Buried European Treasures
Murilee Martin, Autoblog's resident junkyard expert, finds all manner of interesting cars and trucks littering wrecking yards all across the country. As you'd imagine, these junkyard gems hail from nearly every country that builds automobiles. For this gallery, we've gathered together 25 of the most interesting junked vehicles from Europe. As you'd expect, Germany and the United Kingdom are well represented here, but vehicles from other European countries can be found rusting away, too.
We've ordered the list from oldest model year to newest. Click on the image above to get started.
1958 Vauxhall Victor Super Estate
One thing about being a regular visitor to the big, fast-inventory-turnover self-service wrecking yards of the United States is that you never know what you'll find on a given day. Sure, mostly you'll just see row after row of dime-a-dozen late-1990s Detroit sedans and forgettable early-21st-century South Korean econoboxes, but then something like today's Junkyard Gem will emerge from that background. Here we have one of the very few Vauxhalls that General Motor sold in North America: a Victor Super Estate, discovered just a few rows away from a 1960 Chevy Brookwood wagon in a Colorado yard about 50 miles south of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Read more.
1967 MG Midget
The tiny MG Midget (and its near-identical sibling, the Austin-Healey Sprite) sold well in North America during its 1961-1980 production run, because everyone likes a cheap and fun two-seat convertible. With the exception of the occasional super-original or nicely restored examples, though, the Midget never has been worth serious money, which means that thousands of these cars languish as get-to-it-someday projects in the driveways, yards, and garages of the land. In my junkyard travels, I see the potential project Midgets that got swept into the crusher's waiting room; most of them are mid-to-late-1970s models, but today's Junkyard Gem is a much older '67 model in a Denver-area yard. Read more.
1968 Opel GT
When John DeLorean and his Pontiac Division came up with the gorgeous XP-833 Banshee prototype in 1965, nobody predicted that much of its styling would show up a few years later in an Opel. The original Opel GT, produced in Germany for the 1968 through 1973 model years, showed traces of the Banshee as well as its distant Corvette cousin, and could be purchased in the United States via Buick dealerships. Here's a tattered first-year GT in a Denver-area self-service yard. Read more.
1971 Volvo P1800
The highest-mileage one-owner car in the world happens to be a Volvo P1800, which makes sense when you take a look at the agricultural-equipment-simple hardware under the sinuous sheet-metal of one of these cars. You'd think that P1800s wouldn't show up in cheap self-service wrecking yards, but you'd be wrong— here's a battered but fairly intact '71 in a Denver yard. Read more.
1972 Porsche 914
During the second half of the 1960s, Porsche sold a four-cylinder version of the 911 as their lowest-priced car. The 912 sold well at first, but replaced by a joint Volkswagen-Porsche project, the 914, in 1969. The six-cylinder 914-6 was badged as a Porsche in Europe, while the four-cylinder 914 was sold as a Volkswagen-Porsche. In North America, all 914s were Porsche-badged, and they sold very well. Here's a '72 project car that got junked in Denver before completion. Read more.
1974 Volkswagen Beetle
Production of the original Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle began in Germany in 1938 and continued all the way through the very last Volkswagen Sedán Última Edición, which rolled off the assembly line in Mexico in 2004. In the United States, Beetle convertibles could be purchased new through 1979, but 1977 was the final model year for the regular Beetle sedan on these shores. Even in the current century, I find a few Super Beetles each year during my junkyard journeying, but true full-torsion-bar-suspension Beetles have become rare car-graveyard finds in recent decades; I was pleased to find this '74 in a yard in northeastern Colorado. Read more.
1977 Fiat 124 Sport Spider
The Fiat 124 Sport Spider was sold in the United States for the 1968 through 1982 model years, after which Malcolm Bricklin imported the car under the Pininfarina brand for another couple of years. During the car's heyday in the middle to late 1970s, 124 Sport Spiders could be seen all over American roads... and a surprising number of these cars have survived long enough to appear in wrecking yards on a regular basis. Here's a '77 in a Denver junkyard. Read more.
1977 Jaguar XJ-S
The Jaguar XJ-S was big, powerful, swanky, and expensive, just the sort of luxury coupe a high-roller in the late 1970s craved. Unfortunately, these temperamental cars needed plenty of regular maintenance, and many of them suffered from neglect once they left the hands of their original owners. I see plenty of V12 Jaguars during my junkyard journeys, but it still gives me a twinge of sadness when I see another one parked among the ordinary Jettas and Grand Vitaras in the import-cars section of a big self-service wrecking yard. Here's a forlorn-looking, V8-swapped '77 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard. Read more.
1978 Triumph Spitfire
During the 1960s and 1970s, the two most popular British sports cars available in North America, by far, were the MGB and the Triumph Spitfire. During my junkyard travels, I still see the occasional Spitfire among the discarded Sephias and defunct Sables. Here's a '78 I found in Denver last month. Read more.
1980 MG MGB
The MGB sold so well in the United States that, as recently as 35 years ago, you'd see plenty of them mixed into ordinary commuter traffic here. It was a sturdy little sports car, with a suspension design out of the 1940s and a primitive-but-tough pushrod engine, and it blew away its Fiat 124 Sport Spider rival in the reliability department. Here's a final-year-of-production '80 in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard. Read more.
1980 Porsche 928
The Porsche 928 was intended to be a replacement for the 911, but the all-too-familiar howls of outrage from Porsche zealots meant that the rear-engined car stayed in the lineup during the 928's entire 1978-1995 production run and to the present day. You hear a lot of talk these days about every example of the 928 being worth big bucks, no matter how trashed, but I still see quite a few in the cheap self-service wrecking yards of the American West. Here's an '80, found in a San Francisco Bay Area yard not long ago. Read more.
1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel Pickup
The pickup version of the Mk1 Volkswagen Rabbit (known outside of North America as the Volkswagen Golf Caddy) rolled off the assembly lines of the Westmoreland, Pennsylvania VW plant from the 1979 through 1984 model years, and even had some front-wheel-drive econo-truck competition from the Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp. Mk1 Rabbits of any sort have become junkyard rarities for me in recent years, especially the diesel cars, so this mightily-picked-over '81 was worth photographing despite the giant hunks of its flesh torn out by ravenous wrecking-yard vultures. Read more.
1984 Maserati Biturbo
The first affordable Maserati sold in the United States, the Maserati Biturbo was a properly finicky, high-maintenance Italian machine that took the most magical word of the 1980s and doubled it. Biturbo projects are quite affordable today, so affordable that most of them seem to end up in U-Wrench-It yards before they get back on the road. Here's a well-abused '84 coupe, spotted in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard. Read more.
1985 Bertone X1/9
Sales of the Fiat X1/9 began in the United States in 1974, and the price tag was very reasonable for a mid-engined Italian two-seater. For a time, these cars were common sights on American streets, at least in non-rusty areas. Then Americans became disillusioned with the Fiat brand, and the company folded its tent and departed the continent after 1982, not returning until 2010. Automotive dealmaker Malcolm Bricklin saw an opportunity at that point, and his company began bringing in 124 Sport Spiders badged as Pininfarinas and X1/9s badged as Bertones. Here's an '85 Bertone in a California wrecking yard. Read more.
1986 Saab 900 Turbo
The Saab 900 sold well in Colorado, and owners of these cars tend to hang onto them for decades. For those reasons, I still find 900s while making my rounds of the self-service wrecking yards in the Denver region. The turbocharged models tended to fail more quickly than their naturally-aspirated counterparts, though, so the 900 Turbo can be tough to find today. Here's a 1986 that took its final tow-truck ride into a Denver yard. Read more.
1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper
The Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper enjoys a fanatically devoted following in the United States, and examples in good condition and the Syncro all-wheel-drive option can fetch prices well into the high five figures. However, a rough rear-wheel-drive one, with worn-out mechanicals and an interior better-suited for possums than humans, is in danger of being consigned to a place like this Colorado wrecking yard. Read more.
1987 Volvo 240 DL Station Wagon
Most of the wrecking yards I visit while shooting photographs for this series are high-inventory-turnover pull-your-own-parts establishments in California and Colorado, and both regions have been Volvo 240 hotbeds for the last 40 years. During the last 15 years or so, however, the rate at which the boxy Swedes get junked has accelerated, driven partly by sheer age and partly due to the fact that many serious 240 fanatics have switched their allegiance to modern hybrid-electric cars. Read more.
1989 BMW 635CSi
During the 1980s in California, if you were a mid-level banker swapping dead horses for dead cows at a soon-to-be-defunct savings-and-loan, the first thing you did with your first six-figure bonus was to run out and get yourself a mean-looking European personal luxury coupe. The 560SEC, XJ-S and Biturbo got the job done, sure, but nothing screamed "fast-living rakehell with plenty of ill-gotten wealth" louder than a BMW E24 6-Series at that time. Yes, even if you had a legit job and just wanted to look a bit devilish in 1989, it was tough to beat the evil-looking lines and sonorous straight-six of the new 635CSi (unless, of course, you sprang for the even more monstrous M6). Sadly, E24s in rough shape don't command much resale value these days, so I still see discarded examples while making my appointed junkyard rounds. Here's one in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service auto graveyard. Read more.
1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
Mercedes-Benz produced the iconic R107 SL-class for nearly 20 years, and so expectations were high for its successor, the R129. Debuting in the 1990 model year, the new SL-Class looked futuristic and carried a fat price tag. Today, here's a used-up 1991 300 SL in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard. Read more.
1996 BMW Z3 Roadster
Spending so much time in cheap U-Wrench-It junkyards gives me an edge when I do my job evaluating race-car values as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of Lemons Supreme Court, because I know which allegedly desirable cars have depreciated to scrap levels— all I have to do is check the inventory at my local U-Pull-&-Pay or Pick-n-Pull! With BMWs, the E36 3-Series hit Full Depreciation more quickly than its E30 predecessor, with beat-up discarded examples appearing in large numbers starting in about 2009. The E36's Z3 cousin took a bit longer to reach that point, but they have arrived. Here's a '96 that I saw last month in Northern California. Read more.
1997 Land Rover Discovery XD
Land Rovers tend to depreciate fast, once they get into the hands of third or fourth owners who don't take care of regular maintenance items and allow the interiors to get trashed. I see plenty of Discoveries as I roam from junkyard to junkyard in the Denver area, but mostly I don't pay much attention to them. I wouldn't have noticed this one, but I happened to be junkyard shopping with fellow Denver car writer Andrew Ganz (who loves trucks and was shopping for Jeep Cherokee bits) and he pointed out the XD fender badges. Read more.
1998 BMW 528i
I've documented plenty of discarded BMWs during my searching of car graveyards for interesting bits of automotive history, but I've been remiss in documenting examples of the BMW 5 Series. I've shot E12s and E34s, but missed the immediate successor of the E12 (the E28) and the 5 Series that followed the E34 (the E39). E28s and E39s aren't too difficult to find in the big California self-service yards, so I vowed that I'd shoot the next example of each that I saw when I took a trip to the Golden State last week. Here's a still-shiny E39 that I found in a yard on California's Central Coast. Read more.
1999 Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG
As I've learned from my years poking around in big American self-service wrecking yards, high-end European machinery loses its value in a hurry when it gets into the hands of owners who don't take care of all those pesky maintenance items. Yes, once an S8 or 745Li is allowed to deteriorate, the cold steel jaws of The Crusher await. You'd think that genuine, numbers-matching AMGs would be exempt from this remorseless process, but nope, here's an extremely rare W202 C43 in a Denver-self-service yard. Read more.
2001 Audi TT Quattro Roadster
For decades, Audis have been well-engineered and packed with cutting-edge technology... and that's a problem for older Audis that don't get the maintenance they need. Once an Audi reaches its third or fourth owner, expensive-to-fix problems can get ignored and the once-luxurious interior might start to fray around the edges. Depreciation accelerates, and then this happens: a car that was worshiped by enthusiasts a few years ago ends up parked among discarded Kia Sephias and Toyota Tercels at a Denver self-service wrecking yard. Read more.
2007 MINI Cooper
The original BMC Mini was produced in essentially the same form from 1959 through 2000, surpassing the assembly-line longevity of the Hillman Hunter/Iran Khodro Paykan (1966-2005), Fiat 128 (1969-2009) and Peugeot 504 (1968-2006) but not that of the Morris Oxford/Hindustan Ambassador (1956-2014) and especially not that of the Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle (1938-2003). With such a history, it was only natural that BMW opted to build a retro-styled version after buying Rover in 1994, and our current century has been full of MINIs. Resale value for the early MINI Coopers hasn't been so strong, however, and so I see quite a few of these cars in the U-Wrench yards of the land. Here's an '07 that I found in a Denver yard. Read more.