The early-21st century fad for retro-styled cars, including the PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, Mini Cooper, and Fiat 500, got its start with the late-1990s introduction of the Volkswagen New Beetle (we’re still waiting for a Nissan model made to look like the Datsun F-10). Like most people (and especially like most who had ever owned a real air-cooled Beetle), I grew weary of the sight of these allegedly cute cars after a few years, and as a result I’ve been ignoring the many examples I find during my junkyard travels.
These cars make up an important piece of our collective automotive history, though, and I resolved that I’d shoot the first one I found on a recent wrecking-yard trip. Here it is, straight from the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay!
Yes, the ZR2 is far from a base truck. But based on a suggestion from the peanut gallery (*waves at PrincipalDan*) we thought it would be a good idea to see if a “base” off-roader is a healthier bet than upgrading to the full meal deal.
In fact, calling the ZR2 a base truck – with its DSSV dampers and other gonzo off-road kit – seems like heresy to your author. Jumping a Colorado ZR2 at 40 mph over an obstacle on a trophy truck track proves just how capable the thing is.
(How’s that Ranger Raptor coming, Ford? Oh, it isn’t? I see. Thanks for the mobility scooter, then.)
Chevy has, however, added another layer onto the ZR2 cake. Called the Bison, is its extra gear worth the cash? Or are gearheads better off with a “base” ZR2 and spending the money on mods of their own? Let’s see.
After the first-generation Mustang went from frisky lightweight to bloated monstrosity, Ford transferred the name over to an economy car based on the Pinto. This proved to be a wise move, in light of certain geopolitical events that took place right around the time the first Mustang IIs began rolling into showrooms, but most of the old Mustang magic was lost during the Pinto-ization process.
Ford created a bunch of flashy trim packages for the car, and I spotted one of the more unusual ones in a Denver self-serve yard a couple of weeks back: the Stallion.
Ordinary family sedans of the 1940s and 1950s look cool and everyone claims to love them, but the sad reality is that hardly anyone with the time, money, space, and skills to restore an old Detroit car bothers with the postwar four-doors. I see 1946-1959 American sedans, mostly in pretty solid condition, with depressing regularity in the big self-service wrecking yards I frequent, and this ’52 Mercury in Denver is the latest one.
Because my very first car was a 50-buck ’69 Corona sedan in dazzling beige, I always photograph Coronas when I see them in wrecking yards. Sadly, Toyota stopped selling the Corona in North America in 1982, which means that I might see one every couple of years these days. Here’s a luxurious, fully loaded 1981 Toyota Corona wagon in a Denver self-service yard.
Since The General built cars on the J Platform from the 1982 through 2005 model years, I still see numerous examples of the J during my junkyard travels. Most of those are late-production Cavaliers and Sunfires — not so interesting — but today we’ve got a genuine high-performance Sunbird bearing one of the most important words of the 1980s: TURBO!
The State of Colorado will be the next territory in the United States to join California in embracing electric vehicles. Democratic Governor Jared Polis has signed an executive order (his very first) proposing that the zero-emission vehicle rule be enacted no later than May of 2019. The rule would require automakers to sell more electric cars within the state each year until it reaches utopian status.
However, that could still be decades away. Thus far, Polis has only asked the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment to propose new rules to the Air Quality Control Commission over the coming months. As of now, there are no official rules stipulating how many EVs need to be sold every year. And California, which started is ZEV program years ago, estimates electric vehicles will account for between 8 and 9 percent of all new car sales within the state by 2025.
Over the decades since the 1960s, the Detroit car companies have tried their best to make dollars selling their Euro-market cars in North America, with varying degrees of success. Ford did tolerably well with the Capri and Fiesta over here, then raked in little American-market income with the Merkur XR4Ti and got bombed, Dresden-style, with Merkur Scorpio sales.
Dearborn optimism climbed to new heights for a high-performance version of the Americanized Mondeo, the Contour SVT, prior to its 1998-model-year debut. Here’s a fiery red ’99 in a Denver wrecking yard.
More pre-1960 vehicles than one might think show up in the big U-Wrench wrecking yards; you won’t find a ’55 Chevy coupe, but I’ve seen Nash Metropolitans, a ’55 Buick, a ’49 Dodge, a ’58 Edsel, a ’53 Willys, and a ’50 Studebaker in recent years, and that’s just a small sampling. Today’s Junkyard Treasure is a ’53 Pontiac Chieftain sedan in very solid condition, photographed in a Denver-area self-service yard last week.
How much would you pay for a midsize truck that was just as capable off-road as Ford’s full-size Raptor?
I am not asking about a Ranger Raptor, since that seems unlikely to be sold here for the moment. So if you want to boulder-bash in size medium, it’s either the Toyota store or the Chevy dealer down the street that will tempt you. One with the Tacoma TRD, the other with the Colorado ZR2 Bison.
Tempt Chevy stores will, but for $50K, is it worth your monthly payment?
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- Beachy Asphalt only works to keep the dirt road below it dry, and it is the dry dirt that holds up the asphalt surface to make a smooth road surface. Once the asphalt cracks or a spring wells up and the dirt gets wet, all bets are off. It is usually due to a spring that perennial potholes form. They are very hard to get rid of.
- JamesG I’m the owner of the featured car that’s currently on EBay. Thanks for such a nice write up on these cars. Mine happens to be in excellent condition and the photos don’t do it justice. The HT4100 isn’t as bad as some made them out to be and they can go 200k miles with proper maintenance. I also own a 79 w/the analog fuel injected 5.7 350 which should have been used through 1985 but ever-increasing CAFE regulations called for more economical power plants which made GM shelve this great motor.
- Jeff S Adam on Rare Classic Cars recently bought a pristine 71 Kenosha Cadillac.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY-G2dExgXE&ab_channel=RareClassicCars%26AutomotiveHistory
- Jeff S Wouldn't most of the large suvs in NYC be livery vehicles? If so that would be hurting those who make their living by driving for hire.
- EBFlex Yes their mass transit is great if you want to be beat within an inch of your life or pushed onto the tracks by some random psycho.