• Image Credit: Murilee Martin

A Treasure Trove of Gems

Resident junkyard adventurer Murilee Martin has discovered some pretty stunning abandoned automobiles scattered around America. And through his "Junkyard Gems" series, he always makes sure to bring back great photos and some fascinating history when he spies something good. He finds loads of these vehicles, too, so we wanted to highlight a few of our favorite finds from the last few years. In this slideshow, you'll find some of the most oddball, niche vehicles you've seen, along with a smattering of more famous classics.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1962 Plymouth Valiant

"The Plymouth Valiant was built for the US market for the 1960 through 1976 model years (and until 1980 in Australia), and it proved to be a gigantic success for Chrysler during those years. The first generation of Valiant was built for 1960-62, on the sturdy and versatile Chrysler A Platform, and today's Junkyard Gem is a well-picked-over example in California." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

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.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1977 Ford Mustang II Ghia

"The first-generation Ford Mustang started out as a pretty small Falcon sibling, then put on bulk every year until the cartoonish 3000-pound-plus 1973 models. For the 1974 Mustang, Ford switched to the compact Pinto platform... which turned out to be excellent timing, what with the nightmare energy crisis of late 1973. The bad news was that the Mustang II was, well, a Pinto underneath." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1983 AMC Eagle

"In Denver, you own a dog and a Subaru: it's the law. Go back a few decades, however, and Subarus were considered quirky little edge-case cars, rust-prone and far out of the mainstream. Back in the Malaise Era, if you wanted a vehicle that could get you through the Colorado snow and mountain grades and you wanted something a bit less truck-like than, say, an IHC Scout or Toyota Land Cruiser, you got an American Motors Eagle. Here's one that I spotted last week at a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1982 Subaru BRAT

"Like the AMC Eagle, the Subaru BRAT was a big sales hit in Colorado, much more than in the rest of North America, and you still see plenty of examples of both vehicles on Colorado streets ... and in Colorado wrecking yards. Here's a 1982 BRAT with camper shell that made it to age 35 before being forcibly retired." Read more.

  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

"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.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek Edition

"The third-generation Volkswagen Jetta sold well in the United States, and VW went for the mountain-bike enthusiast market in 1996 by working with Trek Bicycles to issue a special Trek Edition Jetta. This car came with a matching Trek mountain bike plus roof racks to haul the bike to the nearest mountain. You don't see many Volkswagen Trek Edition cars (or bikes) these days, but I was able to find this '96 in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard." Read more.

volkswagen jetta Information

volkswagen jetta
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1992 Geo Storm

"GM's Geo brand existed from the 1989 through 1997 model years. While mostly remembered today for the Suzuki Cultus-based Metro (which continued to be sold with Chevrolet badging until 2001), there were also Geo Prizms (California-built Toyota Corollas), Geo Spectrums (Isuzu I-Mark), Geo Trackers (Suzuki Sidekick), and Geo Storms (Isuzu Impulse). Storms are very rare now, but I found this one in Colorado last week." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1970 AMC Rebel

"Back when the most mainstream commuter vehicle in the United States was the affordable midsize sedan, every American automaker fought with bloody claws and teeth for tiny gains in market share for these cars. You had your Torinos, your Cutlasses, and your Satellites, with all their corporate siblings and cousins in the mix, and George Romney made sure that his troops in Wisconsin had an American Motors entry in this battle: the Rebel. You won't see many Rebels this century, but I was able to find this '70 in a San Francisco Bay Area yard a few weeks ago." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1983 Lincoln Continental Mark VI Signature Series

"The Lincoln Continental Mark Series debuted in the 1956 model year and ran until 1998, with a hiatus for most of the 1960s. The Mark V was absolutely enormous, weighing well over two tons, but certain geopolitical events conspired to jack up fuel prices to the point at which a somewhat smaller Continental Mark made sense. Here's an example of that car, found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard." Read more.

lincoln continental Information

lincoln continental
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1987 Nissan Maxima

"The second-generation Nissan Maxima was sold for the 1984 through 1988 model years, on the heels of the Z-car-based, rear-wheel-drive Datsun 810/Datsun Maxima/Nissan Maxima and just after Nissan spent many millions switching their American-market marque from Datsun to Nissan. These cars were big, powerful (for the era) competitors for the likes of the BMW 5-Series and Toyota Cressida, and Nissan specialized in futuristic electronics during this period. This '87, which I spotted over the winter in a Denver self-service yard, boasts everything from two-tone paint to a 7-band graphic equalizer on the radio. Let's take a closer look." Read more.

nissan maxima Information

nissan maxima
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

Renault R16

"A couple of years back, I visited a gigantic Swedish car graveyard in the woods about 250 miles north of Stockholm. Among its thousands of cars stretching for what seemed like miles into the forest were lots of Volvos, Saabs, European Fords, Opels, and even the occasional old car from Detroit or Japan. And, of course, French cars. In honor of our intrepid journalists in Paris, here's a lichen-coated example of one of the all-time great Renaults: the 16." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1987 Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S

"Corolla badging in the United States got very confusing during the 1980s, mostly because the third-generation Corolla had been such an overwhelming sales success in the 1970s and Toyota wanted other cars to partake in Corolla sales goodness. First came the Corolla Tercel in 1980, a car not related to the regular Corolla. Later in the decade, Toyota shoppers could choose between rear-wheel-drive Corollas and front-wheel-drive Corollas, in the same showroom at the same time. Here's an example of the hot-hatch Corolla that made Volkswagen GTI owners sweat back in the late 1980s, spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard not long ago." Read more.

toyota corolla Information

toyota corolla
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1976 Plymouth Arrow 200 GT

"Mitsubishi and Chrysler go way back, with Dodge selling the Mitsubishi Colt Galant as the Dodge Colt starting in the 1971 model year. Plymouth-badged Colts came later; first, Plymouth sold Hillman Avengers badged as Plymouth Crickets. For the 1976 model year, the Plymouth Division got into the Mitsubishi-selling business, offering the Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste as the Plymouth Arrow. You won't find many Arrows in our current century, but this one showed up in a Phoenix self-service wrecking yard last week." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1990 Subaru XT

"Back in the 1980s, Subaru decided that the futuristic-looking, gadget-packed Alcyone would go over well in North America, and so the XT became available for the 1985 through model years. They were reasonably popular in California, and I saw this discarded example awaiting its fate in a Los Angeles wrecking yard." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1988 Merkur Scorpio

"During the 1980s, American car buyers started buying European luxury machinery at an unprecedented rate, which alarmed a lot of the suits in Detroit. General Motors spent a great deal of money trying to sell Pininfarina-bodied Cadillacs (whose bodies were flown from Italy to Michigan in specially equipped 747s), while Ford opted to bring over a couple of its German-built, European-market models and sell them under a marque created just for the occasion: Merkur." Read more.
  • Image Credit: Murilee Martin

1996 Toyota Previa All-Trac

"The Toyota Previa minivan, available in the United States for the 1991 through 1997 model years, was an extremely sensible vehicle, though a bit cramped for American tastes and on the funny-looking side as well. The All-Trac version, with Toyota's proprietary all-wheel-drive system, sold well in Colorado, which is where I photographed this high-mileage example." Read more.
Share This Photo X