By on June 17, 2019

1972 Chevrolet Vega in Phoenix wrecking yard, RH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The General made more than two million Chevrolet Vegas during the car’s 1971-1977 run, and the numbers climb much higher if you include the Vega-derived Chevy Monza and its siblings. The Vega’s many quality problems and rapid cheap-subcompact depreciation led to nearly all of these cars disappearing from American roads well before the dawn of the 1990s, but I still find the occasional example during my junkyard travels. Here’s an early Vega two-door hatch that seemed to be in pretty good shape before it hit a large animal on an Arizona road a couple of years back. (Read More…)

By on May 20, 2019

1980 Plymouth Horizon in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter the Oil Crisis of 1973, Chrysler didn’t have the resources needed to design and build a subcompact economy car from scratch. Fortunately, Chrysler’s Japanese ally, Mitsubishi, was willing to ship over plenty of cars to be sold as Dodge and Plymouth Colts (we will not discuss the wretched Plymouth Cricket aka Hillman Avenger at this time). The Colt didn’t get front-wheel-drive until 1979, though, so Chrysler USA turned to Chrysler Europe for the Simca-designed Horizon platform and began selling Dodge Omnis and Plymouth Horizons in 1978.

Here’s an early Horizon in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on February 25, 2019

1987 Volkswagen Golf in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf you’re a European car manufacturer in the middle 1980s, what do you do when Tercels and Excels and Justys make your value-priced econobox seem too expensive in North America? If you’re Volkswagen, you call up your Brazilian operation and start building Americanized versions of the VW Gol, successor to the Type 1 Beetle in the South American market.

Here’s a very early example of the first-year Fox, found in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on January 28, 2019

1978 Subaru DL in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsLiving in Colorado, I see so many discarded Subarus during my junkyard explorations that it takes a very unusual one to make me reach for my camera. An SVX might do it (though not always), or maybe a BRAT (again, not always), or perhaps a Subaru with Saab badges. A really early Subaru, from the Malaise Era days when few Americans took the brand seriously — I think that’s always worth shooting.

Here’s a first-generation Leone that I had to go all the way to Northern California to find. (Read More…)

By on January 21, 2019

1980 Datsun 310 in Colorado wrecking yard, Lh front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Nissan sold lots of the original Datsun 510s in the United States, and so the remainder of the 1970s saw a whole series of model names ending in “10” showing up in Datsun dealerships. Some (e.g., the 610 and 710) were Bluebird-based cars like the 510, but the 310 was really a Cherry-based Nissan Pulsar.

Here’s an optioned-up 1980 Datsun 310 hatchback coupe in a Denver self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on May 28, 2018

1981 Ford Escort in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
By the early 1980s, Ford needed a replacement for both the image-challenged and obsolete rear-wheel-drive Pinto and the minuscule, German-built Fiesta, and so a Detroitified distant cousin of the European Ford Escort came into being for the 1981 model year.

Here’s a rare ’81 sedan, photographed in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on May 14, 2018

2009 Chevrolet Chevy in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn all of my 35 years of exploring junkyards in the western United States, I had never found a Mexican-built, Mexican-market car until a few weeks ago, when I spotted this General Motors de México-manufactured 2009 Opel Corsa in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on April 30, 2018

2000 Ford Focus Kona Edition in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDuring the middle 1990s, Volkswagen partnered with Wisconsin bicycle manufacturer Trek and sold Trek Edition Jettas, complete with a Trek mountain bike and roof rack. Ford marketers saw an opportunity to out-cool Volkswagen in the bicycle-car pairing department, and figured they’d go to the Pacific Northwest for the bike to include with their biked-up Focus.

Thus was the Kona Edition Focus born, and I managed to find one of these rarities in a self-service wrecking yard in California’s Central Valley. (Read More…)

By on March 12, 2018

1976 Chevrolet Chevette Scooter in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Chevrolet Chevette was a primitive, cramped, rear-wheel-drive econobox hammered together with obsolete technology… that sold like crazy because it was simple and cheap at a time when stagflation and gas prices were up and confidence in the future was down.

The Chevette Scooter was the most affordable Chevette; here’s one that managed to evade The Crusher‘s jaws until age 42, finally ending its days in a snow-covered Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on January 15, 2018

1995 Mercury Tracer in Colorado Wrecking Yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Kicky appearance packages and vivid colors were all the rage among Detroit makers of cheap econoboxes during the late 1980s through middle 1990s, and so it became necessary for the Dearborn masterminds to create a Mercurized Ford Escort that would enthrall younger car shoppers. Thus was the Mercury Tracer Trio born. Here’s a screaming purple ’95, spotted in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on January 8, 2018

2000 Chevrolet Metro in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Starting with the Chevrolet Sprint in 1985, General Motors sold rebadged versions of the Suzuki Cultus all the way through the 2001 model year. For the 1989 through 1997 model years, these cars were sold as Geo Metros; after the demise of the Geo brand, they became Chevrolets.

Unlike most miserable econoboxes, the Metro’s decades-long reputation for frugality has kept it on the road for longer than most of its competition, and 21st-century examples are very rare in wrecking yards. Here’s one in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on September 5, 2017

1977 Ford Pinto in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Ford sold more than three million Pintos during the 1971-1980 period, though most of those were 1974 and earlier models. By 1977, Corollas and Civics and Rabbits had taken a big bite out of Pinto sales, so these later cars are even more uncommon in junkyards than their older brethren. Not that Pintos are easy to find in your local U-Wrench-It yard; most of these cars were crushed long before the end of the 1990s.

Here’s a ’77 I spotted a few days ago in a Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on August 28, 2017

1977 Toyota Corolla in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The third-generation Toyota Corolla, still on a rear-wheel-drive chassis, was a tremendous sales success in California. The cheapest model was the two-door post sedan, and these reliable commuters were seen everywhere in the Golden State well into the 1990s.

Nearly all are gone, but this ’77 stayed on its own four tires until age 40, finally wrapping up its long career in this San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2017

broken old chair chairs, Image: juriskraulis/Bigstock

Most readers know of our weekly Ace of Base series, which turns a jaundiced eye to the instant-ramen end of the price scale for a particular model. Thanks for all the comments on those, by the way.

Sometimes, though, there is no cut-rate model. No trim on which to hang the placard of “Value Leader.” Let’s fix that, shall we?

(Read More…)

By on August 14, 2017

1986 Honda Civic in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The third-generation Honda Civic, built from 1984 through the 1987 model year, was a tremendous sales success in the United States. In places where rust wasn’t a big problem, they lasted for decades, and they were fun to drive for such frugal machines.

Well, some of them were fun to drive; the fourth-gen Civics and CRXs with the 1500cc engines accelerated respectably by mid-1980s standard, but base-model 1300cc versions were on the miserable side. For that reason, few bought these cars, so this ’86 in a Denver self-service yard is an interesting Junkyard Find. (Read More…)

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