By on February 26, 2021

Did you ever wonder which vehicle is credited with being the very first personal luxury car? Wonder no more, as it’s today’s Rare Ride, the Muntz Jet.

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By on December 30, 2020

They say all good things must come to an end, and so it was in 2002 with the Cadillac Eldorado. Today’s Rare Ride was the last in a long line of flagship coupes from Cadillac, and one which saw the name exit with a whimper instead of a bang.

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By on September 21, 2020

1989 Lincoln Mark VII in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFord began selling Lincoln Mark Series cars starting in 1956, with the hand-built Continental Mark II, then mass-produced the first go-round of the Mark III, Mark IV, and Mark V for the 1958-60 model years. Fast-forward to the 1968 model year, for which Lee Iacocca decreed that a luxury-for-the-well-off-masses Thunderbird-based Mark III would be built, and we get to the period of Lincoln Marks that I’ve covered in this series; we’ve seen discarded examples of the III through the final VIII, but no Mark VII… until today. (Read More…)

By on August 27, 2020

It’s been a while since Buy/Drive/Burn covered a trio from the Seventies; December 2019, in fact. But today we return to that decade of automotive change with (almost) everybody’s favorite topic: personal luxury coupes.

Let’s sort out which of these PLCs was worth taking home in ’76.

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By on June 12, 2020

Today’s Rare Ride is one of those last-of moments for a historical nameplate. For nearly 40 years, Toronado was the luxurious coupe flagship of the Oldsmobile brand. But changing consumer tastes and a thinning of the herd at General Motors meant that, by 1990, the Toronado name was not long for the world.

Let’s talk about some personal luxury as we pour one out for the Troféo.

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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 23, 2019

1986 Buick Riviera T-Type in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe General’s Buick division went all futuristic starting in the middle 1980s, hoping to win back (younger) American buyers who were switching their loyalty to high-tech European machinery at that time. The sleek Reatta two-seater came along in the 1988 model year, but the 1986 Riviera (and, to a lesser extent, the Somerset) were the first models to get the science-fiction touch.

Here’s a maximum-options Riviera T-Type coupe, which came with 800-way power seats and a touchscreen computer interface, spotted in a Silicon Valley self-serve yard last month. (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 September 9, 2019

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost of the time, you’ll see examples of the Chevrolet Lumina only in the backgrounds of my Junkyard Find photographs, because the most interesting thing about the Lumina is that it replaced the even more forgettable Celebrity.

However, The General did build a high-performance version of the Lumina for a few years: the Z34. Here’s one in a Colorado Springs self-service yard. (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 August 12, 2019

1984 Dodge 600 in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOnce Lee Iacocca’s front-wheel-drive K-cars brought Chrysler back from near-death and into profitability, the platform became the basis of a sprawling family of K-related relatives. One of the earliest spinoffs was the E Platform, a lengthened K that gave us the Chrysler E-Class/New Yorker, the Plymouth Caravelle, and the Dodge 600. Just to confuse matters, the Dodge 600 coupe remained a true K, sibling to the Dodge Aries.

That’s what we’ve got here, and this Denver 600 coupe has some stories to tell. (Read More…)

By on July 22, 2019

1988 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The General spent the 1980s experiencing a burning desire to sell high-profit-margin personal luxury coupes that combined the irresistible sales appeal of the 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with the technological sophistication of the latest high-end German machinery. This decade gave us such fascinating GM machines as the Cadillac Allanté, the Buick Reatta, the Pontiac 6000 STE, and the Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo. You won’t find many Troféos today, but I’m always on the lookout during my junkyard travels. Here’s a clean ’88 in a Denver-area self-serve yard. (Read More…)

By on June 3, 2019

1978 Mercury Zephyr Z7 in California wrecking yard, RH view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn between the homely Ford Maverick/Mercury Comet and the punitively sensible Ford Tempo/Mercury Topaz, the folks at Dearborn provided North Americans with the Ford Fairmont and its Mercury sibling, the Zephyr, as reasonably modern rear-wheel-drive compact commuter machines. For those car shoppers wanting to get a bit devilish with their selections, Ford dealers offered the Fairmont Futura coupe, while your local Mercury store had the Zephyr Z-7 coupe.

Here’s a tan-beige-brown Zephyr Z-7 in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2018

The Rare Rides series has previously featured a couple of AMC products. First up was the unique and stylish Eagle Sundancer, followed up by the Van concept that never quite made it to production. Today, we head back to the late Seventies and take a look at the seriously brougham Matador coupe. And it’s not just any old Matador — it’s the special Barcelona version.

I hear polyester rustling.

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By on September 29, 2017

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe - Image: © Timothy CainThe 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe’s high beams unfurl like a curtain, quickly and progressively spreading light across the forests on either side of the road. And that’s only the Benz lighting system’s third act.

It’s a late summer evening and you open the E400 Coupe’s vast door, welcomed by ambient lighting that swirls around the cabin, hued to your liking, with a glow bright enough to be useful but soft enough to be easily ignored. The turbocharged V6 ignites and a light show is instantly projected onto the house in front of you with radiant beams and excitable flashes.

With the auto industry well into its second century, it’s increasingly difficult for a luxury automaker to set itself apart. Equipment alone doesn’t do the trick, particularly when a car as costly as this heavily optioned 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe lacks, for example, the ventilated seats of a $29,190 Kia Optima.

No, it’s the special stuff that makes the difference; it’s the memorable moments that distinguish the extraordinary from the ordinary. Heated seats must also warm the accompanying door panel and center console. A variety of dramatic light exhibitions must always attract your attention. The central infotainment display must seamlessly merge with the gauge cluster to create a vast screen stretching 28 inches across.

And the windows must roll down to reveal a pillarless structure, a redolent whiff of classic coupes long since expired.  (Read More…)

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