The Toyota Starlet was sold in the United States for the 1981 through 1984 model years, though not in large numbers. It was rock-and-stick simple, had rear-wheel drive and an unkillable pushrod engine, and it got a (claimed) 54 highway mpg. But it was tiny and cramped even by Miserable Econobox standards and had to compete with the Corolla Tercel on the very same showroom floors. Since the Tercel was cheaper, roomier, more powerful (everything is relative!), and generally more modern, American Starlets were rare to start with. They have become even more rare today, as generations of wild-eyed engine-swappers tripled Starlet horsepower and stuffed the handful of remaining examples (that didn’t succumb to rust) into concrete abutments and dragstrip K-barriers.
Here’s a Colorado ’82 that is as close to being completely used up as any vehicle I have ever seen in a wrecking yard.
Most of the time, a car’s final owner doesn’t realize that his or her ride’s next stop will be The Crusher, but some are very aware that the Automotive Grim Reaper will be coming for their wheels soon. Sometimes such an owner glues crap all over the car, and sometimes disturbing cut-and-paste body modifications are in order. In this case, the owner of Volvo 240 must have thought something like, “Hey, Sweden, Germany, what’s the diff?” and applied a quick dose of Bavarianitude to the boxy Swede. I prefer it when a car’s last owner turns it into a road racer, but I think this low-budget customization is worthy of a Junkyard Find.
It takes a really special Geo Metro to achieve Junkyard Find status; the last one that managed the feat was this bright green electric-powered ’95, which turned out to be a Ree-V conversion made in Colorado during the EV optimism of the late 2000s. During a trip to my old San Francisco Bay stomping grounds a few weeks ago, I spotted today’s Junkyard Find parked just a few yards away from this will-make-you-haz-a-sad 1960 Nash Metropolitan.
When I moved into a Victorian near downtown Denver summer before last, I finally had something I’ve been longing for since I started messing around with cars: a garage! Since that time, I’ve been (very) gradually upgrading the place, with better wiring, insulation, beer signs, and so on. My long-term plan for the place involves an elaborate garage audio system, with a serious amp, good speakers all over the place, and a CAT5 line to the house that will provide access to the music collection on my file server. However, my long-term garage-upgrade plan also includes certain items that have higher priority— like, say, a source of heat— and I have been working on those items first. In the meantime, I needed to be able to listen to The Atomic Bitchwax at top volume, and I didn’t want to spend any money on temporary measures. One afternoon, I scavenged up the gear to make an extremely loud four-speaker setup. Here’s how.
The Speed Holes Racing AMC Marlin took home the Organizer’s Choice award at last year’s Colorado 24 Hours of LeMons race, because A) it has a 454 yanked from a wrecked GMC truck set back about three feet from the Marlin’s normal engine location, B) it has a Jaguar XJ6 rear suspension and differential, C) it has hundreds of speed holes punched into the body and, most of all, D) it’s an AMC Marlin. The Marlin wasn’t exactly fast (the tall Jaguar gears and very tired 300,000-mile EFI small-valve engine didn’t make for great acceleration out of the turns), but the handling was surprisingly good for such a big car. For the 2011 B.F.E. GP, Speed Holes Racing decided that more power would be needed.
Back in the “good ol’ days” at Jalopnik, Davey Johnson, Jonny Lieberman, and I would spend our days searching for examples of homemade El Camino-ized cartrucks. It sort of peaked in early ’07, when we found the Starionmino, but it’s taken until now for me to find a genuine El Accordamino live and in-person, parked just a block from my house.
When your 1980 Porsche 924 craps out minutes after the start of its first race and you’re in rural Texas, parts might be a little hard to find. You won’t get far with a blown head gasket and big ol’ notches burned in the head itself. But, damn, the clock keeps ticking! The Moose Knuckles team called every junkyard within 500 miles, but nobody had any 924 (or Audi 100) cylinder heads. In fact, nobody had ever heard of them furrin thangs.
We’ve seen a fair number of outstanding engine swaps in 24 Hours of LeMons racing— the Saab B Turbo-powered 300ZX comes to mind— but most such projects tend to have reliability and/or performance issues in the car-slaughtering arena that is LeMons. At the frozen Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis race a couple weeks back, the much-anticipated radial-engined MR2 ate its drivetrain after a single lap, but there was one outlandishly butchered machine that actually contended for the overall win: the Alfa Romeo quad-cam V6-powered Bertone X1/9 of Team Launcha Splatos.
When you’ve got a team of LeMons veterans who have been racing a Volvo 245 wagon since the earliest days of the 24 Hours of LeMons and you want to add a second car to the stable, you’re going to face stern disapproval if that second car happens to be a BMW E30 or a Mazda Miata. Those choices lack imagination! There must be some way to make a Miata fit Bernal Dads Racing’s Volvo-wagon ethos… but what could it be?
The crazy thing about 24 Hours of LeMons racers is that they actually follow through with their terrible ideas. Maybe it’s the urgency of the deadline, or maybe it’s the peer pressure to keep one-upping the last ridiculous project. Last month we admired the radial aircraft-engine-powered MR2, and now we’ve got another MR2-based team taking on one of the long-discussed LeMons Holy Grails: the twin-engined sub-$500 race car!
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- Jack Bummer, his successor sounds like just another electric car shill :(
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- Kosmo I want to know why Mazda thinks anybody is interested in multiple teasers on a CUV!