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 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 4, 2019

1991 Dodge Shadow convertible in North Carolina wrecking yard, LH side view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Dodge Shadow and its Plymouth Sundance sibling were among the last members of the extended Chrysler K-car family to be built, sold from the 1987 through 1994 model years and replaced by the Neon after that. Millions were sold, but these cars are all but forgotten today. Chrysler built a handful of convertible Shadows, perhaps inspired by GM’s feat of selling some Geo Metro convertibles, and I’ve found this ’91 in a North Carolina self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on November 7, 2018

The 8 Series is a car that, given the market’s current direction, probably shouldn’t exist. Low, long, and wide, it’s the polar opposite of the vanilla crossovers that permeate parking lots and power centers. This is precisely what makes it, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe, magnificent machines.

Just four months after production of the 8 Series coupe ramped up, that model is joined by a droptop version. BMW chooses to call it a “textile” soft top, one that’s able to let the world’s richest extroverts and exhibitionists soak up the sun’s rays in less than fifteen seconds.

(Read More…)

By on September 24, 2018

1982 Chrysler LeBaron in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

While Chrysler developed endless variations of the original K Platform, adding branches to the K-car Family Tree through 1995, only the Dodge Aries/400/600, Plymouth Reliant, and Chrysler LeBaron were true Ks. The K-cars saved Chrysler from near-certain bankruptcy, with the first Dodge and Plymouth versions rolling off showroom floors as 1981 models; the LeBaron came the following year, and the luxurious LeBaron convertible stood tall as the K-car King.

Here’s a well-preserved 1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible in a Denver-area self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on September 14, 2018

The Volkswagen Beetle, a machine that has a grand total of three (count ’em) generations since its introduction, will be ushered out the factory door in Puebla next July. The modern Bug, as we know it today, showed up as a concept car in 1997 and entered production a couple of years later as the New Beetle. In 2011, the car found itself restyled and rechristened as simply the Beetle, just like the old Beetle. But not the New Beetle, even though most people continued to call the New New Beetle the New Beetle, despite its official name being simply Beetle.

Achtung! No one ever said naming conventions had to make sense.

Whatever you want to call it, production of the car will wrap up in mid-2019. As a send off, VW has crafted a special model option called the Final Edition.

(Read More…)

By on August 13, 2018

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata Soul Red Front Quarter Wide AngleTake a good look at the photos throughout these virtual pages. A really good look. If you haven’t been obsessively reading about the refreshed-for-2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata, you are no doubt puzzled by the “First Drive” tag in the title.

Indeed, Mazda didn’t change anything visually significant in this, the fourth model year of the fourth generation of the legendary Miata. From the outside, the only real clue is the appearance of a gash in the rear bumper for a rear-view camera. But under the hood, it becomes clear that Mazda engineers channeled the storied fictional guitarist in turning the already excellent Miata to eleven.

(Read More…)

By on May 31, 2018

Less than a year away from its 10th birthday, Nissan’s 370Z is getting a modest refresh in the hopes of maintaining some kind of relevance. Despite being the better car, the present model failed to outsell the 350Z in the United States in all but its introductory year, and annual deliveries have continue to tumble ever since. Nissan only managed to move 4,614 examples in 2017, which is less than half the volume seen in 2010.

The Z car represents the last gasp of Japanese muscle and it’s been gradually wheezing its way out of prominence. Most of the famous alphanumeric nameplates from the island nation were buried over a decade ago. But the Nissan lived on, almost as if it was saving a seat for the Toyota Supra’s return(Read More…)

By on March 19, 2018

2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition previewed at New York Internat - Image: Nissan

Taking all of this with a huge grain of salt, as future plans at many manufacturers are often more fluid than the salty Atlantic Ocean, reports are surfacing of Nissan forging ahead with a new Z. And it’s not a crossover.

According to the UK outlet Autocar, Nissan will display a concept Z at this year’s Tokyo show in October*, with a production version showing up a year later in L.A.

(Read More…)

By on March 7, 2018

2018 FIAT 124 Spider

Many corners of the internet expected the roadster shown here to show up as an Alfa Romeo Spider, not a Fiat 124 Spider, when rumours surfaced all those years ago about the MX-5 donning a natty Italian suit. Perhaps Fiat Chrysler made its decision at the time based on Fiat’s larger dealer network or some sort of answer provided by Sergio’s Magic 8 Ball.

Whatever the reason, we now live in a world where a brace of affordable and fun two-place roadsters are on offer. While the fraternal twins share a great deal, their clothes are different, as are their hearts. We’ve already deemed the base Mazda MX-5 to be worthy of AoB mention; can its Italian brother turn the same trick?

(Read More…)

By on December 4, 2017

1998 Chevrolet Cavalier in Phoenix wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
GM sold 191 octillion Cavaliers, more or less, during the Chevrolet-badged J-Body‘s 1982-2005 production run, and so I walk by many discarded examples without feeling any urge to grab my camera.

A late-1990s Z24 convertible is a rarity, though, and so I photographed this ’98 in a Phoenix self-service yard back in July. (Read More…)

By on October 16, 2017

1985 Chrysler LeBaron in Arizona wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
While Chrysler made a bewildering array of vehicles based on the staving-off-bankruptcy K Platform, only four models could be called pure K-cars: the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Dodge 400, and Chrysler LeBaron. All the rest, from the Town & Country minivan to the Imperial, were based on mutated K hardware.

Here’s an example of a fully luxed-up LeBaron convertible, featuring body trim made from the stately trees of the Magical Petrochemical Forest, spotted in a Phoenix self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet - Image: © Timothy Cain250 years ago, in Prince Edward Island’s 1767 land lottery of 64 parcels, Lot 20 was scooped up by Theodore Houltain and Thomas Basset.

Encompassing the communities of Malpeque Bay, Clinton, French River, Park Corner, Sea View, and other hamlets, and possessing fewer than 1,000 people, Lot 20 is a gem along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s a gem I thought I knew well, at least until I took possession of our new family home earlier this week. Last night, with my friend Jeff The HR Manager operating as a tour guide, we traversed virtually every road on Lot 20 in the company of a 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet.

We reached antisocial speeds, as AMGs are prone to do. We consumed fuel, as twin-turbo V6s are inclined to do. We made inappropriate noises, as Mercedes-Benz’s Dynamic Select Sport+ mode (with the Performance Exhaust System’s button also depressed) is wont to do.

And we made friends, as convertibles have always and will forever do. (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

Image: 1981 AMC Concord Sundancer

Today’s Rare Ride is fairly old compared to the rest of the cars in this series, and it’s the first look at quirky and long-expired manufacturer American Motors Corporation (AMC).

A few years before being swallowed up by Chrysler in its desire to own Jeep, AMC produced this very unique PLC-TC, or Personal Luxury Coupe Targa Convertible.

Come and have a look.

(Read More…)

By on May 17, 2017

Chevrolet Corvette C7 convertible roof gif - Image: giphy

Intending to ask your advice before I actually made a purchase, I was left alone with no family to entertain me last Friday night and, well, something happened. To go along with our long-term 2015 Honda Odyssey EX, I exchanged a large sum of cash for a new vehicle.

Tell people what you’re going to name your baby, and they will tell you what they really think. Tell people what you named your baby, and they’re more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you named him Dwayne.

Similarly, tell people what car you’re planning to buy, and they’ll be forthright with their opinions. Tell them what you’ve already bought, and they’ll be more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you bought a Outlander.

So we’re going back in time to last Thursday. The automotive universe is littered with options. My choices are limitless. Major life changes have presented our family with new opportunities, but also new challenges. Regardless, it’s time to double the size of our fleet. (Read More…)

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