I can think of a few places where “social distancing” was the norm before our current global pandemic, but the You-Yank-It junkyard is definitely one. I masked and gloved up a couple of weekends ago and paid a visit to my local yard so I could see what treasures might be found. It turns out there were several.
Across the world, the COVID-19 coronavirus has affected almost all service-oriented businesses, devastating many in its wake. That’s allowed a lot of DIY businesses to step up and fill certain gaps. If you consider, self-serve gas has long been the norm in many places (sorry, Oregon) and Americans are pretty much all used to using ATMs rather than tellers at the bank.
One place that’s kind of always been in the netherworld between service and self-serve has been the U-Yank wrecking yard. Well, I’m here to report that, at least in the case of my local yeard, they’ve got this.
Like many businesses in California, they won’t let you into the yard unless you’re wearing some sort of mask. All the yard employees are also masked and they wear gloves, which, if you’ve been to any yard like this you know is de rigueur even in regular times. You also have to stay 1.5 metres apart in the line to pay, although when I was there, the lines were absent. Sweet!
Having not been to the yard in a long while owing to an unseasonably rainy late winter and my inherent slothful nature, I thought it a good time to see how things were going there, and more importantly, what I could scrounge for my cars or for eBay resale.
As I have done in the past, I also went looking for denizens that you all might find interesting. You’ll have to let me know how well I did in the comments below.
Let’s dig in.
Rubber Bumper MGB
This was one of the first cars I came upon, and for me at least, it was one of the saddest. Now, the rubber bumper B of the ‘70s was a bit of a dog. The Federally mandated black rubber bumpers didn’t do the car any favours. Neither did the suspension height increase necessitated to meet the American headlight standards.
Adding insult to infamy, in the U.S. the B’s 1800cc four lost a carb and found itself strangled under a snake’s orgy of emissions control hoses, pumps, and valves. It may look all steampunk here, but it’s a lot less fun to try and keep on the road than the older, dirtier models are. Maybe that’s part of the reason this one is here?
There are still plenty of good parts on this car, and honestly, cleaned up and emptied of junk it could have made for a nice summer restoration. Notice the Club on the steering wheel? Yeah, that didn’t seem to help it any.
Volvo PV544 Harlequin
You’d be excused if you looked at the denuded body in the lede photo up there and thought to yourself “hmm, nice pre-war Ford.” Yes, the Volvo PV series did take many of their styling cues from the fastback Fords that bookended WWII, but the scale is much more approachable with the Swedes.
This poor old girl has had much of what made her wonderful stripped out already, leaving just the simple artwork of her shell and, inside, a lovely bit of post-deco in the horizontally-oriented VDO gauge cluster.
A patch on the floor indicates a one-time attempt to keep the car on the road. Now it’s just a sad talisman of a point in its life when someone cared enough to try and do so. There’s a very cool Volvo script on the door sill, a feature that it would be nice to see the Swedish car company bring back on its current models.
I bring this one up, not because it’s particularly interesting — although this is the first one I’ve ever seen in the yard — but to point out the indignity suffered by Saturn. That’s the fact that the cars invariably get sorted into the Import section of most yards despite being a domestic brand.
Yes, these are “technically” imports, having been based on the European Opel Astra, but I mean come on, hasn’t Saturn suffered enough?
Corvair 700 Coupe
Like the Astra, this is yet another small car from General Motors that took its inspiration from foreign makes. In the Corvair’s case that was to sport a rear-mounted and air-cooled engine, neither features that were in common usage in the domestic market at the time.
Speaking of time, it hasn’t been kind to this old Corvair. I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. What the hell do you think was nesting in the engine compartment, bears?
Ford LTD Wagon
Ford applied the LTD name to a number of different cars over the course of the model’s U.S. run. This is the last of the line, a fox platform car that unfortunately had a lot of the original Fairmont look to it, at least in its wagon iteration.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and so it’s a bit sad to see this seemingly solid example ending up here at the last roundup. There are examples of some great ‘80s schmaltz here, especially in the goofy tail lamp decorations out back. That’s what near-luxury was back then.
A fun fact is that you would have gotten almost this same exact dashboard if you bought the contemporary aero-designed Thunderbird.
NA Mazda Miata
OK, pour out a 40 for this one.
This white, first-generation MX5 had been fairly well picked over by the time I got to it, but from assessing what was left and checking the frame over, it appears that an accident was not the likely cause of it going to car cannibal hell.
Also, if you’ve ever wanted to see what an NA Miata’s entire rear suspension looks like, here’s your chance.
The front of the car has had its face eaten off, as similarly has had the engine. The interior too was mostly gone, leaving just a reminder of what was once a fun little ride.
When I first saw this at the end of the row I got a little excited. That’s because you never know if one of these little cars might actually be an Aston Martin Cygnet. The lack of a front clip makes that determination all the more difficult.
I confirmed it to be just a lowly Scion, and then got a little terrified since this is the kind of car that you just know carries something like 30 clowns. Who knows if there might still be some inside? Getting T-boned probably did little more than piss them off too. Scary, scary!
1990 Nissan Sentra
This was another car I was bummed to see in the yard. It was completely straight and sported a five-speed stick and just 218,871 km on the clock.
Would it have been the most engaging car to drive when on the road? No, but it’s still a pretty cool old car. It seems like it might have ended up in the yard due to a less than obvious mechanical issue or just general apathy.
2000 Jaguar XKR
Whoo-boy, this is a looker. I walked up to this blue Brit thinking “oh how the mighty have fallen.” Off the lot, this car would have set you back over eighty-thousand dollars. Now, it probably ended up in the yard for just a few hundred.
It obviously suffered egregiously in the real world. The driver’s side fender shows a sizable crease and that extends into the door. The big alloy wheels are long gone, as are the hood vents, the sexy headlamps, and grille.
The interior has suffered even greater indignities, with a driver’s seat that’s been stripped of its skin like some grindhouse horror movie victim, and everything else pretty much torn to pieces by the part-seekers.
On a more positive note, who knew that XKRs had component stereo setups in the boot?
The supercharged engine in this car once offered 370 horsepower and 176 kg-ft of torque. Now it’s just offering parts so that other cars might live.
And to prove that I was properly attired for the run, here’s a rare selfie — that’s what they’re called right? — showing off my fashion-forward mask and my crazy-arse, way overdue for a haircut, hat-mandating mop.