By on July 1, 2019

1994 Mazda Navajo in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Mazda and Ford go way back when it comes to the badge-engineering game, what with all those Mazda-built Ford Couriers, Mazda-based Ford Escorts, Mazda-badged Ford Rangers, and so on. Since I love weird examples of badge engineering in the junkyard, I’m always on the lookout for the likes of a Saab-badged Chevy or Acura-badged Isuzu, and so I have been keeping my eyes open for a rare Mazda-ized Ford Explorer for quite a while. Most of them got crushed long ago, as the early Explorer has very little value today (due to its laughably small size and lack of luxury features, by 21st-century American-market suburban commuter-truck standards), but this ’94 just showed up in a Denver self-service yard.  (Read More…)

By on June 10, 2019

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome of the most interesting examples of GM badge engineering during the last few decades involved the Isuzu brand; first, the Chevrolet LUV pickup (Isuzu Faster) arrived during the late 1970s, followed by the Chevrolet/Geo Spectrum (Isuzu Gemini) and Geo Storm (Isuzu Impulse), and finally the Trailblazer-based Isuzu Ascender. Mixed in there was the Isuzu-ized second-gen Chevy S-10, also known as the Hombre.

You won’t find many Hombres in your local wrecking yard, but I kept my eyes open for one until this ’96 showed up in Denver. (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2019

Perhaps to its misfortune, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles does not sell a midsize pickup in the world’s biggest truck market, but buyers in certain overseas markets were able to get into a four-door, body-on-frame midsizer carrying the Fiat badge — the Fullback, more properly described as a rebadged Mitsubishi Triton/L200.

Note the word “were.” The Fiat Fullback is no more, according to FCA’s light commercial vehicles division. The discontinuation stems from the same problem Fiat faces in America: really bad sales. (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2019

VW

European and other overseas buyers will one day be able to purchase a Volkswagen version of the Ford Ranger, all thanks to the automakers’ recently forged alliance, but what about North American customers?

The dream of a German pickup in the U.S. is still alive, VW confirms. However, what that truck might look like — and who will build it — is still a question mark. (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2018

Imagine you’re an American auto executive in the 1980s, looking on in desperation as all the youthful and wealthy customers head almost solely to BMW showrooms for their sports-oriented sedans and coupes.

Now imagine you work at Ford, and you’ve decided to do something about it. By the way, you’re Bob Lutz right now.

It’s Merkur time.

(Read More…)

By on November 5, 2018

1999 Acura SLX in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Even though we’ve just had two Japanese Junkyard Finds in a row, I’ve been searching for a discarded Acura SLX for so long that I had to share this ’99 in Denver immediately. (Read More…)

By on September 3, 2018

1993 Geo Tracker in Illinois wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

When The General created the Geo brand in 1989, the idea was that cars designed and/or built by Toyota, Isuzu, and Suzuki could be sold in the United States under the GM flag (Geos became Chevrolets after 1997). Of all the cars that bore Geo badging, the Tracker stayed in production the longest, when a Suzuki Grand Vitara-based Chevy Tracker could be purchased through 2004.

Here’s a frighteningly corroded 1993 Geo Tracker, spotted in a self-service wrecking yard in Joliet, Illinois. (Read More…)

By on July 23, 2018

2008 Saturn Astra XE in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Remember the Saturn Astra? A Belgian-built Opel Astra, it was supposed to replace the Ion, but GM had a few distractions around that time and axed the Saturn Astra early in 2009… followed by the Saturn brand itself.

Just two model years, poor sales, weird Euro-Detroit badge-engineering hijinks, and a near-instant disappearance from cultural memory: just what I like best in a Junkyard Find! (Read More…)

By on June 25, 2018

1995 Dodge Stealth in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsChrysler started selling Dodge-badged Mitsubishis all the way back in 1970, then built plenty of Mitsubishi products in North America under the Diamond-Star Motors flag later on. The Mitsubishi GTO (sold as the Mitsubishi 3000GT and Dodge Stealth on this side of the Pacific) was built in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, and was one of the more interesting sports cars of the 1990s.

Here’s a 1995 Stealth R/T, photographed in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on June 11, 2018

1998 Eagle Talon in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile assembling my website pages with links to every Eagle and Mitsubishi car I have ever photographed in wrecking yards, I learned something troubling: I had never shot an Eagle Talon. Sure, there was this Plymouth Laser Turbo and this much never Mitsubishi Eclipse, but no examples of the Eagle Division’s most beloved — well, only— sports coupe.

I resolved that I’d shoot the next Talon I spotted in a wrecking yard; that car turned out to be this one in Denver, from the final model year of Eagle. (Read More…)

By on March 21, 2018

Image: GM

General Motors, the automaker that once took badge engineering to dizzying new heights, is culling a slow-selling carbon copy from its lineup. The Chevrolet City Express, a small, front-drive panel van you’ll be forgiven for not remembering, will no longer be available to commercial buyers, GM says.

Essentially a Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo with a chrome grille and bowtie badge where the word “Nissan” should be, this body double gave GM a cheap North American entry in a small commercial van market dominated by Ford Motor Company. It seems buyers preferred Ford by a wide margin. Don’t worry, though — there’s still a CVT-equipped van available for repairmen with oddball tastes. (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2017

1993 Dodge Colt in Arizona junkyard, hood - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Chrysler began importing Mitsubishi Colt Galants for the 1971 model year, and Mitsubishis bearing Dodge (or Plymouth) Colt badging streamed across the Pacific Ocean and into American dealerships for the following 23 years.

I spotted this vibrantly decorated ’93 model in a Phoenix self-serve yard earlier this month. (Read More…)

By on October 10, 2016

1983 Dodge Ram 50 in Colorado Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Small pickups sold pretty well in the United States during the Malaise Era, and Ford and GM cashed in by importing and rebadging Mazda and Isuzu trucks, respectively. Chrysler, late to the party, turned to longtime partner Mitsubishi and began bringing in first-generation Forte pickups, starting in the 1979 model year.

Here’s a Dodge-badged version I found last week in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2016

1996 Isuzu Oasis in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

One of the best things about haunting high-inventory-turnover self-service junkyards is finding really rare vehicles. Sometimes those ultra-rare machines are ancient European cars nobody remembers, sometimes they are commonplace cars with options nobody ordered, and sometimes they are obscure imported minivans that disappeared without a trace.

Today’s Junkyard Find is the third type, with a bewildering badge-engineering subplot that made sense to about a half-dozen suits in Japan. (Read More…)

By on June 13, 2016

1990 Geo Storm in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - © 2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Storm was the Geo-ized American-market version of the 1990-1993 Isuzu Gemini Coupe, and the GSi version was cheaper and more powerful than most of its sport-compact competition of the era. Most of them seemed to come in bright yellow paint, and most of them were crushed before they hit their tenth birthday. Still, some of them survived as long as any Civic Si or Sentra SE-R.

Here’s one that I found in a Denver-area self-service yard last year. (Read More…)

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