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.
With The General offering a costlier-than- an-S-Class Cadillac built in Turin and Hamtramck (the two assembly lines connected via custom-built 747 freighters) as well as Italianate Buicks and Oldsmobiles in the late 1980s, Lee Iacocca decided to leverage Chrysler’s investment in Maserati to create a K-Car-based Italian sports car: the TC by Maserati. Like the Allanté, Troféo, and Reatta, the TC hasn’t held its value so well over the decades, and I find the occasional example during my junkyard travels. Here’s a crashed ’91 in a yard near Denver, Colorado.
After Americans proved uninterested in buying the luxurious-for-its-time Toyota Crown during the early 1970s, Toyota brought over the new Corona Mark II, then gave its American-market, Chaser-based successor the Cressida name starting in the 1977 model year. The Cressida remained King of Toyotas in North America throughout the 1980s, but the appearance of the Lexus LS400 for the 1990 model year changed everything; Cressida sales collapsed. However, we could buy new Cressidas here all the way through 1992, and I’m always looking for the rare early-1990s models during my junkyard travels. Here’s a ’91 in Denver.
The Dodge Shadow and its Plymouth Sundance sibling were among the last members of the extended Chrysler K-car family to be built, sold from the 1987 through 1994 model years and replaced by the Neon after that. Millions were sold, but these cars are all but forgotten today. Chrysler built a handful of convertible Shadows, perhaps inspired by GM’s feat of selling some Geo Metro convertibles, and I’ve found this ’91 in a North Carolina self-service yard.
When I poke through automotive graveyards in search of the rare and the interesting, I always take a look at late-1980s/early-1990s Toyota Camrys for the very rare All-Trac all-wheel-drive versions and extremely rare manual-transmission versions.
So rare that its existence in the wild is merely theoretical, however, is the V6-powered manual-transmission Camry… and I just found one in Denver. Let’s take a look!
When Nissan decided to push some chips into the serious North American luxury-car-market game, they didn’t have the resources to do what Toyota did and build an all-new machine from scratch. Instead, they turned the President luxury sedan into the Q45 and the Leopard sport coupe into the M30. Infiniti sold the M30 for just a few years before being replaced by the J30 for the 1993 model year. It’s been nearly forgotten today.
Here’s a very rare ’91 that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard a couple of weeks ago.
I moved from California to Colorado in 2010, and the stereotype of the stony Subaru driver who snowboards/hikes/camps/rock-climbs, has some sort of retriever dog, and drinks super-hoppy craft beers turns out to be based on reality.
Everyone here drives Subarus — hell, even I have an Outback in the fleet — but we’re talking about the beat-to-hell, 15-to-30-year-old cars here, and not shiny new Crosstreks in the REI parking lot. Last week, I saw the perfect example of that type of Subaru in a Denver self-service yard: this rusty, crusty, 200,000-mile, Pleiades-badged Colorado veteran, which spent its long life driving to trailheads and brewpubs, is now set to donate its metals to the global commodities markets.
The Dodge Shadow was one of many, many versions of the Chrysler-saving K Platform, and it sold in fairly large quantities before being replaced by the Neon. As recently as five years ago, Shadows and their Plymouth Sundance siblings were among the most numerous Chryslers in American wrecking yards, but massive numbers of Sebrings have replaced them nowadays. I ignore most of these cars when I see them, but I can’t resist photographing examples with excessively 1990s tape stripes and decals or super-stripper no-option packages.
Today we’ll be looking at a car that puts turbocharging, overwrought 1990s tape graphics, a convertible top, and fire damage all in one K-car package.
The XJ Jeep Cherokee was made for approximately a thousand years (OK, 32 years, counting the still-in-production BAW Knight S12), and these trucks are still extremely easy to find here in Colorado. Nice XJs still command good prices here, but used-up ones fill the local wrecking yards. Since I shared a junked Grand Cherokee last week, it’s only fair that we should admire a discarded Colorado Cherokee Sport.
The Nissan Sentra SE-R was often compared to Nissan’s OG hot sedan — the 510. With decent power and handling in a three-box profile, I can see the resemblance. The factory limited-slip differential helped put all those whopping 140 horsepower to the ground better than most other front drivers.
And that SR20DE engine also pulls a premium the week before Race Wars.
Back in the early 1990s, the elite members of the Detroit Big Three were trying hard to compete on price with dirt-cheap imported Misery Boxes such as the Subaru Justy, Hyundai Excel, and Toyota Tercel EZ. They came up with stripper versions of their low-end subcompacts (e.g., the Plymouth Sundance America), which few bought. Why buy an Escort Pony for $7,976 when you could have a zero-option ’91 Civic for $7,095, and still be driving the Civic (very slowly, and maybe on its third head gasket) today? This makes the Escort Pony a very rare Junkyard Find today, so I grabbed my camera when I saw this one at a Denver yard.
Here’s a fun game for those of us with petrol-addled minds: Go to eBay Motors, and type in “Project” in the search field. Marvel at the sea of rust. When I’m feeling forlorn about the enormity of the project I have on jackstands, seeing the guy who exploded his Ferrari V8 on the way home from buying it tends to cheer me up in a perverse way.
This sobering look at the bottom end of the classic-car spectrum also reminds me that I’m not exactly swimming in cash. Yet, there are automotive desires that must be met someday. My wife, for example, has only two cars that she has dreamed of owning: A lifted, large-tired, full-sized pickup (a remnant of her childhood in Appalachia, I’m sure) and a Corvette convertible.
A couple of years have passed since the last Manny, Moe, and Jack Edition Junkyard Find, so we’re due for another car that was customized with every manner of stick-on hood scoop, property-value-lowering vinyl decal, and brightly-colored interior-trim piece that can be had at your local auto-parts chain store. Here’s a fourth-gen Toyota Tercel done up as a shoestring-budget Fast-n-Furious-type machine.