By on May 17, 2021

1987 Subaru GL-10 wagon in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBy the second half of the 1980s, Subaru had moved beyond being known only for tiny, hilarious econoboxes. While American Subaru shoppers could still get front-wheel-drive cheapmobiles at that time, the same showrooms also offered futuristic-looking sports cars and four-wheel-drive family wagons loaded with luxury features. Today’s Junkyard Find is the swankiest Subaru wagon money could buy in 1987 North America: a GL-10 4WD Turbo, found in a Denver car graveyard last summer. (Read More…)

By on October 5, 2020

1989 Volvo 780 Bertone in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve documented quite a few discarded Volvos in this series, from the PV544 through the S60, and I never fail to stop and photograph a genuine Italo-Swedish Volvo Bertone Coupe. Here’s the latest, a 1989 780 in a Denver car graveyard over the summer. (Read More…)

By on August 24, 2020

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDuring my years of documenting discarded Saabs in junkyards around the country (and in Saab’s homeland), I’ve managed to cover the pre-GM American-market models well enough, with a special focus on the 900. In recent years, I’ve been working to cover some of the Saabs from the period of General Motors influence (1989-2000) and control (2000-2010).

I may never find an example of the ultra-rare 9-4x, but it’s easy to find used-up Opel Vectra-based 9-3 these days — and I vowed to photograph the first one I saw on a recent Denver junkyard expedition. That car turned out to be this Silver Metallic 2002 9-3 SE hatchback. (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2020

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolkswagen of America used model names that didn’t match up to those of its European counterparts for much of the 1970s and 1980s. The Golf was the Rabbit through 1984 and the Passat started out as the Dasher and then became the Quantum over here. I find the occasional Dasher or Quantum during my junkyard voyages, but nearly all of the Quantums that have survived into our current century will be gasoline-burning Syncro Wagons. Diesels? After the Oldsmobile Diesel 350 debacle of the late 1970s and early 1980s, few Americans had the guts to buy a new oil-burner.

Here’s an extremely rare ’85 Quantum sedan with turbocharged diesel engine and manual transmission, finally laid to rest in a Denver self-service yard last month. (Read More…)

By on June 26, 2020

2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback grey - Image: Mazda

A report earlier this year may have been what many longtime Mazda fans yearned to hear: that the company stands prepared to dump extra horses on its compact 3 sedan and hatch. Floundering since its launch, the little 3 could use a boost — in a number of ways.

Model codes ripped from a dealer’s computer system seemed to indicate a greater level of performance was on the way, and on Thursday Mazda confirmed just that. (Read More…)

By on March 30, 2020

1995 Volvo 850 Turbo wagon in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen I’m strolling through my favorite junkyards and looking for significant bits of discarded automotive history, I’m always on the lookout for interesting Volvos. Thing is, my definition of interesting has long spanned the PV544/Amazon Era through the Late Rear-Wheel-Drive Brick Era, meaning that the universe of front- and all-wheel-drive Volvos beginning with the 1993 850 has been neglected in this series.

Lately, I’ve been making an effort to fill in some of those blank spots in the junkyard record, and so I went out and found a ’97 850R sedan and today’s find: this 1995 850 Turbo Wagon. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2020

1990 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon in California junkyard, RH side view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOne of the frustrating things about my job looking for interesting discarded vehicles is the fact that most cars and light trucks didn’t start getting six-digit odometers until the 1980s or even the 1990s. I find vehicles that I know must have racked up incredible total mileage figures, but their odometers all turned over (once? ten times?) when they got past 99,999 miles.

Fortunately, Volvo felt sufficiently optimistic to adopt the six-digit odometer way back in the 1960s, so I was able to read a very impressive figure on the one in this 740 wagon: 493,549 miles. (Read More…)

By on April 15, 2019

2001 Volkswagen New Beetle in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe early-21st century fad for retro-styled cars, including the PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, Mini Cooper, and Fiat 500, got its start with the late-1990s introduction of the Volkswagen New Beetle (we’re still waiting for a Nissan model made to look like the Datsun F-10). Like most people (and especially like most who had ever owned a real air-cooled Beetle), I grew weary of the sight of these allegedly cute cars after a few years, and as a result I’ve been ignoring the many examples I find during my junkyard travels.

These cars make up an important piece of our collective automotive history, though, and I resolved that I’d shoot the first one I found on a recent wrecking-yard trip. Here it is, straight from the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay! (Read More…)

By on February 18, 2019

1989 Pontiac Sunbird Turbo in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince The General built cars on the J Platform from the 1982 through 2005 model years, I still see numerous examples of the J during my junkyard travels. Most of those are late-production Cavaliers and Sunfires — not so interesting — but today we’ve got a genuine high-performance Sunbird bearing one of the most important words of the 1980s: TURBO! (Read More…)

By on July 2, 2018

2004 Audi A4 Wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Here in Denver 15 or so years ago, the Subaru Legacy Outback wagon was king among car shoppers looking for a vehicle suited for their dog-owning, ski-slope-visiting, REI-shopping lifestyles (that is, most of the population). But what about those who wanted an all-wheel-drive wagon that was a bit less… stolid?

While you could get the Outback with a manual transmission or a six-cylinder engine (sorry, one or the other) back then, only the most rabid Subaru fanatics would describe the driving experience of the Outback as fun. That’s where the second-generation Audi A4 wagon came in, and they sold very well here. Here’s one that looked to be in pretty good condition when it got rear-ended, spotted in a yard just south of town. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2018

1994 Volvo 940 Turbo wagon in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Volvo 900 Series replaced the 700 Series, which replaced the 200 Series, but — in true Volvo fashion — there was sufficient production overlap between these related models that all three were available at the same time for a couple of years in the early 1990s. The 940 sold well in the United States, but you’ll see more 240s and 740s today, perhaps due to the great affection held by Volvo fanatics for the “real” rear-wheel-drive Swedes.

I went into a Northern California wrecking yard determined to shoot the first 940 or 960 I saw, and that car turned out to be this 940 Turbo station wagon. (Read More…)

By on September 18, 2017

2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo in California wrecking yard, RH view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The quantity of Chrysler PT Cruisers in the high-turnover self-service wrecking yards remained close to zero for the first decade after the car’s 2001 model year debut (while the Cruiser’s Neon cousins showed up in large quantities starting at about age five). For the first few years of our current decade, I’d see a sprinkling of discarded PT Cruisers… and then the floodgates burst in about 2014, with seemingly every U-Wrench-It yard in the country packed wall-to-wall with the things.

I have ignored them, but the minivan version of the SRT4 Neon seemed worth photographing. (Read More…)

By on August 8, 2017

1978 buick rega turbo v6 engine

If you’re the type of automotive enthusiast who covets cylinder volume above all else, this probably hasn’t been your decade. However, if you’re of the boosted breed, things couldn’t be better. Forced induction engines are bigger than ever, not in size (again, sorry displacement fans) but in factory application.

The numbers of turbocharged vehicles sold in the U.S. rose for a sixth consecutive year in 2017, now accounting for 27.6 percent of new cars and light truck models built through March 2017. For the sake of reference, the 2011 model year only saw 10.7 percent, while previous years loitered between 4.5 and 6.6 percent annually. This makes turbocharging less of a trend and more of a revolution.  (Read More…)

By on January 17, 2017

2017 Porsche Cayman S Side at Massey Hall, Image: © 2017 Peter Bleakney

Replacing the lead singer in an iconic rock band is a thankless task. Van Halen fans never fully embraced Sammy Hagar. Paul Rodgers’ recent stint as lead singer with Queen was okay, I guess, and Axl Rose is now screaming it out in front of AC/DC. All fantastic singers and more than worthy in their own right, but how to you replace David Lee Roth, Freddie Mercury and Brian Johnson?

Enter Porsche’s 2017 reboot of its beloved mid-engine Boxster/Cayman. Same deal. The operatic flat-sixes that have propelled this duo since their respective inceptions sing no more, replaced by a pair of gruff turbo flat-fours.

Oh, the conundrum.

(Read More…)

By on October 18, 2016

Audi Q7 2016

Audi’s Q7 can now be optioned with a downsized motor — which is perfect for that tiny cross-section of America that doesn’t feel the need to prove itself with a big engine but also wants to own the largest and most expensive crossover Audi offers.

Huzzah? (Read More…)

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