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 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 16, 2019

1981 Mercedes-Benz W123 wagon in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe oldest Mercedes-Benz W123 diesels are getting pretty close to 45 years of age, which means that— finally— they’re wearing out and becoming easy to find in the big self-service car graveyards that I frequent. Most of these proto-E-Classes sold in North America were sedans, but the wagons developed something of a cult following and I keep my eyes open for discarded examples.

Here’s an ’81 300TD turbodiesel that seems to have been going strong when it got crashed. (Read More…)

By on December 9, 2019

1974 Toyota Corona wagon in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince my first car was a very beige 1969 Toyota Corona sedan and I now own a heavily customized lowrider 1969 Toyota Corona coupe, I’m always on the lookout for Coronas in junkyards. Just prior to a California trip I took a week ago, I received a Row52 notification about a 1974 Corona at an East Bay self-service yard.

Here’s what I found. (Read More…)

By on November 11, 2019

Riviera. The mere mention of the name brings to mind visions of luxury. Perhaps of a CRT that glowed brightly on a stormy night, as your grandmother drove you home from a 4:55 p.m. dinner at Old Country Buffet. Or perhaps of the GM 3800 V6, maybe in elite supercharged form.

Today’s Rare Ride predates either of those anecdotes, and is special for a very different reason: It’s a last-of moment.

(Read More…)

By on November 4, 2019

1973 Plymouth Duster 340 in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDepending on how strict you are about stuff like gross-versus-net horsepower ratings, emissions-related compression ratios, or the general feeling of Malaise that set in after the 1973 Oil Crisis, the Golden Age of the Detroit Muscle Car ended in some year between 1970 and 1974. I say that year was 1970 and that only midsize coupes really qualify, but my definition leans to the strict side.

The case could be made that the 1973 Duster 340 was a lot more fun-per-buck than Chrysler’s “traditional” muscle car choices for that model year (the Plymouth Road Runner and Dodge Charger), and so we’ll keep that in mind when studying today’s Junkyard Find. (Read More…)

By on October 28, 2019

Imagine you desire the sporting characteristics of a coupe, with the practicality of something larger like a sedan. Now imagine you opted for neither of those things, and instead bought an eccentric shooting brake. A fevered dream of polyester malaise and Italian electrics await; it’s the 1977 Lancia Beta HPE.

(Read More…)

By on October 21, 2019

1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWith all the generations of the Cougar that Mercury sold, from the Mustang-based ’67 through the Mondeo-based ’02, which one sold the best? That’s right, the rococo Thunderbird-sibling 1977-1979 models, and most of them were luxed-up XR-7s.

Yes, the Man’s Car, slathered with chrome and vinyl and menacing feline-themed badging, proved to be the ideal machine for the Disco Period of the Malaise Era, and I’ve found this well-preserved ’79 in a Northern California self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on October 14, 2019

1981 Chevrolet Chevette in Denver wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNorth Americans could buy the Chevrolet Chevette, featuring the finest in affordable early-1970s Opel Kadett C technology, starting with the 1976 model year. Chevette sales continued all the way through 1987, amazingly enough, because it could be manufactured and sold so cheaply.

Since the Chevette was so simple and sold in such large numbers, enough have survived that I still find them in the big self-service wrecking yards to this day. Here’s a grimy, beat-up ’81 spotted in a Denver yard last winter. (Read More…)

By on September 3, 2019

1974 Lincoln Continental Mark IV in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBig, Detroit-made Malaise Era personal luxury coupes still keep showing up in the big self-service wrecking yards, more than 35 years after the last one rolled off the assembly line. Yes, the diminished-expectations Mark VI, the “What Oil Crisis?” Mark V, and the rococo Mark IV— examples of each of these will appear in your local U-Wrench yard from time to time.

Here’s a worn-out Mark IV from the year of Nixon’s resignation and Haile Selassie’s banishment from his throne in a lowly Beetle, now awaiting The Crusher in a Denver yard. (Read More…)

By on July 29, 2019

1981 Ford Escort in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The automotive industry’s shift from rear-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive was in full swing by the late 1970s, and the folks at Dearborn knew that the successor to the Pinto would need to get with the space-and-weight-saving FWD program. The North American Escort appeared in the 1981 model year and sold very well to buyers with strong memories of gas lines in 1979 and 1973.

Rapid depreciation condemned nearly all of these early Escorts to The Crusher well before the end of the 1990s, but a few miraculous survivors managed to hang on for extra decades. Here’s one of those cars, spotted in a Denver-area self-service yard last winter. (Read More…)

By on June 10, 2019

Vehicles from plucky AMC are always welcome here at Rare Rides. Thus far, the series has featured a Metropolitan, a concept Van, a Matador Barcelona, and a very tasty Sundancer. The latter is a cousin of today’s relentlessly beige Concord two-door sedan.

Ready for some malaise?

(Read More…)

By on June 7, 2019
  1. After our most recent Rare Rides post, your author perused The Big List of BDB Ideas and discovered a suggestion commenter Sgeffe made many moons ago. He suggested the most basic coupe A-bodies on offer in 1979. Feeling cheap? Let’s get weird.

(Read More…)

By on June 6, 2019

Hearing the Cutlass name inspires visions of 442, of color-key rally wheels, or perhaps thoughts of tacky aftermarket ruination and glittery paint.

This grey fastback sedan doesn’t often come to mind, but perhaps it should. Presenting the 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon. Likely, Olds called it Salon because you can fit big hair into it.

(Read More…)

By on June 4, 2019

In an interesting case of historical marketing, this very yellow Rare Ride seems to have adjectives applied to it which are, in fact, false. Today we have a look at a 1979 Ford Pinto European Sports Sedan.

(Read More…)

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