Junkyard Find: 1973 Buick Century Gran Sport

After 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.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Cadillac Sedan DeVille

Cadillac had become by far the top luxury car manufacturer in North America by the early 1970s, with the all-time pinnacle of Cadillac production reached in the 1973 model year: 304,839 ’73 Cadillacs purred off the assembly line. Then, well, the Yom Kippur War pissed off OPEC’s most important members, European luxury cars gained more than just a minor foothold, and Cadillacs became so commonplace that their prestige value sank for the rest of the decade.

Here’s a big, plush Sedan DeVille, from the final year of Cadillac’s undisputed reign over the American road, photographed in a Denver self-serve car graveyard earlier this year.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle

The air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle was pretty well obsolete when North American sales took off during the late 1950s, and so this mid-1930s design had become shockingly obsolete by the 1970s. Still, Americans understood the Beetle as a comfortably known quantity by that time and the price tag was really cheap, so Beetles and Super Beetles still sold well in 1973.

In the parts of the continent where the Rust Monster remains meek, plenty of these cars still exist, enough for them to be fairly common sights in the big self-service junkyards. Here’s a ’73 Super Beetle in a San Francisco Bay Area yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Plymouth Duster 340
Depending on how strict you are about stuff like gross-versus-net horsepower rating s, emissions-related compression ratios, or the general feeling of Malaise that set in after the 1973 Oil Crisis, the Golden Age of the Detroit Muscle Car ended in some year between 1970 and 1974. I say that year was 1970 and that only midsize coupes really qualify, but my definition leans to the strict side.The case could be made that the 1973 Duster 340 was a lot more fun-per-buck than Chrysler’s “traditional” muscle car choices for that model year (the Plymouth Road Runner and Dodge Charger), and so we’ll keep that in mind when studying today’s Junkyard Find.
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Junkyard Find: 1973 Chevrolet G30 Hippie Van

You see fairly modern minivans covered with lefty bumper stickers all over the place, but those aren’t proper hippie vans. Given their value these days, a Volkswagen Type 1 Transporter isn’t a proper hippie van, either, because you can’t be a genuine hippie in the 21st century unless you’ve burned all your bridges to The Man’s unjust world and you have no Plan B of getting a so-called real job on the Downpressor Man‘s plantations. A real hippie van is a big, ugly, cheap steel box on wheels, with crude stencils and hand-painted messages on the outside and room inside for a dozen unwashed radicals who know that unless you’re free, The Machine must be prevented from working at all.

Today’s Junkyard Find is such a van.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Custom, With Bonus 1993 Newspapers

The full-sized Olds 88 was around for decade after decade, and we’ve seen a few of them in this series so far. There was this ’67 Delta, this ’70 Delta, and this ’84 Delta Royale Brougham, and of course many of us remain fans of music devoted to the now-defunct marque. Here’s a ’73 Delta 88 Custom (whoops, it appears to be a ’70) that I photographed in a Denver self-service yard last winter.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C

There’s a lot of talk going around about how every restorable example of the Mercedes-Benz W114 coupe is worth plenty these days. Five grand? Ten grand? The junkyard tells me that the real-world prices for these cars in non-perfect condition is still quite low, because I see them regularly. Here’s a solid, fairly complete ’73 without a speck of rust that I saw in a Northern California junkyard a few weeks ago, and this car comes on the heels of this ’71 250C, this ’73 280CE, this ’74 280C, and a bunch of W114 sedans that I haven’t even bothered to photograph. I’m sure that the cost to restore one of these things is just breathtaking, which is why those in the know rarely take on such projects.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Volkswagen LT 28

As far as I know, the Volkswagen LT van was never sold new in the United States, and this is the first one I’ve ever seen in an American wrecking yard. At first glance, I assumed it was some sort of Grumman or specialty body on a Big Three chassis.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Ford Maverick Sedan

There was once a time when Mavericks (and their Mercury Comet siblings) were among the most often-seen vehicles on American streets. Being such a cheap and homely car (and built during one of Detroit’s build-quality low points), however, the Maverick just wasn’t loved enough for many examples to be spared from The Crusher when they got a little frayed around the edges. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’75 Maverick two-door, this ’75 Comet sedan, and now today’s ’73 Maverick four-door.

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If The Big Lebowski Were Filmed Today, What Car Would The Dude Drive?

Before the Clint Eastwood film (but after the cheezoid TV show), the most well-known Ford Gran Torino in cinema history was the beater ’73 sedan driven by Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski. This film, which took quite a while to go from box-office dud to sacred document of the Lebowski Jihad, was released in 1998 and was set in late 1990 or early 1991 (a period during which I was also in Southern California and living a fairly Dude-ish lifestyle myself). The choice of a ’73 Gran Torino by the Coen Brothers makes some interesting statements for those who obsess about movie cars, and Monday is always the best day to discuss such things.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Buick Riviera

Just about everybody likes the “Boat-Tail” Riviera, and you’d think that would make even battered examples valuable enough to avoid the cold jaws of The Crusher. Think again!

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220

Most of the time, I don’t photograph junkyard-dwelling Mercedes-Benzes unless they’re coupes, SLs, or really old, but today’s W115 sedan was just so complete that I had to shoot it.

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Picked Clean: If You Want 240Z Parts, You Need To Work Fast!

When an ordinary car— say, a ’94 Camry— shows up in a high-turnover self-service junkyard, most of its parts will still be present when it goes to the scrapper. However, when a seldom-seen-in-junkyards vehicle with an avid following— say, a ’71 Toyota Land Cruiser— appears on the yard, it gets eaten like a roadkill raccoon in vulture country. When I saw this complete and rust-free 1973 Datsun 240Z at my local self-serve yard a few weeks ago, I knew it hadn’t been exposed to parts shoppers for long. Sure enough, look at it now!

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Junkyard Find: 1973 BMW 2002

For some reason, BMW 2002s are easier to find in self-service wrecking yards (in Colorado and California, anyway) than are 320is. Most of the Crusher-bound 2002s I see are pretty well picked over— probably before they ever got to the junkyard— and so I don’t photograph them. However, a round-taillight 2002 [s]with automatic transmission[/s] is something you don’t see every day.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Datsun 240Z

I see endless Z31 300ZXs in junkyards, and I usually don’t pay much attention to them ( unless we’re talking about a rare 50th Anniversary Edition with BodySonic butt-vibrating seat speakers with super-futuristic digital dash, of course). Even 280Zs and 280ZXs are plentiful in self-service wrecking yards, so I don’t photograph many of them. However, an optioned-to-the-hilt 240Z, complete with automatic transmission, sunroof, and Malaise Era brown paint is worth shooting, so here we go!

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  • Bobbysirhan Sometimes it seems like GM has accepted that the customers they still have are never going to come to their senses and that there aren't any new dupes on the horizon, so they might as well milk their existing cows harder.
  • Buickman how about LowIQ?
  • Gemcitytm Corey: As a native SW Ohioan, Powel Crosley, Jr. has always been an object of fascination for me. While you're correct that he wanted most of all to build cars, the story of the company he created with his brother Lewis, The Crosley Corporation, is totally fascinating. In the early 20's, Crosley was the nation's leading manufacturer of radio receivers. In the 1930's, working from an idea brought to him by one of his engineers, Crosley pioneered the first refrigerator with shelves in the door (called, of course, the "Shelvador"). He was the first to sell modular steel kitchen cabinets (made for him by Auburn in Connersville). He brought out the "IcyBall" which was a non-electric refrigerator. He also pioneered in radio broadcasting with WLW Radio in Cincinnati (wags said the calls stood for either "Whole Lotta Watts" or "World's Lowest Wages"). WLW was one of the first 50,000 watt AM stations and in 1934, began transmitting with 500,000 watts - the most powerful station in the world, which Mr. Crosley dubbed "The Nation's Station". Crosley was early into TV as well. The reason the Crosley operation died was because Mr. Crosley sold the company in 1945 to the AVCO Corporation, which had no idea how to market consumer goods. Crosley radios and TVs were always built "to a price" and the price was low. But AVCO made the products too cheaply and their styling was a bit off the wall in some cases. The major parts of the Crosley empire died in 1957 when AVCO pulled the plug. For the full story of Crosley, read "Crosley: Two Brothers and a Business Empire That Transformed the Nation" by Rutsy McClure (a grandson of Lewis Crosley), David Stern and Michael A. Banks, Cincinnati: Clerisy Press, ISBN-13: 978-1-57860-291-9.
  • AndyinMA Well, will they actually make any? Wranglers appear to be black only at this point, but I do admit to seeing a few Gladiators in other colors. A few.
  • Garrett The only way to send a message is to pull out of the transaction when the fee is disclosed unless the dealer pays for it...or just walk out regardless.If this happens enough, eventually someone will get the message.