Junkyard Find: 1992 Geo Metro 4-door hatchback

What was the cheapest new four-door car available in the United States for the 1992 model year? Not the Subaru Justy, not the Toyota Tercel, not the Hyundai Excel and not the Suzuki Swift. It was today's Junkyard Find!

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Junkyard Find: 2009 Suzuki Equator RWD Crew Cab

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.

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Chevrolet Sprint ER

What was the most fuel-efficient (mass-produced, internal combustion-powered, highway-legal, non-gray-market, four-wheeled, et freakin' cetera) new car available in the United States during the 1980s? No, not the Toyota Starlet or Corolla Tercel, not the Honda CRX HF, not the Subaru Justy. It was the Chevrolet Sprint ER, and I've found a nicely intact example in a car graveyard just east of Sacramento.

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Junkyard Find: 1978 Chevrolet LUV

Small Japanese pickups became increasingly popular in North America as the 1970s went on, with plenty of Hiluxes and 520s/ 620s rolling out of Toyota and Datsun showrooms. Detroit wanted some of that minitruck money, and so each of the Big Three turned to a Japanese partner to make it happen. Today's Junkyard Find is the GM player in that game, found in a self-service boneyard near Reno, Nevada.

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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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Buy/Drive/Burn: Mid-seventies Captive Imports

Today’s Seventies captive imports trio comes to us via suggestion by commenter MRF 95 T-Bird. He wants to see which of the Manta, Capri, and Arrow warrants a malaise era Buy. We’ll straddle two model years today, 1975 and 1976.

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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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Abandoned History: The Cadillac Cimarron, a Good Mercedes-Benz Competitor

Sometimes car companies get a bit carried away with a new idea that, for a myriad of reasons, doesn’t translate so well in its execution. Toyota (and other Japanese companies) did exactly this when they invested in the very unsuccessful line of WiLL cars and other consumer products in the early 2000s.

Today we look at a 1980s domestic example of an idea that fell flat. It was the time Cadillac thought applying lipstick to a Cavalier-shaped pig would make the BMW and Mercedes-Benz 190E customer come a’callin. It’s time for Cimarron, a J-body joint.

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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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Rare Rides: A Very Luxurious Camry, the 1990 Lexus ES 250

Today’s Rare Ride was the only other car accompanying Lexus’ LS 400 at dealerships in 1990 and 1991. The fanciest Camry offered in the US, it was a badge conversion from a Camry sold in the Japanese market.

But consumers saw through the charade, so while the high-effort LS 400 flew off the showroom floor, the minimal effort ES just sat there.

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Junkyard Find: 2009 Volkswagen Routan

Badge engineering! Always near the top of my search list when poking through car graveyards, obscure examples of marketing-inspired rebadgitude will jump right out from the ho-hum ranks of Elantras and LaCrosses in any yard. I haven’t managed to find a discarded Suzuki Equator yet, sad to say, but I have documented such rarities as a Mitsubishi-badged Hyundai Excel, an Isuzu-badged Chevy Colorado, and a Dodge-badged Renault 25. Today we’ll visit one of the most puzzling examples of badge-engineering history in the North American automotive marketplace: the Volkswagen Routan.

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Plymouth Horizon Miser

Even while importing Mitsubishi Colt Galants and badging them as Dodge Colts, Chrysler looked to its European outposts to find an additional suitable econo-commuter to sell in North America. The Hillman Avenger aka Plymouth Cricket hadn’t worked out so well, and nor had the Simca 1204, but the Simca/Talbot Horizon under development in the middle 1970s looked very promising. Soon enough, an Americanized version made it into production, making its debut here in the 1978 model year and staying in production all the way through 1990. I’ve documented quite a few of these cars in junkyards, but the super-economical Horizon Miser had eluded me… until now.

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Junkyard Find: 2001 Cadillac Catera
Starting in the late 1950s, officers in The General’s Michigan command post pushed hard to get Americans to buy German-built Opels. Buick dealers sold Kadetts, GTs, and Mantas well into the 1970s, and Isuzu-badged Kadett Cs could be purchased here as late as 1984. One of the most ambitious attempts to move Opels out of North American showrooms took place during the 1997 through 2001 model years when the Opel Omega B became the Caddy That Zigged. Here’s a final-year Catera in a northeastern Colorado yard.
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Junkyard Find: 2007 Pontiac G5 GT Coupe

While General Motors may have developed an alarming rod knock during the middle 2000s, culminating in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, The General’s Pontiac Division was shooting rods through the hood by 2007 or so. Oh, sure, the Solstice gave us all hope for the marque that gave us so many great machines over the decades, but few felt optimistic about Pontiac by the time the G5 hit showrooms for the 2007 model year. Here’s one of those first-year G5s, a Performance Red GT Coupe found in a Denver-area yard over the weekend.

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Junkyard Find: 2005 Saab 9-7X Linear

The General had a healthy sales hit with the GMT360 platform in the 2002 model year, when the new Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, and Oldsmobile Bravada hit the showrooms. Since GM had devoured Saab in 2000 and most American car shoppers wanted trucks or truck-shaped machines by that point, it seemed to make sense to produce a Saab-badged GMT360 and extract some cash from that slice of the car-buying populace that craved both the rugged-lifestyle signifiers of a truck and the quirky-yet-sensible Swedish image of a Saab. The Isuzu-badged version— the Ascender— had had its debut for 2004, and so the Saab 9-7X appeared for 2005 (sadly, no Daewoo- or Vauxhall-badged versions were produced). Here’s a first-model-year 9-7X, found in a Denver self-service yard last week.

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  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.