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 April 20, 2020

1986 Ford Taurus in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI look for good examples of automotive history for this series, and today’s car certainly qualifies: one of the very first Ford Tauruses ever built, a car that came off the assembly line during the first month of Taurus production.

I found this option-laden ’86 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard back in February. (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2020

1983 Mercury Marquis in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFord squeezed every possible nickel of value out of the rear-wheel-drive Fox platform during its near-20-year production run (longer than that, if you accept the SN95 Mustang as a Fox), and I enjoy tracking down as many Fox variants as possible while I march up and down the rows of my favorite car graveyards.

I think the period of Peak Fox came during the first half of the 1980s, as the Malaise Era shifted into the Conspicuous Consumption Era (and we haven’t seen a Fox Ford here since 2019), so this 1983 Mercury Marquis deserves inclusion in this series. (Read More…)

By on January 8, 2020

Despite the best efforts of Hackett & Co. to turn the Blue Oval into a car-free enterprise, the Ford Fusion continues to sell apace. In fact, the sedan outsold some of the company’s biggest SUV nameplates in 2019, including the Edge. Seriously. The only models to outsell the Fusion last year were the F-Series, Escape, and — by a hair — the Explorer. This helps explain why it hasn’t yet gone the way of Focus and Fiesta.

While it’s still around, there is ample reason to look and see what buyers are taking home in a base-model Fusion.

(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 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 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 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 May 6, 2019

1995 Ford Mustang GT in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter writing about junkyard cars since early 2007, I just realized that the newest discarded Mustang I’d documented was a 1984 model. As you’d imagine, Mustangs from the late Fox and SN95 eras are easy to find in North American wrecking yards, so I resolved to shoot the next interesting one I found… which turned out to be this much-abused ’95 GT I spotted in a Silicon Valley self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on April 8, 2019

1978 Ford Mustang Stallion in Denver wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter the first-generation Mustang went from frisky lightweight to bloated monstrosity, Ford transferred the name over to an economy car based on the Pinto. This proved to be a wise move, in light of certain geopolitical events that took place right around the time the first Mustang IIs began rolling into showrooms, but most of the old Mustang magic was lost during the Pinto-ization process.

Ford created a bunch of flashy trim packages for the car, and I spotted one of the more unusual ones in a Denver self-serve yard a couple of weeks back: the Stallion. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2019

1988 Lincoln Town Car Hood Ornament, Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta

A game of Monopoly — a family friendly game if there ever was one /sarcasm — over the weekend gives rise to today’s question. There’s one minor adjustment, however: just like a corrupt fat cat CEO, we’re adding a zero to our paycheck.

With an extra $2,000, let’s call it a bank error in your favor — earmarked for purchasing a project car, what would it be? It took all of 21 seconds to select mine from the Craigslist quagmire.

(Read More…)

By on January 14, 2019

1999 Ford Contour SVT in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOver the decades since the 1960s, the Detroit car companies have tried their best to make dollars selling their Euro-market cars in North America, with varying degrees of success. Ford did tolerably well with the Capri and Fiesta over here, then raked in little American-market income with the Merkur XR4Ti and got bombed, Dresden-style, with Merkur Scorpio sales.

Dearborn optimism climbed to new heights for a high-performance version of the Americanized Mondeo, the Contour SVT, prior to its 1998-model-year debut. Here’s a fiery red ’99 in a Denver wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on August 27, 2018

1983 Mercury Lynx wagon in Arizona wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Before the North American Ford Escort became a Mazda 323/Protegé sibling, the folks in Dearborn masterminded a Mercurized version known as the Lynx. Escort wagons are rare now (though I have shot a couple during my junkyard wanderings), so I did a double-take when I saw this optioned-up ’83 Lynx wagon in a Phoenix self-service yard last winter. (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…)

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