-area self-service yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1990 Subaru Justy 4WD GL

The General began selling the Suzuki Cultus hatchback with Chevrolet Sprint badges here starting in the 1985 model year, with the later versions becoming the Geo/ Chevrolet Metro. Even though gasoline prices had crashed during the middle 1980s, the three-cylinder Sprint sold well enough that Subaru decided to bring their tiny three-cylinder car to our shores. This was the Justy, and I’ve found this ’90 in a self-service yard in Subaru-crazed Denver.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Cadillac Cimarron

Way back in 2007, I kicked off the Down On the Street series (which was supposed to be a one-time reference to the title of a Stooges song beloved by me and the late Davey J. Johnson) with the first of what would turn out to be hundreds of interesting street-parked cars: a 1984 Cadillac Cimarron d’Oro. That led to something of a Cimarron obsession, and I’ve spent the past 15 years documenting every semiintact Cadillac J-Body I find during my junkyard adventures. You’d think they’d all have been crushed by now, but such is not the case; I found this loaded Brown Overload Edition ’85 in a yard near Pikes Peak earlier this year.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Rampage

Once the Dodge Omni/ Plymouth Horizon, front-wheel-drive econoboxes that began life as Chrysler Europe designs, proved to be strong sellers in North America, Lee Iacocca and his poker buddies decided that a pickup based on the Omnirizon platform would be a fine idea. The result was the Dodge Rampage and its Plymouth-badged sibling, the Scamp. I found one of those cartrucks in a Denver-area wrecking yard a while back.

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Junkyard Find: 2011 Suzuki Kizashi SE AWD

Even though everything in the General Motors universe looked pretty shaky in 2009 and GM-affiliated Suzuki gave up on its attempts to sell Suzuki-badged cars in America in 2013, somehow an interesting new Suzuki midsize sedan managed to appear on our shores for the 2010 model year: The Kizashi. Just under 23,000 Kizashis were sold in the United States and Canada during the car’s 2010-2013 sales run, and I’ve found this clean ’11 in a yard just south of Denver, Colorado.

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Junkyard Find: 1990 Lexus LS 400

While Honda was the first Japanese car company to have a North American showroom hit with a new luxury brand, the Legend lacked the imposing bulk to really threaten the flagship sedans of competitors based in Michigan and Europe (and, on top of that, it had Accord running gear and Rover DNA). Nissan and Toyota got into the luxury-sedan game here in the 1990 model year, when the Infiniti and Lexus brands had their debuts here with the Q45 and LS 400, respectively.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Ford Escort GL Wagon

Remember the era, around the middle of the 2010s, when we were all supposed to desire a brown station wagon with a manual transmission (or mock those who liked brown wagons after it was cool)? Well, today’s Junkyard Find is just that!

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Junkyard Find: 1997 Mercury Cougar XR7 30th Anniversary Edition

Ford’s Mercury Division built rear-wheel-drive Cougars from the 1967 through 1997 model years, followed by a 1999-2002 run of front-wheel-drive Cougars based on the Mondeo chassis. Today’s Junkyard Find is thus historically significant on three counts: it’s the last model year for the rear-wheel-drive Cougar, it’s a special edition commemorating the 30th anniversary of the debut of The Man’s Car, and it’s the last year for the XR7 luxury package. Bitter tears, indeed!

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Junkyard Find: 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS

Remember, not many years ago, when American car shoppers could choose among dozens of new Detroit sedans? For the 2006 model year alone, General Motors offered 12 different four-door sedans, and that’s ignoring sub-models plus the sedans bearing the badges of (GM-owned) Saab and Suzuki. Today, there are three new GM sedans available here, and both of the Cadillacs are built on the same platform as the Camaro. The Buick Division got out of the US-market sedan game when the final 2020 Regal rolled off Opel’s line in Rüsselsheim, but the very last proper full-sized Buick sedan was Hamtramck’s own Lucerne. I found this Northstar-equipped first-year Lucurne in a Colorado Springs yard last month.

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Junkyard Find: 1970 Volvo 164

In North America, the Volvo Brick family first appeared with the 140 in the 1968 model year, and the sensibly square Swedes remained on sale here through the last of the S90s and V90s (formerly known as the 960) in 1998. I’ve managed to find junkyard examples of all of these cars, including such oddities as the 262C and 780 Bertone Coupes, but the Volvo 164 has been a tough one; prior to today’s Junkyard Find, I had documented just a single 164. On a recent trip to a snow-coated yard between Denver and Cheyenne, I found another: this scorched and punctured ’70.

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Junkyard Find: 1972 Ford Galaxie 500 Sedan

1972 ended up being the final year for the postwar era of mainstream American car shoppers buying big, cheap sedans with few misgivings about fuel economy (though, if you want to get picky about it, you could say the 1973 Oil Crisis began while 1974 models were already in showrooms). Full-sized Fords sold very well in 1972, with close to a half-million Customs, Galaxies, and LTDs sold that year (plus better than 75,000 units of the Marquis and Monterey), and these cars were commonplace on American roads well into the 1990s. Today, the 1971-1972 big Fords and their distinctive snouts have all but disappeared, so I was happy to find this extremely green example in a Denver-area yard last month.

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Sport Coupe
Since I’ve noticed in recent years that first-generation Chevy Cavaliers have all but disappeared from both street and junkyard on our continent, despite the millions sold here, I’ve made it my mission to document examples of the now-rare 1982-1987 Cavalier when I see them during my wrecking-yard travels. We admired a Yooper-owned ’85 Cavalier wagon in a Colorado yard in November, and I found today’s factory-hot-rod ’87 Cavalier Z24 in a Northern California yard in December.
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Junkyard Find: 1984 Pontiac 6000 STE
The General built cars based on the front-wheel-drive A platform (no, not that other GM A platform) for the 1982 through 1996 model years, with the profoundly unmemorable Chevy Celebrity as the most numerous type. Of all the millions of these A-Bodies that roamed American roads, the most interesting was the Pontiac 6000 Special Touring Edition, a sporty sedan version made to compete with the growing menace of speedy German and technology-stuffed Japanese machines. I managed to find an extremely rare early 6000 STE in a California boneyard in December, so let’s take a look.
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Junkyard Find: 1991 Toyota Corolla Wagon With 315,406 Miles
I always look for two kinds of Toyotas when I’m walking the rows of a Ewe Pullet-type yard: Newish Camrys with manual transmissions and odometers showing better than 300,000 miles. Generally, Corolla wagons in junkyards are either mercilessly thrashed hoopties, assaulted-with-glue-gun art cars, or fastidiously-maintained trade-ins, few of which reach the magical 300k-mile mark. When I saw a fairly straight late-production AE92 Corolla in lurid, backyard-applied purple house paint and snowboard-culture decals, I expected to see Grandma’s hand-me-down church-on-Sundays-only wagon that had 120,000 miles when its keys were pressed into the grandbaby’s eager hands… and 127,000 miles when it took that final tow-truck ride to Pick Your Part.
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Junkyard Find: 1980 Datsun 280ZX

Nissan sold the 280ZX version of the famed Z-Car here for the 1979 through 1983 model years, right up to the end of the Datsun era and the start of the “Name Is Nissan” period we’re in today. These cars don’t have the maniacal following of their 240Z/ 260Z/ 280Z predecessors but sold well when new, so I find the 280ZX to be reasonably easy to find in the big California car graveyards I frequent. Here’s a well-equipped ’80 in Alpine White paint, showing off its T-tops in a San Francisco Bay Area yard a few years back.

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Junkyard Find: 1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider

Since 2007, when I started writing about interesting vehicles in car graveyards, I’ve seen at least a couple of discarded Fiat 124 Sport Spiders per year. In fact, I was finding these cars in junkyards when you could still buy them new, back when I was hitting the yards of Hayward in search of parts for my ’69 Toyota Corona. These days, most Sport Spiders you’ll find at your local Ewe Pullet will be 1976-1980 models (I still haven’t managed to find any junked examples of the Pininfarina-badged mid-1980s Spiders that Malcolm Bricklin sold as Azzurras), so today’s ’70 is quite a rare Junkyard Find.

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Junkyard Find: 2005 Chrysler Crossfire Limited Roadster
Much of the automotive press went absolutely ape over [s]the press events for[/s] the 2005 Chrysler Crossfire Roadster, particularly the writer who deemed it the Sexiest Car of the Year and compared its rear end favorably to Melania Trump’s jeans-clad hindquarters. Closing in on two decades later, the Crossfire’s image has fared about as well as memories of the DaimlerChrysler “merger of equals,” which makes a first-year Crossfire Roadster an excellent Junkyard Find.
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Junkyard Find: 2000 Mercedes-Benz CLK 430 Coupe

Luxury coupes were falling out of favor among well-heeled American car shoppers around the turn of the century, with luxury trucks gaining sales ground by the minute, but that didn’t stop Mercedes-Benz from releasing a sporty new C-Class-based two-door with a big V8 and big price tag, starting in the 1999 model year: The CLK 430. As so often happens with costly European luxury machinery, this one took a hard depreciation hit during its time on the road, and now it resides in a Northern California self-service yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo Coupe

The Pontiac Grand Prix started life as a sporty hardtop coupe version of the full-size 1962 Catalina, then spent the 1969 through 1987 model years as a midsize rear-wheel-drive sibling to the Chevy Monte Carlo. For 1988, the Grand Prix moved to the brand-new front-wheel-drive W platform, immediately winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award and carrying on John DeLorean’s tradition of affordable personal luxury cars with a rakish bad-boy-in-a-suit image. Here’s an ultra-rare example of the most expensive Grand Prix available for 1990, found in a Denver-area self-service yard last month.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Cadillac Fleetwood D'Elegance

1988 was an interesting year for The General’s Cadillac Division. The Cavalier-based Cimarron was in its final year of sales, the Hamtramck/Turin-built Allanté was in its second year (and priced about the same as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class), and the “traditional” rear-wheel-drive Brougham sedan shared showroom space with the front-wheel-drive De Villes, Eldorados, and Sevilles. The old Sixty Special name was still being used, along with such slightly newer titles as Elegante and d’Elegance. While the Allanté lived at the top of the GM prestige pyramid for ’88, the Fleetwood was the car of choice for those very wealthy Cadillac shoppers who insisted on four doors and zero Pininfarina nonsense. Here’s one of those cars, found in excellent condition in a Denver yard last spring.

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Junkyard Find: 1996 Subaru SVX

One great thing about living in Colorado, where new residents are issued a dog and a Subaru when they arrive, is that I can find examples of just about every Subaru model sold here since the late 1970s in the local car graveyards. That means that I have plenty of opportunities to observe the gloriously weird SVX, once its street days are finished.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Mazda 626 Luxury Sedan

The original Mazda 626, sold here for the 1978 through 1982 model years, was a rear-wheel-drive machine that looked quite European in a Peugeot 504-ish way. Its front-wheel-drive successor was straight-up aimed at gaijin car shoppers who might consider a Camry, Accord, or Stanza, and it came packed with affordable luxury features and cool gadgetry. Here’s an ’85 LX sedan with one of the raddest 1980s audio systems imaginable, found in a Northern California self-service yard earlier this month.

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Junkyard Find: 1994 Toyota Previa LE With 376,407 Miles

Ever since the 1998 model year, Toyota has sold a big, American-style minivan with the engine in the front and cupholders throughout the interior. Prior to that, though, American Toyota shoppers looking for a new van had to take an innovative mid-engined machine designed entirely with the Japanese home market in mind: First the TownAce (known as the Van here) and then the Estima (known as the Previa here). The Previa was too small and too underpowered to compete head-to-head with Detroit minivans, but those who bought them found that they lasted for decade after decade. Here’s one in a Denver-area yard that got pretty close to the magical 400,000-mile mark.

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Volvo 245 DL With 338,475 Miles

Ever since I began my effort to document some of the interesting machinery that shows up in car graveyards, the quantity of discarded Volvo 240s has remained steady. Back in the late 2000s, I’d had an idea that just about every 240 owner would make the transition from safe and sensible Swedish bricks to green and sensible Japanese hybrids, and that the transition would be wrapped up by the dawn of the 2020s. Such has not been the case, although the 1970s 240s are getting harder to find. Here’s a high-mile 245 in a mile-high junkyard.

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX XE
A 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX with T-top removable roof panels, photographed in a self-service wrecking yard in Denver, Colorado.
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Junkyard Find: 2005 Pontiac Vibe, Gambler 500 Edition

Several hooptie-centric road rallies take place every warm season in Front Range Colorado, including the 24 Hours of Lemons Rally, the Rocky Mountain Rambler 500 Rally, and the Colorado Gambler 500 Rally. Teams will build crazy stuff— say, a Lincoln Continental Mark IV filled with three tons of engine-heated water or a gutted Volkswagen R32 converted to a doorless post-apocalyptic Astroturf nightmare— or just acquire some random cheap car, decorate it, and beat it half to death on Rocky Mountain fire roads. As you’d expect, many of these cars go right to the nearest boneyard when the rally is over, and I find quite a few of them during my junkyard travels in northeastern Colorado. Here’s the “Good Vibes” Pontiac Vibe, found in Denver over the summer.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier Wagon

Chevrolet built Cavaliers for close to a quarter-century, selling something like five million units. If you count the all the other J-body siblings sold around the world (including some really weird stuff), the extended Cavalier family is one of the largest in automotive history. Somehow, though, the once-ubiquitous 1982-1987 first-generation Cavaliers have all but disappeared from North American car graveyards; I’ve documented plenty of later Cavaliers during my junkyard travels, sure, but the early ones seem to have been crushed decades ago. Finally, here’s a reasonably straight ’85 wagon in a northeastern Colorado yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1992 Ford Taurus SHO

Ford introduced the high-performance version of the Taurus sedan— the SHO— in the 1989 model year, and enthusiasts rejoiced over the cheap new factory hot rod that blew away far more expensive European sedans. I’ve documented quite a few discarded SHOs during my junkyard travels, but this is the first ’92 I’ve photographed. Why is 1992 special for the SHO? Simple: It’s the final year for the mandatory five-speed manual transmission. Here’s one of those rare cars in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1961 Rambler American Deluxe 2-Door Sedan

When George Romney— yes, father of Marlin-drivin’ Mitt— took over American Motors soon after its 1954 formation in a merger between Hudson and Nash, he set about shifting the company’s focus from “traditional” big cars locked in an annual styling arms race to a line of affordable compacts built on the success of the little Nash Rambler. By 1961, Nash and Hudson were long gone and every AMC car was a Rambler; the smallest Rambler that year was the American, and the cheapest American was the Deluxe two-door sedan. That’s what we’ve got for today’s Junkyard Find, spotted a few months back in a Denver yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Fiat Brava Sedan

While an ever-increasing number Americans in the second half of the 1970s felt comfortable buying sporty German and Japanese sedans, the idea of relying on an Italian sedan for everyday transportation made sense to a much more exclusive group. For those Americans who craved a commute packed with Italian passion and artistry but needed something with rear-wheel-drive (ruling out the 128 and the Lancia Beta sedan) and cheaper than the Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan, Fiat offered the 131 on these shores for the 1976 through 1981 model years (changing its name to the Brava starting in 1978). As you’d expect, these cars are about as tough to find in junkyards today as Mitsubishi Tredias or Rover 3500s, but I ran across this ’78 in a Denver yard last week.

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Toyota Celica Supra

In 1970, Toyota introduced the world to a pair of cars based on a new platform: The Carina sedan and the Celica sports coupe. The Carina was sold in the United States for just the 1972-73 model years and disappeared without a trace, but its Mustang-resembling Celica sibling proved to be a big sales hit on this side of the Pacific. With their truck-appropriate four-cylinder R engines, though, those U.S.-market Celicas of the 1970s were slow and tended to sound like a Hilux groaning up a mountain pass in Waziristan with a load of 15 Red Army-battling mujahideen fighters. So, Toyota widened and lengthened the second-generation Celica, yanked out the truck mill, and dropped in a straight-six. Thus was the Celica XX born in 1978, and when it arrived on our shores in the following year, it had a new name: Celica Supra!

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Chevrolet Chevette Sedan
In early 1973, the new GM T Platform was introduced to the world as the Brazilian-market Chevrolet Chevette, followed soon after by the Opel Kadett C in Europe. The Isuzu Bellett Gemini appeared in Japan in 1974, and it wasn’t long before these cheap, rear-wheel-drive subcompacts were being sold in every corner of the GM Empire. North America got the Chevette starting in the 1976 model year, and sales continued here all the way through 1987. American Chevette sales peaked here in the late 1970s, so the examples from the middle 1980s have been tough to find in junkyards. Here’s one of those cars, a thoroughly battered ’84 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard.
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Junkyard Find: 1982 Plymouth Sapporo
Chrysler began importing rebadged Mitsubishis to North America starting with the Colt in the 1971 model year, with more models being added as the decade progressed. By 1976, Plymouth shoppers could buy a Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste as the sporty Arrow; Plymouth Arrow and Dodge D-50 (later Ram 50) pickups, based on the Mitsubishi Forte, showed up here in 1979. So that those Dodge/Plymouth dealers would have a small personal luxury coupe to sell, the Japanese-market Galant Lambda hardtop was pressed into American service as the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapporo for 1978. Sales continued through 1983, and I’ve found one of those final Sapporos in a yard south of Denver, Colorado.
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  • InCogKneeToe BUILD It and they will come.By Build It, I mean a Vehicle that the Customer Wants and it works for them. It could be called Chevette for all that that matters. The Mach E's success isn't because it totes the Mustang on it.Just build what people want, the next Caravan/Taurus/Beetle/Maverick (truck).
  • YellowDuck Wait...how do you make a mid-engine crossover? Or even a 4-door coupe? Me not get.
  • 28-Cars-Later Thanks Corey. The head stud job on NOrthSTAR-T was $3K *years ago* as it involves an engine pull so rear wheel arch rust in and of itself isn't a show stopper. I'll be sure to check out the trunk as it may start to add up on deferred maintenance. Supposedly this was garaged so the underneath the rockers etc. should be decent but if those are shot its not gonna work.
  • Mark 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, G4NG engine with connecting rod bearing issues. Engine needs to be replaced, but Hyundai is denying warranty claim. I have all maintenance records from mile zero. It has been in Hyundai Service department 5 time in 4 months. They added the knock sensor and software update to let you know the engine is about to blow up. They kicked the can down the road doing patch work until the car was past the 120k extended extended warranty. I have that documentation too. So how can I join the class action law suit or find a Lawyer that handles these types of issues?
  • Wolfwagen Always loved the late 70s and very early 80s Scout II and Terras.This resurrection will be nothing like those. SINO - Scout in Name Only