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 November 25, 2019

1986 Ford Escort in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI try to mix up these Junkyard Finds so that you won’t see five 1990s Oldsmobiles in five consecutive weeks. This week, after a 1990s Volvo and a 1990s Honda and a 1970s Plymouth, it seemed time for a really old car or maybe something from 2000s Detroit.

Then I remembered that Sajeev has been complaining about insufficient recognition from other writers of his weird love for Ford products of the 1960s-1990s, so I opted to open the floodgates for his bitter tears with the nicest fleet-grade mid-1980s Escort I’ve ever seen in a junkyard. (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 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 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…)

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