Tag: California

By on June 3, 2019

1978 Mercury Zephyr Z7 in California wrecking yard, RH view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn between the homely Ford Maverick/Mercury Comet and the punitively sensible Ford Tempo/Mercury Topaz, the folks at Dearborn provided North Americans with the Ford Fairmont and its Mercury sibling, the Zephyr, as reasonably modern rear-wheel-drive compact commuter machines. For those car shoppers wanting to get a bit devilish with their selections, Ford dealers offered the Fairmont Futura coupe, while your local Mercury store had the Zephyr Z-7 coupe.

Here’s a tan-beige-brown Zephyr Z-7 in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on May 28, 2019

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBack in the early 1980s, when I began my junkyard-crawling career in the East Bay, I would find examples of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider on a depressingly regular basis. I still find them today, in about the same quantities; the only difference is that now they’re 40 years old instead of six years old.

Here’s the latest: a black ’79 without a speck of corrosion, spotted in my old East Oakland junkyard stomping grounds (though at a yard that didn’t exist in 1982). (Read More…)

By on May 13, 2019

1989 Honda CRX in California wrecking yard, LH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Honda CRX is one of my very favorite 1980s cars, hailing from an era when Americans paid well over MSRP and/or waited for months for the privilege of getting a new Honda. Twenty years ago, I owned a few early CRXs (before giving up on the carbureted CVCC examples, which were impossible to get through California’s strict emissions tests due to the “Map of the Universe” tangle of vacuum lines), and I often thought of getting a fuel-injected late CRX.

Such cars were expensive back then, but values have plummeted to the point where I now see 1988-1991 CRXs at U-Wrench-type yards. Here’s one in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Read More…)

By on May 7, 2019

It’s no secret that California plans to ignore any federal ruling that soften emissions regulations on automobiles. The state’s already suing the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the data used to justify the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of vehicle emission standards. It has also recruited leadership in other states to join the cause and adopt its zero-emission-vehicle strategy.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has already signed an executive order directing the state to follow California’s path — joining with Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and other participating states toward a common cause. However, the battle isn’t over yet. Industry lobbyist are hard at work changing minds, and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) seems to be making progress with Colorado.  (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2019

Last week, San Jose became subject to borderline draconian street-racing laws after city council (unanimously) voted to pass legislation effectively making it illegal to even watch impromptu automotive exhibitions. However, “spectating” is loosely defined in the new law, as parties don’t have to know a race is going on to get into trouble.

Even milling around a car show before shenanigans break out is enough to earn someone a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

The new laws give police plenty of power to break up late-night car events, plus the ability  to arrest whomever they want — creating a pretty good incentive to just stay home, rather than risk getting into trouble. It also feels like overkill, and it sets an ugly precedent for punishing Californians who aren’t actively contributing to a crime.  (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2019

1995 Ford Mustang GT in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter writing about junkyard cars since early 2007, I just realized that the newest discarded Mustang I’d documented was a 1984 model. As you’d imagine, Mustangs from the late Fox and SN95 eras are easy to find in North American wrecking yards, so I resolved to shoot the next interesting one I found… which turned out to be this much-abused ’95 GT I spotted in a Silicon Valley self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on May 2, 2019

The last decade is littered with announcements from cities, provinces, and states from across the globe, promising to ban internal combustion vehicles by a predetermined date. While the rules and timelines vary quite a bit, the locations are relatively consistent. China and Europe are the most eager to adopt a zero-emission strategy, with California doing most of the promising in North America.

This week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city’s “Green New Deal.” Styled to resemble the contentious stimulus program sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) that shares its name, LA’s plan is similarly concerned with promoting “environmental justice,” equity, green jobs,  renewable energy, improved air quality, and sourcing clean water.

Transportation is also a major component of the deal, with the city suggesting that 100 percent of car sales will be zero-emission by 2050 and 50 percent of all trips could be completed by walking, biking, “micro-mobility” (scooters, etc), or public transit — reducing vehicle miles per capita by 45 percent in the same timeframe.  (Read More…)

By on April 29, 2019

1979 MG Midget in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBMC and then British Leyland churned out MG Midgets and near-identical Austin-Healey Sprites for 20 years, with the final example coming off the Abingdon line in 1980. Because project-grade Midgets still clutter garages, driveways, yards, and fields throughout the land and they’re not worth much, the clock runs out for many of them every year.

The next stop, usually, is among the Sephias and Jettas of the IMPORTS section at a self-service wrecking yard. Here’s a forlorn ’79 I spotted last week in California. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2019

1990 Buick Reatta in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Buick Reatta is one of the more interesting attempts made by The General to steal back some North American buyers who had defected to European luxury brands. For a while, I’d photograph every junked Reatta I found, but more and more kept showing up in big self-service wrecking yards and I stopped paying attention for a while.

Only about 20,000 Reattas were made, but the last 10 years have seen Full Depreciation for these cars. Still, I hadn’t done a Reatta Junkyard Find since 2012, and I spotted this shiny-looking ’90 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard a couple of weeks back, so here we go! (Read More…)

By on March 11, 2019

1994 Volvo 960 in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile I live in Denver, my family and work ties in the San Francisco Bay Area make me a regular visitor at the incredibly well-stocked self-service wrecking yards of the region between San Jose and Richmond. These yards don’t have quite the selection of Subarus and IHC Scouts that I see in the yards around Denver, but they make up for that shortage by stocking plenty of BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Volvos.

Just last week, I found a half-dozen 240s, a 780 Bertone Coupe, and a pair of 960 sedans… in a single yard. Here’s the better-preserved of the two 960s. (Read More…)

By on February 20, 2019

While California has some of the best driving roads in the country, large swaths of the state suffer from serious congestion issues. For years, the preferred solution was to bolster public transit in San Francisco and Los Angeles while simultaneously establishing high-speed rail lines between the two areas. Unfortunately, costs ballooned and support for the project dwindled.

Legislators are now left with a problem. Abandoning the rail program means settling for partially completed lines incapable of transporting passengers directly between LA and the Bay Area. California needs a different solution, and Sen. John Moorlach (R-CA) has a doozy of a proposition: highway lanes with no speed limit.

Effectively, an American Autobahn.  (Read More…)

By on February 14, 2019

Back in 2015, it was rumored that Apple was sinking significant resources and manpower into an electric vehicle program that also incorporated autonomous driving. But updates on “Project Titan” have been infrequent. Apple takes pains to keep its self-driving program under wraps.

There are, however, ways to track its progress. Since Apple tests its vehicles in California, it must submit an annual report to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles outlining how many times human safety drivers retake control or interfere with the vehicle’s self-driving systems, as well as a tally of total miles driven.

Based on this metric alone, Waymo appears to be the industry leader, with “disengagements” occuring every 11,000 miles. General Motors’ Cruise came in second with roughly 5,200 miles between periods of human intervention. But what about Apple? Apparently, the firm is facing some rather strong headwinds. The company claims a human had to retake control every 1.1 miles.  (Read More…)

By on January 30, 2019

Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based firm Ford pumped $1 billion into and handed responsibility for educating its self-driving vehicles, just received a go-ahead for testing in the State of California. The company gained a testing permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, making its autonomous trials perfectly legal on public roads.

Ford’s current trajectory has its autonomous vehicles entering the commercial market by 2021. That’s two years after General Motors promised to do the same. However, recent events cast doubt over whether GM will be able to meet its self-imposed deadlines (some of which dictate future investments from its partners) and start mass production of computer-controlled cars by the end of this year. It’s not just GM that’s having trouble, either. A critical look into autonomous development shows many companies are struggling with advancing the technology to a point that would make it commercially viable.

The Blue Oval might be better positioned in the autonomous race than initially presumed.

(Read More…)

By on January 29, 2019

Hyundai’s Kona Electric is gradually seeping into select dealerships across the United States, requiring the company to (finally) make a definitive statement about its price. While our time spent with the model was brief, it left a positive initial impression. Clearly targeting the likes of Chevrolet’s Bolt and Tesla’s Model 3, the Kona EV did a fine job standing its ground and injecting a fun persona into alternative-energy vehicles.

While good, we held off on declaring it a modern masterpiece until we knew how much Hyundai planned to sell it for. Too expensive and people will tune out because, despite its unique charms, it’s technically still a subcompact crossover from a budget-friendly automaker — slick electric powertrain notwithstanding. Too cheap and the company is basically throwing money out the window, as the model is unlikely to be manufactured in high volumes and the brand can fall back on the federal government’s EV tax credits to absorb some of the cost.  (Read More…)

By on January 28, 2019

Ever since Ford discontinued the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, it’s become much harder to watch out for cops. Initially, you just had to keep tabs on any Dodge Charger in dark paint, but that quickly evolved into drivers becoming suspicious of every monochrome Explorer, Taurus, Durango, Tahoe, or Fusion Hybrid on the road as law enforcement began adopting the models for official use.

A police department in Fremont, California has added a Tesla that list, garnering tons of media attention in the process. However, after looking into the story, it seems Fremont is only testing a single, second-hand Tesla Model S 85D it purchased a year ago to see if the model is fit for service. Considering this is the same city where Tesla manufactures the vehicle, one would think the Fremont Police could have worked out some kind of deal with the factory. However, what interests us — and probably the department — most is figuring whether or not the 2014 Model S can actually hack it beneath the thin blue line.  (Read More…)

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