By on November 1, 2021

1961 Rambler American in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen George Romney— yes, father of Marlin-drivin’ Mitt— took over American Motors soon after its 1954 formation in a merger between Hudson and Nash, he set about shifting the company’s focus from “traditional” big cars locked in an annual styling arms race to a line of affordable compacts built on the success of the little Nash Rambler. By 1961, Nash and Hudson were long gone and every AMC car was a Rambler; the smallest Rambler that year was the American, and the cheapest American was the Deluxe two-door sedan. That’s what we’ve got for today’s Junkyard Find, spotted a few months back in a Denver yard. (Read More…)

By on October 11, 2021

1984 Chevrolet Chevette in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn early 1973, the new GM T Platform was introduced to the world as the Brazilian-market Chevrolet Chevette, followed soon after by the Opel Kadett C in Europe. The Isuzu Bellett Gemini appeared in Japan in 1974, and it wasn’t long before these cheap, rear-wheel-drive subcompacts were being sold in every corner of the GM Empire. North America got the Chevette starting in the 1976 model year, and sales continued here all the way through 1987. American Chevette sales peaked here in the late 1970s, so the examples from the middle 1980s have been tough to find in junkyards. Here’s one of those cars, a thoroughly battered ’84 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard. (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2021

1981 Plymouth Horizon Miser in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsEven while importing Mitsubishi Colt Galants and badging them as Dodge Colts, Chrysler looked to its European outposts to find an additional suitable econo-commuter to sell in North America. The Hillman Avenger aka Plymouth Cricket hadn’t worked out so well, and nor had the Simca 1204, but the Simca/Talbot Horizon under development in the middle 1970s looked very promising. Soon enough, an Americanized version made it into production, making its debut here in the 1978 model year and staying in production all the way through 1990. I’ve documented quite a few of these cars in junkyards, but the super-economical Horizon Miser had eluded me… until now. (Read More…)

By on March 15, 2021

1974 Honda Civic in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe first-generation Honda Civic sold very well in the United States, but it’s just about impossible to find early examples in junkyards these days; I’ve managed to photograph a few ’78s for this series and that’s it. Why? The cars in rust-prone areas dissolved quickly and those in low-corrosion regions got driven to death well before the beginning of our current century. Here’s the oldest discarded 1973-1979 Civic I’ve managed to find since at least the late 2000s. (Read More…)

By on February 8, 2021

2005 Chevrolet Cavalier in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe General built cars on the J Platform for a quarter-century, and J-based machines could be bought new with badges from just about every marque in the far-flung GM Empire. Yes, South Koreans drove Daewoo Esperos, Brits drove Vauxhall Cavaliers, Aussies drove Holden Camiras, and even the Japanese could buy Isuzu Askas and Toyota Cavaliers. In North America, nearly every marque offered J-Bodies at some point… and in the end, the very final Js were Chevy Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires. Here’s one of those end-of-the-line cars, found in a Denver yard a few months ago. (Read More…)

By on January 11, 2021

2001 Plymouth Neon in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Quite a few hallowed (and not-so-hallowed) Detroit brands got axed forever during the decade of the 2000s (whatever we’re calling it now— the Noughts? the Oh-Ohs?), and the one that went to the slaughterhouse first was Plymouth. Starting in 1928 (not-so-coincidentally, just a couple of years after the birth of Pontiac), Americans and Canadians could buy low-priced Plymouths with the same running gear as the costlier Dodges and Chryslers, and life was good. Then the outlines of the brand became increasingly blurred as the 20th Century waned until finally just one Plymouth was left: the Neon. Last week, we saw one of the very last Pontiacs ever made, so we’ll follow that up with one of the final Plymouths. (Read More…)

By on December 7, 2020

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsChrysler’s run of selling rebadged Mitsubishis began way back in 1970, when the rear-wheel-drive Colt Galant arrived here for the 1971 model year. Those cars sold very well in North America, with sales continuing through 1978. After that, Colt badges went onto the front-wheel-drive Lancer Fiore (later sold here as the Mirage). Here’s one of those first-year FWD Colts, found in a Denver-area yard in nice condition and equipped with the extremely cool Twin-Stick dual-range transmission. (Read More…)

By on October 26, 2020

2002 Toyota Corolla CE in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Not long ago, I became curious about the production longevity of the good old three-speed automatic transmission in North America. The first really successful true automatic had four forward speeds and the two-speed Powerglide delivered the slushbox to the masses, but the three-speed Detroit automatics of the 1960s truly converted the continent to the two-pedal religion. During the last couple of decades of the 20th century, the three-speed got sidelined by more sophisticated transmissions. What was the final new car you could buy with a three-speed transmission in North America? That’s today’s Junkyard Find: a 2002 Toyota Corolla CE, found in Denver last week. (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2020

2012 Fiat 500 Gucci Edition in Denver junkyard, RH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe junkyard tells me that the Fiat 500 depreciates nearly as quickly as the New Mini and Mitsubishi Mirage, though the current generation of 500 remains sufficiently recent that most examples I see are crash victims.

This car, though crashed, is still special: a genuine, numbers-matching Gucci Edition Fiat 500, found in a Denver car graveyard. (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2020

2009 Pontiac G3 Wave in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe years 2008 and 2009 were interesting times for GM, with the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 1, 2009 and the Pontiac Division clearly on the ropes (despite the Bondo applied over Pontiac’s rusty image by the Solstice).

To The General’s warlords, only one solution to Pontiac’s woes made sense: take the Chevy Aveo, itself a South Korea-built Daewoo Kalos, and give it Pontiac badges! (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2020

1987 Hyundai Excel in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsUntil the appearance of the Chrysler 200 and the current generation of Mitsubishi Mirage, the fastest average showroom-to-junkyard speed I’d ever seen with a new car took place with the first-generation Hyundai Excel. Even the wretched Yugo, its rival for the title of Cheapest New Car Available In America, seemed to hold together until at least age six or seven before going to The Crusher, but I started seeing plenty of solid-looking ’86 and ’87 Excels at Southern California U-Wrench yards by 1990 or so.

Still, some of those early Excels stayed on the road for decades, and I try to document those miraculous survivors when I find them. Here’s the cleanest first-gen Excel I’ve seen in at least 25 years, found in a Denver self-service yard last week. (Read More…)

By on June 1, 2020

You’d think that examples of the Ford Pinto and its Mercury-badged twin, the Bobcat, would have disappeared from the American junkyard ecosystem by now, given the cheapness of these cars and the decades of exploding-Pinto punchlines since “Pinto Madness” came out in 1977. No doubt due to the huge quantities sold during the Pinto/Bobcat’s 10-year production run (well over three million), such is not the case; I continue to find Pintos and Bobcats in junkyards to this day.

Here’s a light blue ’77 three-door Bobcat in a Northern California self-serve yard. (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 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 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…)

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