Even as Toyota kept the Cressida a rear-wheel-drive first cousin to the sporty Supra (sales of that car continued here well into the 1990s), Nissan moved the formerly-Z-based Maxima to a front-wheel-drive platform for the 1985 model year. The new, roomier Maxima continued to be loaded with futuristic electronic gadgetry and a Z-Car engine, and sales of the wagon version continued all the way through the 1988 model year. Here’s a well-traveled ’86 Maxima wagon in a Denver-area car graveyard.
When I visit a car graveyard, I’m always on the lookout for three things: puzzling examples of badge engineering, crazy high odometer readings, and manual transmissions in unexpected cars. One of the rarest of all is a non-SHO Ford Taurus with three pedals, sold under the MT-5 designation for the 1986 through 1988 model years. After a decade of searching, I found my first discarded Taurus MT-5 in Phoenix, three years back. Now a junkyard near Pikes Peak has provided the second example of this extraordinarily rare Junkyard Find.
The original Saab 900 was a favorite of Colorado car shoppers during its 1979-1994 sales run, and I still see many of these cars during research expeditions to my local yards. So many, in fact, that I neglect to photograph most of them.
When I visited some of Phoenix’s excellent yards while on my way to work at the final 24 Hours of Lemons race before the Covid-19 menace shut down such gatherings, though, I spotted this ’86 900S and realized I need to document more of these interesting machines.
The General’s Buick division went all futuristic starting in the middle 1980s, hoping to win back (younger) American buyers who were switching their loyalty to high-tech European machinery at that time. The sleek Reatta two-seater came along in the 1988 model year, but the 1986 Riviera (and, to a lesser extent, the Somerset) were the first models to get the science-fiction touch.
Here’s a maximum-options Riviera T-Type coupe, which came with 800-way power seats and a touchscreen computer interface, spotted in a Silicon Valley self-serve yard last month.
I try to mix up these Junkyard Finds so that you won’t see five 1990s Oldsmobiles in five consecutive weeks. This week, after a 1990s Volvo and a 1990s Honda and a 1970s Plymouth, it seemed time for a really old car or maybe something from 2000s Detroit.
Then I remembered that Sajeev has been complaining about insufficient recognition from other writers of his weird love for Ford products of the 1960s-1990s, so I opted to open the floodgates for his bitter tears with the nicest fleet-grade mid-1980s Escort I’ve ever seen in a junkyard.
I see two types of distinctively Coloradan sticker-covered vehicles in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards. One type is the stony-ass wastoidmobile Subaru plastered with decals from cannabis dispensaries, vape-juice shops, and microbreweries. The other is the battered outdoorsy Detroit truck, plastered with decals from mountain-bike shops, ski resorts, rafting outfitters, and environmental causes. These types tend to overlap to some extent, so it often happens that I’ll find stickers advertising shatter-hash on an Outdoorsy Truck and stickers proclaiming allegiance to rock climbing on a Stoner Subaru, but there are cultural differences between them.
Here’s an ornately leopardified 1986 Dodge B250 Ram Wagon that appears to have hauled many a sinewy adventurer to a trailhead or ski slope.
Every once in a while, I’ll find a junkyard vehicle that I can tell was loved by some longtime owner. Maybe it shows some absurdly high odometer reading, or evidence of the single-minded pursuit of some lunatic mechanical obsession, or the work of hundreds of hours of creative customization.
Today’s Junkyard Find combines the first and third types.
The Toyota Sprinter Carib was sold as the Tercel Wagon in North America for the 1983 through 1987 model years, and most examples rolling out of American showrooms came with the more fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive setup. However, the four-wheel-drive Tercel Wagons held their value for decades after the front-wheel-drive ones depreciated into oblivion and were crushed, and thus I don’t see many of the latter type in wrecking yards these days.
Here’s a now-rare FWD ’86 that held on past age 30, spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard.
The Toyota MR2 has always been a somewhat rare Junkyard Find, partly because not many were sold in the first place, and partly because the surviving examples tend to be cherished by MR2 enthusiasts. Here’s a solid ’86 that showed up in a Denver self-service wrecking yard a couple of weeks back.
The Mercedes-Benz W126 S-Class was the king of 1980s sedans and it sold very well in the United States. You’ll still see plenty of them on the street today and it’s rare that a California self-service wrecking yard doesn’t have at least one fully depreciated, high-mile example in stock. I haven’t paid much attention to these cars for this series, but that changed when I saw a 560SEL taxi in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard.
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- THX1136 Agree with SCE, the cost alone puts me out of the equation. Would I like an EV Charger, sure but see previous sentence.
- IBx1 The only thing that stops a bad guy with a [Milwaukee Sawzall for stealing catalytic converters] is a good guy with a [Hydrochloric Acid 37%].
- SCE to AUX Well, this is one reason to go electric.
- THX1136 According to carbrain.com the cost for catalytic converter 'repair' is between $945 and $2475. They claim the converter cost itself can be up to $2250. Figuring $880 a unit doesn't seem too far out of line if the carbrain info is accurate. Wonder if gas theft is still going strong on the west coast also?
- KOKing I'm not sure what to make of the small commercial van market in the US. There are a fair number of Transit Connects and ProMasterCitys, but Nissan/Chevy dumped the NV200 even though they seemed to sell well (though I guess Nissan decided to get out of the commercial space entirely), and I don't think Stellrysler ever bothered C/V-ing the Pacifica.