By on March 30, 2020

1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen I’m strolling through my favorite junkyards and looking for significant bits of discarded automotive history, I’m always on the lookout for interesting Volvos. Thing is, my definition of interesting has long spanned the PV544/Amazon Era through the Late Rear-Wheel-Drive Brick Era, meaning that the universe of front- and all-wheel-drive Volvos beginning with the 1993 850 has been neglected in this series.

Lately, I’ve been making an effort to fill in some of those blank spots in the junkyard record, and so I went out and found a ’97 850R sedan and today’s find: this 1995 850 Turbo Wagon. (Read More…)

By on March 23, 2020

1980 Honda Accord in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn rust-prone regions, first-generation Honda Accords oxidized to oblivion well before the 1980s were finished, but elsewhere they held together for decade after decade. I still see the occasional 1977-1981 Accord when I walk the rows of car graveyards in Colorado and California, though nearly all of those cars are hatchbacks.

Here’s a hard-to-find ’80 Accord sedan in Denver. (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2020

1977 BMW 320i in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile I may be guilty of not photographing all — or even most — of the interesting BMWs I find in the car graveyards on my appointed rounds, I’m making an effort to get the complete set of discarded 20th-century 3 Series cars. In fact, once I remember to shoot the next junked E46 I find (which will be easy, as these cars have become plentiful in the yards I frequent), we’ll have the complete junkyard history of the 3 Series from 1977 through 2006.

The first-ever 3 Series, the E21, has become something of a junkyard rarity in recent years, but I found this ’77 in Central California back in December. (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2020

2005 Suzuki Reno in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWould you consider a special-edition version of the Daewoo Nubira’s successor to be worthy of inclusion in this series, even as I walk by 99 out of 100 junked BMW E30s? Hey, if I’m willing to photograph every Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally and Geo Storm GSi that I find in the junkyard, then of course a genuine, numbers-matching Suzuki Reno SWT makes the cut! (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2020

1987 Nissan Maxima in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Nissan Maxima of the 1980s remains one of my favorite Junkyard Finds, partly because it began the decade as a sporty rear-wheel-drive cousin to the Z-Car and ended it as a swanky front-wheel-drive pseudo-luxury machine… but mostly because these cars came stuffed full of the quirky futuristic technology that made Japanese cars so interesting during The Turbo Decade.

Here’s a high-mile ’87 Maxima I spotted in an East Bay self-service yard last month. (Read More…)

By on February 24, 2020

1988 Pontiac LeMans in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince starting doing this goofy car-writing-online gig 13 years ago last month, I have documented the demise of 2,073 discarded vehicles in excruciating detail. During that time, I have walked right past thousands and thousands of allegedly interesting cars and trucks (sorry, BMW 3 Series fans, but I’ve been trying to make it up to you in recent years) in order to obsess over my very favorite kind of junkyard machines: littleknown examples of puzzling badge engineering. That means that when I see the South Korean Pontiac LeMans in a junkyard, I photograph it.

Here’s a low-mile, first-model-year LeMans sedan, found in a Denver car graveyard last spring. (Read More…)

By on February 17, 2020

1977 Chrysler New Yorker in Denver junkyard, RH side view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe New Yorker name goes way back for Chrysler, running from the 1940 model year all the way through a series of K-car- and Eagle Premier-based front-drivers in the 1980s and 1990s. To me, though, the greatest of the Chrysler New Yorkers were the ones built on the majestic C-Body unibody platform for the 1965 through 1978 model years, and I have the most affection for the “we don’t care about oil prices” cars of the Middle Malaise Era.

Here’s a (nearly) two-and-a-half-ton ’77 Brougham hardtop sedan, which met its doom in a Denver self-service yard last fall. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2020

1990 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon in California junkyard, RH side view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOne of the frustrating things about my job looking for interesting discarded vehicles is the fact that most cars and light trucks didn’t start getting six-digit odometers until the 1980s or even the 1990s. I find vehicles that I know must have racked up incredible total mileage figures, but their odometers all turned over (once? ten times?) when they got past 99,999 miles.

Fortunately, Volvo felt sufficiently optimistic to adopt the six-digit odometer way back in the 1960s, so I was able to read a very impressive figure on the one in this 740 wagon: 493,549 miles. (Read More…)

By on February 3, 2020

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAs anyone who follows this series knows, Detroit sedans from the 19461975 era still show up in cheap selfservice junkyards all the time (really, I photograph several every month). What might not be as well-known, however, is the frequency with which classic cartrucks (or truckcars, if you prefer) end up in such yards.

Here’s an early Falcon Ranchero that worked hard for many decades after its New Car(truck) Scent faded away, photographed in a Denver yard just a few days ago. (Read More…)

By on January 27, 2020

1987 Jaguar XJ6 in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Jaguar built the Series III Jaguar XJ for the 1979 through 1992 model years, and so I’ve been seeing these cars in the big self-service vehicle graveyards since, well, the middle 1980s. They still show up in such yards to this day, as long-neglected project cars get swept up in yard- and driveway-clearance projects, but I’ll only document those that are particularly interesting.

A very clean British Racing Green XJ6 from the last model year for the Series III’s straight-six engine certainly qualifies, so here we go! (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2020

2002 BMW X5 in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Now that I’ve been doing these Junkyard Finds for 13 years and having just written my annual 10 Best Junkyard Cars post, I’m taking a look back to see what historically significant vehicles I’ve neglected as I pursue weird examples of badge engineering and triviaquestion AWD versions. I’ve been working on filling in the blanks with junked BMW 3 and 5 Series cars lately, along with 21stcentury econoboxes, and now I will be trying to shoot more German luxury SUVs.

We’ll start off with this clean-looking ’02 X5, which I found in a yard just south of Denver. (Read More…)

By on January 13, 2020

1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle was pretty well obsolete when North American sales took off during the late 1950s, and so this mid-1930s design had become shockingly obsolete by the 1970s. Still, Americans understood the Beetle as a comfortably known quantity by that time and the price tag was really cheap, so Beetles and Super Beetles still sold well in 1973.

In the parts of the continent where the Rust Monster remains meek, plenty of these cars still exist, enough for them to be fairly common sights in the big self-service junkyards. Here’s a ’73 Super Beetle in a San Francisco Bay Area yard. (Read More…)

By on January 6, 2020

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter better than 1,800 Junkyard Finds, Junkyard Treasures, and Junkyard Gems since I started doing this stuff in 2007, the oldest discarded vehicle I’ve shot is a 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan in Denver (that’s not counting a lot of older junked cars I’ve shot with ancient film cameras, of course).

Before today, the newest junkyard car I’ve documented was this 2012 Fiat 500, but now I’ve got a car that might still have had That New Car Smell if it hadn’t been cruelly abused every day of its short life. (Read More…)

By on December 30, 2019

1982 Mercury Cougar in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Mercury Cougar went through numerous platform and image changes during its 34 years of production, and I’ve managed to document examples of just about all of those changes during the course of my junkyard journeys. One generation of Cougar that remained a tough one to find, however, was the 1980-1982 fifth-generation cat, the first of the Fox-body Cougars and the boxiest of the bunch.

Finally, I discovered this green-on-green-on-some-more-green ’82 GS two-door sedan in a California self-service yard — yet another vehicle sure to result in many bitter tears from my Ford-obsessed colleague, Sajeev Mehta. (Read More…)

By on December 23, 2019

1986 Buick Riviera T-Type in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe General’s Buick division went all futuristic starting in the middle 1980s, hoping to win back (younger) American buyers who were switching their loyalty to high-tech European machinery at that time. The sleek Reatta two-seater came along in the 1988 model year, but the 1986 Riviera (and, to a lesser extent, the Somerset) were the first models to get the science-fiction touch.

Here’s a maximum-options Riviera T-Type coupe, which came with 800-way power seats and a touchscreen computer interface, spotted in a Silicon Valley self-serve yard last month. (Read More…)

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