By on July 26, 2021

2002 Chevrolet Venture WB Edition in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBack in the days before smartphones and cheap tablet computers, parents planning to take some screaming ankle-biters on a long road trip needed some means of hypnotizing the little darlings into submission, something that didn’t involve extreme measures such as tranquilizer dart guns or child literacy. Minivan makers began installing airliner-style flip-down video displays in the 1990s, enabling The Slime to ooze out of tiny flat screens on the road. The General took this idea one step further, partnering with Warner Brothers to issue a special-edition Chevy Venture packed with Looney Tunes goodies and branding. I spent years trying to find one of these rare vans in the U-Wrench-It yards I frequent, and I hit pay dirt last month in Denver. (Read More…)

By on July 19, 2021

2003 Toyota Prius sedan in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt took many years before the first (non-wrecked) Toyota Priuses began showing up in the big self-service car graveyards I frequent, partly because Toyotas tend to hold together pretty well and partly because buyers of early Priuses seem to be the kind of car owners who obsess over the proper care and feeding of their vehicles. This ’03 Prius in Denver, painted in I Love Gaia Green™ (actually, it’s Electric Green Mica), appears to be one of those well-loved cars that finally just wore out. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2021

1987 Porsche 924S in California junkyard, LH side view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile Porsche provided the (relatively) inexpensive 914 and 924 to American buyers during the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the debut of the 944 here in the 1983 model year resulted in the price tag on the cheapest possible Porsche starting at $18,980 (about $52,240 in 2021 dollars). While the white-powder-dusted 928S listed at $43,000 that year (about $118,360 today), it must have pained the suits in Stuttgart to have nothing to compete for sales with the likes of the affordable Mitsubishi Starion and Nissan 280ZX. So, for the 1987 and 1988 model years, American Porsche shoppers could buy a 924 with a detuned version of the 944’s engine, keeping the cheap(-ish) price tag of the 924 while ditching the VW engine that— humiliatingly— went into American Motors economy cars and even DJ-5 mail Jeeps. This car was known as the 924S, and I’ve found this one in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2021

1996 Mercedes-Benz SL320 R129 in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMercedes-Benz built the R107 SL-class, in all its stodgy-yet-sporty glory, from the 1971 through 1989 model years. I have documented quite a few of those iconic SLs and SLCs in car graveyards over the years, but have not paid much attention to their successor: the R129, built from 1989 through 2001. Today, we fill in some junkyard-history blanks with a mid-production R129, found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard last month. (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2021

2009 Volkswagen Routan in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBadge engineering! Always near the top of my search list when poking through car graveyards, obscure examples of marketing-inspired rebadgitude will jump right out from the ho-hum ranks of Elantras and LaCrosses in any yard. I haven’t managed to find a discarded Suzuki Equator yet, sad to say, but I have documented such rarities as a Mitsubishi-badged Hyundai Excel, an Isuzu-badged Chevy Colorado, and a Dodge-badged Renault 25. Today we’ll visit one of the most puzzling examples of badge-engineering history in the North American automotive marketplace: the Volkswagen Routan. (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2021

1978 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFord returned the Mustang to its roots— an affordable, sporty-looking commuter based on a huge-selling economy car— for the 1974 model year when the Pinto-based Mustang II made its debut. While many now claim that the Mustang II has finally attained true respectability among American car freaks, I still see plenty of Mustang IIs en route to the cold steel jaws of The Crusher. Here’s a heavily-optioned ’78 Mustang II Ghia, complete with V8 engine and screaming orange Stirling cloth interior, found in a Denver self-service yard a couple of weeks ago. (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2021

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsStarting in the late 1950s, officers in The General’s Michigan command post pushed hard to get Americans to buy German-built Opels. Buick dealers sold Kadetts, GTs, and Mantas well into the 1970s, and Isuzu-badged Kadett Cs could be purchased here as late as 1984. One of the most ambitious attempts to move Opels out of North American showrooms took place during the 1997 through 2001 model years when the Opel Omega B became the Caddy That Zigged. Here’s a final-year Catera in a northeastern Colorado yard. (Read More…)

By on June 1, 2021

2007 Pontiac G5 GT in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile General Motors may have developed an alarming rod knock during the middle 2000s, culminating in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, The General’s Pontiac Division was shooting rods through the hood by 2007 or so. Oh, sure, the Solstice gave us all hope for the marque that gave us so many great machines over the decades, but few felt optimistic about Pontiac by the time the G5 hit showrooms for the 2007 model year. Here’s one of those first-year G5s, a Performance Red GT Coupe found in a Denver-area yard over the weekend. (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2021

1983 Chrysler New Yorker in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen Lee Iacocca’s K-cars finally hit American showrooms for the 1981 model year, the ax that had seemed poised over Chrysler’s neck for much of the late 1970s seemed to pull back. For model year 1983, a stretched version of the K chassis became the basis of such luxurious machines as the Dodge 600, Plymouth Caravelle, and Chrysler E-Class. Just to confuse everybody, the New Yorker line bifurcated that year, with the New Yorker Fifth Avenue remaining on the same platform as the rear-wheel-drive Dodge Diplomat and the regular New Yorker becoming an E-platform sibling to the 600/E-Class/Caravelle. Here’s one of those first-year New Yorkers, found in very clean condition in a Denver-area self-service yard last week. (Read More…)

By on May 17, 2021

1987 Subaru GL-10 wagon in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBy the second half of the 1980s, Subaru had moved beyond being known only for tiny, hilarious econoboxes. While American Subaru shoppers could still get front-wheel-drive cheapmobiles at that time, the same showrooms also offered futuristic-looking sports cars and four-wheel-drive family wagons loaded with luxury features. Today’s Junkyard Find is the swankiest Subaru wagon money could buy in 1987 North America: a GL-10 4WD Turbo, found in a Denver car graveyard last summer. (Read More…)

By on May 10, 2021

1976 Triumph TR7 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve been visiting car graveyards since I bought my first hooptie for 50 bucks in the early 1980s, and one thing about American junkyards has remained constant during the following four decades: the presence of 1970s British and Italian sports cars. Maybe they were a bit less weathered in 1987 or 1994 or 2006, but a steady trickle of discarded MGBs, 124 Sport Spiders, X1/9s, Jensen-Healeys, Spitfires, Midgets, and TR7s into U-Wrench yards has flowed at about the same rate throughout. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to discover this allegedly rare 1976 Triumph TR7 Victory Edition in a Denver-area yard last month. (Read More…)

By on May 3, 2021

2008 Dodge Avenger R/T in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen I began traveling the country to work for the 24 Hours of Lemons, back in 2008, I began experiencing the joys of renting the very cheapest cars (that could haul four adults and all their stuff) available at airports in places like Charlotte and Philadelphia. That’s when I discovered the Dodge Avenger and its Journey platform-mate. These fleet-spec Avengers were not good cars, to put it mildly, but we’d speculate— jokingly— on how amazing the factory-hot-rod R/T version must be as we sliced our fingers on door-handle casting flash and listened to the wind shrieking through the sub-par door seals. Here’s one of those mythical Avenger R/Ts, found in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on April 26, 2021

1978 VW Beetle cabriolet in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolkswagen sold the air-cooled Beetle in the United States all the way through 1979, amazingly, overlapping Dasher and Rabbit sales by more than you’d have expected. By that time, the only air-cooled VW left standing here was the Beetle convertible (if you want to get nit-picky, that car was really a Super Beetle, since the last year for the original not-so-super Beetle was 1977 here and all the Beetle convertibles were Supers after 1971). I’ve never found a ’79 Beetle in the junkyard, though I’ve tried my best, but here’s the next-best thing: a ’78 in a Denver self-serve yard last year. (Read More…)

By on April 19, 2021

2005 Saab 9-7X in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The General had a healthy sales hit with the GMT360 platform in the 2002 model year, when the new Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, and Oldsmobile Bravada hit the showrooms. Since GM had devoured Saab in 2000 and most American car shoppers wanted trucks or truck-shaped machines by that point, it seemed to make sense to produce a Saab-badged GMT360 and extract some cash from that slice of the car-buying populace that craved both the rugged-lifestyle signifiers of a truck and the quirky-yet-sensible Swedish image of a Saab. The Isuzu-badged version— the Ascender— had had its debut for 2004, and so the Saab 9-7X appeared for 2005 (sadly, no Daewoo- or Vauxhall-badged versions were produced). Here’s a first-model-year 9-7X, found in a Denver self-service yard last week. (Read More…)

By on April 12, 2021

1993 Honda Civic sedan in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn my search for super-high-mile vehicles in the car graveyards of the land, all the cars I’ve found showing better than a half-million miles on the odometer have been MercedesBenzes (other than a 1982 Rabbit Cabriolet showing an implausible 930k miles on what I think was a defective gauge). The most-traveled Honda I’ve documented was a 1983 Accord sedan with 411,794 miles, and today’s Junkyard Find now takes second-place in the Highest Mileage Honda In the Junkyard contest. (Read More…)

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