There are certain categories of discarded vehicles that I search for before all others during my junkyard travels. French cars and extreme-high-mile machinery are on my list, of course, plus Sawzall roadsters/ pickups, art cars and oddball special editions. But my favorite Junkyard Finds are obscure examples of what-could-they-have-been-thinking badge engineering, and today's truck has lived atop my wish list for nearly 15 years.
Back in 2006, Jonny Lieberman reviewed the then-new Mazdaspeed6 for this publication. He deemed it ugly and slow off the line, but didn't question the reason for its existence. As it turned out, very few car shoppers felt the need to own a Mazdaspeed6, and it got the axe after just two model years. Here's one of the handful that made it out of dealerships, found in a self-service boneyard in Tulsa, Oklahoma a few months back.
The XJ Cherokee was born out of the French government's bailout of American Motors and made its debut as a 1984 model. It was so successful that it stayed in production in essentially its original form through three corporations and into the following century. Today's Junkyard Find is one of the very last XJ Cherokees ever made, found in a Wyoming car graveyard last week.
General Motors built cars on the N Platform and its derivatives from the 1985 through 2005 model years, and five-speed manual transmissions were available on various N-based machines throughout that time. Very few American buyers of these cars were willing to operate three pedals by the dawn of the 21st century, but I have managed to find a five-speed-equipped Olds Alero in a Denver self-service car graveyard.
After 16 years of writing about junkyard vehicles, I've come to appreciate the marques that have so few models sold in the United States that I can capture the entire span of their offerings in the automotive marketplace, just by visiting my local Ewe Pullets enough times. Daihatsu sold but two models here. Sterling had two. Merkur also had two. Daihatsu, however, sold three car models during its three years in the United States. We saw a discarded example of the entry-level Daewoo subcompact, the Lanos, a couple of months back. Five years ago, we admired the Daewoo luxury sedan, the Leganza. Today, it's the turn of the third member of the 2000-2002 Daweoo triumvirate: The compact Nubira, an example of which I found in a Denver self-service yard last week.
Of all the far-flung outposts of the sprawling GM Empire, Daewoo produced some of the best stories. Today's Junkyard Find is an example of one of the three car models sold with Daewoo badging during the company's brief attempt to establish a toehold under its own name in North America.
Of all the Mercury models sold since the marque was born in the 1939 model year, the Cougar must have been the most varied. From the first Mustang sibling in 1967 and into our current century, the Cougar name went on small sporty coupes, white-powder-sprinkled personal luxury boats, midsize sedans, big sedans, station wagons, and various thinly-disguised Continental/Thunderbird copies. The very last Cougar generation was a sport compact coupe with European ancestry, and that's what we've got for today's Junkyard Find.
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.
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.
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.
As we return to the history of Kia’s large sedans, we find ourselves in the midst of the 2010s. When the full-size and rear-drive K900 was introduced for the 2015 model year, Kia’s front-drive comfort option, the K7 (Cadenza to you), was in the midst of its first generation. A replacement for the unloved and ugly Opirus (Amanti to North Americans), the K7 ushered in sophisticated but bland Euro-centric styling from Peter Schreyer upon its launch in 2010.
Cadenza didn’t make its way to the North American market until 2014, and debuted with slightly sharper styling and a nicer interior via a mid-cycle refresh. Kia took its time in bringing the Cadenza to the North American market, as they wanted to be sure they got it just right.
In the end, the first Cadenza fell between the soft rock of the Lexus ES and the hard place of the Nissan Maxima. Additionally, it lacked the prestige to compete with other large front-drive upmarket offerings of the time. The new cadenza lasted only three model years in North America, as Kia was ready for an all-new generation K7/Cadenza in 2017.
It’s time once again for more Kia large sedan goodness. Like last time, we pick up in the early 2010s. Kia’s second full-size sedan developed under Hyundai’s controllership was the K7, or Cadenza in all markets outside South Korea. Pitched as a value-priced premium front-drive car, it competed against the likes of the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima, but lacked any defined comfort or sporty characteristics. Cadenza also had a bland corporate design courtesy of the company’s new Euro-like styling mission, and former VW designer Peter Schreyer.
Shortly after the Cadenza went on sale, Kia turned its sights toward an even larger sedan: A new rear-drive one to occupy the luxury space, a class above the Cadenza. It was the largest car Kia offered in nearly two decades, the first rear-drive Kia since the (Mazda Sentia) Kia Enterprise of 2002, and the first rear-drive sedan Kia ever sold in the North American market. It’s time for K9.
We return to Kia’s large sedan history today, at a point shortly after the launch of the K7. Kia’s full-size front-drive for the 2010s, the K7 was called Cadenza in all export markets, and was a successor to the unfortunately styled Opirus (Amanti in North America). Kia hired Peter Schreyer from his longtime employment at Volkswagen Group in order to usher in a new stylistic era at Kia.
Though it went on sale for the 2010 model year, Kia wasn’t quite ready to send the Cadenza to the North American market. With the market’s general rejection of the Amanti in mind, Kia called on Schreyer to refresh the Cadenza and lux it up before its North American launch.
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- Redapple2 .....300S ....and Charger and Challenger, have been long overdue for an update, but still sell well. Thx EPA
- Dukeisduke Covered last Wednesday on Autoline Daily.
- Dukeisduke This could make a decent 24 Hours of Lemons car (who needs reverse on the track?) - they just need to drop the price.