Junkyard Dispatch: 20 Shots from the Grave

Philip Ruth

Philip Ruth | Sep 09, 2019

Bumper guards and louvers, filigree and Hollywood endings—you'll find all this and more in Car Talk's latest Junkyard Dispatch. Let's take a walk through the yard.

Dodge Omni O24

We start with this Dodge Omni O24, which debuted for 1979. It name-checked its economy-car roots while sporting a soft nose and lots of sharp angles.

The Mustang that debuted the same year used many of the same visual elements, and it joined the Omni O24 in being pretty hot stuff back then.

Dodge 024

Louvers! Omnis didn't have louvers, but Omni O24s certainly did.

Louvers can be helpful in reducing interior temperatures when bolted atop a glassy hatchback door, but the Omni O24's louvers merely simulate this function, like the decorative plastic shutters bolted onto a McMansion.

This Omni O24's optional AM/FM stereo radio would set you back $498 in today's dollars. Alas, what looks like a door for tapes is just a simulation rendered in a blank panel.

Ford Granada

Ford Granada

This rust-free Ford Granada has come a long way from its 1975 debut year, though it couldn't quite make it to 45 years on the road.

Aside from damage acquired in the lot, it is as straight as daily-driven Granadas get.

Ford Granada

Ford's Falcon platform took a fancy turn when it was slid under the Granada, and amber rear lenses signaled an international flair.

The details lean toward gaudy, but they were right on target for bargain buyers wanting a touch of class.

Ford Granada

The Granada's speedometer is a microcosm of the rest of the car, with imitation wood and chrome highlights backing a bejeweled needle center.

It was generally understood that none of it was genuine, and it really didn't matter.

Buick Skylark

Buick Skylark

The Buick Skylark was a Granada direct competitor, and this one had been picked pretty clean.

However one detail literally sticks out—the bumper-guard rub strips. Look how thick they are! It's protection you can actually measure.

Buick Skylark

The nearly full-width rear lenses are gone, but the remaining bezels tell their own story of bringing Hollywood glitz to the rump of a simple economy sedan. We also like the vintage KQED sticker.

They made the Skylark seem wider and brighter than its Nova cousin.

Buick Skylark

This Skylark was another with more than four decades under its belt but with little rust.

The door panels show how durable the base models like this could be, with tough vinyl sheets in lieu of the cushier velours in upper trims.

Cadillac DeVille

Cadillac DeVille

This 1968 Cadillac Sedan DeVille shows the glory of metal construction.

Apparently the hood was wrenched open by the yard; check out how the normally straight-across grille tines curve up in sympathy with the pulled-up latch support. A plastic grille simply would have shattered.

Cadillac DeVille

This generation of prestige sedan is rightly seen as a high point in General Motors mass craftsmanship, and this subtle yet eye-catching tag hints at the pride that went into building it.

Cadillac DeVille

The flexible door pull is toast, but the fabrics are decent and the decorative filligree is unbroken.

They indicate the look GM thought well-heeled buyers would appreciate, with elements one might find in a formal parlor.

Chevrolet Malibu Wagon

Chevrolet Malibu Wagon

Clean lines: the 1978–83 General Motors mid-sized station wagons epitomized functional elegance.

Stripped of the excess trim under which most of them groaned, we see from this Chevrolet Malibu how delightfully crisp the design really is.

The rear windows were fixed in place; only the vent windows pivoted out. On a hot day with no A/C or tinted glass, you'd fantasize about busting out the window for relief.

Chevrolet Malibu Wagon

Base Malibu instrument clusters had just a speedometer and a left-side fuel gauge; the right side would have a clock, if you had remembered to order it.

If you didn't, then you'd just have the clock markings, with no clock hands. Perfect place for Marvin the Martian, Bugs Bunny's lunar nemesis.

Buick Riviera

Buick Riviera

This Buick Riviera's body style ran 1989–92. It started as a rigid and truncated design for 1986, similar to the Cadillac Seville in the adjecent spot seen here. 

Sales cratered, so the Riviera was hastily softened and lengthened to reassert itself to devotees of traditional American luxury.

Buick Riviera

This generation Riviera is a mashup of the '50s and the '70s, with ribbons of shiny trim surrounding panels of plastiwood.

The exposed black screw holding it all together, right where your eye falls when you reach for the door handle, is another fitting old-school touch. 

Buick Riviera

Meanwhile, the cassette deck and rows of bitsy black buttons are straight from the 1980s.

It's another mashup—the sound system's tight little nubs come from the computer era of the Commodore 64, while the larger climate controls are more IBM PS/2.

Buick Riviera

By the '90s, the Riviera's finely tined chrome trim and metal bumper guards with rub strips seemed like relics, compared to the smoothly aerodynamic forms adopted by some competitors.

Egg-shaped cars weren't for everybody, and the Riviera was there to pick up the slack.

Not much call for parts on this one. But the snatching of a Riviera logo shows that even if it wasn't a legendary design at every point in its history, the aspirational Riviera symbols were still sought after.


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