Home » Here Are The Coolest Cars I Spotted In My Local Junkyard. Some Of Them Don’t Deserve To Die

Here Are The Coolest Cars I Spotted In My Local Junkyard. Some Of Them Don’t Deserve To Die

Gossins Gold 2
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Hello fellow Autopians! I’m back from a short hiatus after our last adventure with what may be the world’s 4th-most-popular base model Dodge Stealth. Great news for anyone who is a fan of up-cycling anything on wheels: David Tracy has green-lit a recurring junkyard series here featuring Yours Truly! Here’s a look at the latest gold that I found in my nearby Wilmington, North Carolina junkyard.

Writing my “Gossin Motors Backyard Shitbox Auto Rescue” adventures here since we started the site last year has literally been a lifelong dream and one of the coolest opportunities ever. A more frequently recurring series is next level, and I won’t let David down. I’m wicked pumped and hope y’all are too!

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I wanted to start this piece with a pirate-themed “gold” reference per the series name “Gossin’s Gold: Graveyard Garbage & Grievance” (which is The Bishop-approved; high honors) but it felt a bit cheesed and too on-the-nose. The “grievance” part of the initial title (which David, the headline-master, changed) was placed there not only for its alliteration properties, nor to conjure images of one of the antagonists in “Clone Wars”, but to instead convey the main emotion I feel on my weekly junkyard visits. That emotion is anger; it pisses me the hell off!  “WHY THE %^&*! WAS THIS JUNKED?!” is said multiple times each visit.

Since I’m there every week, I’ve become friends with a few on the staff (big shout out to Scott Johnson who has helped with parts for many of the cars you’ve read about here the past 18 months) who have told me deeply frustrating tales of perfectly running cars being driven to the junkyard to be crushed for a few hundred bucks. Such monumental waste makes this environmentalist motivated to save as many as possible from that eventual fate at those junkyard gates.

I understand why it happens, though, as each person walks their own path in this world and their choices, finances and property is their own to do with as they please. I’ve been there as well. Certainly not with cars, as I’d have to turn in my Autopian Credentials to David if so, but instead with Robbie Williams’ “Millenial” album. I just got over doing anything further with it. But I never forgot it.

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I’m sure many of the owners of the cars sitting in my local yard and those yards around the world feel the exact same about their junked cars as I did with Robbie Williams. It’s part of the nature of capitalist consumerism and has been happening to both loved and under-loved cars for over 130 years now. Regardless, that doesn’t make the grievance any less. I’m still pissed. It’s those wicked cool, semi-unique, reasonably-rare ones that we hope for a better outcome to befall them. 

So, my fellow Autopians, let’s journey together to “the yard” and see what makes us angry, but also what makes us smile. Let’s see if there’s anything to stir up some old memories of days past where these old machines played either a central or supporting role. 

Sidebar: The Pirate lore where I live (The Cape Fear) is legit, as Blackbeard was based out of Ocracoke, NC and Pirate Queen Anne Bonny ran the Cape Fear River in my city of Wilmington. That said, I still chose a British pop star that I don’t really like as the starting metaphor for this series. It’s a strange decision, yet I feel as though the central theme here is going to be strange and bad decisions, so it feels right.

So with that, I present to you, the first installment of “Gossin’s Gold,” mateys! Let’s go!

’82 FIAT Spider

Jason Torchinsky’s favorite poet, Robert Frost, wrote “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in 1923 when he was only five years older than I am now. In that piece, he describes the transience of life, beauty and youth. This Fiat Spyder, a nugget of green gold, seems to have navigated its 41 year tenure on this planet well to be one of the few remaining. At least for its final 30 days. 

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The metallic green paint looks even better in person; obviously this car was garage kept for most of its life and the clearcoat shows that. No accident damage and the interior is in decent shape so I’m guessing this was junked out of disinterest, mechanical failure, or due to rust in the wrong places (structural, brake lines, fuel lines, etc). There are only a few small quarter-sized rust spots on the deck lid that I could see. 

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When was the last time you saw a green, stick shift, ’82 Sypder? I think this is my first time seeing one.

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’88 VW Fox Wagon

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To me, this era of VW was the last one that you could backyard wrench upon without needing to purchase software, scanners, modules, electrical diagrams, learn German, and befriend your local dealer. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but VW products from the Aughts forward have always given me some grief and have been quite challenging for my limited skillset.

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No body damage, and an intact interior. Plus that glorious stickshift. This one deserved a few more miles. I’m guessing it was mechanical failure, since the rest of the car is pretty clean.

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’89 Audi 90

I’ve been going to this particular yard every weekend for 13+ years and have never seen one of these cars. And there are about 2,000 cars there rotating on a 30 day cycle. This one didn’t have any Quattro badges on it, so perhaps it is a 2WD car. Our own Mark Tucker may know better, since I believe I recall him saying that his family used to rock a similar car.

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The massive “Toyo Tires” banner in yellow really takes over the front view of the car; perhaps this person just really likes Toyo tires that much.

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Beautiful pearl-white paint with a decent interior and no rust or body damage. I anecdotally have limited exposure to these cars and have a slight fear of them due to a lack of understanding. I’m guessing this was junked due to a mechanical failure. 

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’71 Opel 1800 Wagon

Social Media Pete helped me make a digital Reel with this gem a few months back on The Autopian’s social media empire. What a rare bear. Just think about the very small Venn-Diagram center of the equation that this car sits within: green, wagon, in NC, & Opel. 

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I’ve never seen another and I doubt that I ever will again. This one was junked for $350, and rumor has it that the roof rack (that’s sitting inside the car now) is worth double/triple that. I just am not sure I have the space to store it until that one guy in Poland who wants it sees my eBay ad for it in 2027.

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Such a cool rear end design. Sadly this car will cease to exist in the next 2 weeks.

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’11 Mini Cooper

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I love all things with wheels, so it’s rare-to-never that you will hear me badmouth anyone or anything. Do I feel that the entire MINI experience is built on artifice with a German company pretending to make (terribly unreliable) retro British cars with BMW parts? Absolutely. Do you see an endless stream of 9-12yr old, relatively low mileage Mini’s in the junkyard with bad engines and a litany of other issues? Absolutely. Does this make them some of the cheapest cars to buy used? Absolutely.

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Thomas Hundal and I recently had a conversation where I was making the claim that the cheapest cars on FB Marketplace in every city in the US are 11-23yr old broken BMW products. Thomas is a BMW fan, He countered with something along the lines of “They’re just misunderstood and mismanaged by neglectful, clueless owners.” Fair enough.

It also means that there are a ton of them consistently in the yard that are ripped to pieces. This works to your advantage when you will inevitably need those hard-to-reach parts; they’re already looking you right in the face.

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’08 Mercedes R350

Speaking of cars that you consistently see in junkyards: the 15yr old Mercedes. Somebody paid $47,265 in 2008 for this car, which is $67,107 today. The final owner got $750 for it when they sent it to die 15 years later. 

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Near-perfect exterior and interior means that it’s probably something electrical, suspension or transmission-related, as these engines are pretty stout. After swapping the ABC suspension on that ‘03 SL500 last year for steel coils (the dealer wanted $8K to fix the ABC system), I get why Mercedes of this era are junked in great condition.

’73 Jeep

 

When you work for David Tracy, you need to close on a DT-style note. Jeeps are cool for what they are, but they aren’t really my thing. I’ve had a few on them over the years and my mom drove an XJ in the mid-90s. Nothing bad to say about them, but I don’t have a life-altering love for them either like others around here (Weekend Youngster Rob “Plates” Spiteri: “The Voice of The Youth” is also a big Jeep fan and just bought an XJ).

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[Ed Note: Thing looks mint! -DT]. 

This old CJ-5 just looked so strange and out-of-proportion in a good way that it was almost comical. That type of uniqueness is cool, period. This Jeep will become an I-beam in a building in China in the upcoming weeks.

The Legend of Gossin’s Gold Continues!

So there we have it, fellow Autopians, the first episode of cars that I thought were cool while hanging in a junkyard in Wilmington, NC on a Saturday morning.

Many other customers and a few employees gave a few weird looks at the dude that was taking 100+ photos of junked cars in his free time, but that’s just our style around here. Let’s keep those wrenches turning, my homies. Until next time!

All Photos by Stephen Walter Gossin

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NotFlyingIsNotTrying
NotFlyingIsNotTrying
9 months ago

Man that Audi 90 is almost exactly my first car. I had an ’88 model 90 in that same pearl white paint (which apparently was a pretty expensive option?) that I bought for $800 and then required another $800 to get on the road (brakes, alternator, 2 tires). I loved that car and would love to get another or a similar vintage wagon. It might have been mechanical failure, but I’d bet it was electrical nonsense. Mine mechanically was pretty solid but it had all sorts of weird and annoying electrical issues. Just like this one, it looked pretty ok from a distance, but terrible close up. My paint looked like someone had scrubbed it with a brillo pad.

Danger Ranger
Danger Ranger
9 months ago

I had an 88 80 quattro, bunch of electrical issues, especially when there radiator developed a leak onto an ignition coil, cost $700 to diagnose a $50 part. When the wheel bearings were quoted at $400 each. I had to unload it. Still miss it though!

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
9 months ago

How about making the title interactive: “Gossin’s Gold: Graveyard Garbage?
The answer to that question today is: Yes. Except for the FIAT Spyder. That must be saved! I second the suggestion to have a poll where we can select the ones we would like to see saved. Perhaps that could lead to some epic restoration revivals of rust-buckets!

J Money
J Money
9 months ago

Rare to see a VW Fox get some press. The very first new car I ever owned was a 1993 VW Fox sedan. I’m pretty sure it was the last car sold in America that could not be had with power steering OR an automatic transmission. Think about that — manual only and heavy-ass steering that worked on your forearms in parking lots.

I drove that car back and forth from NJ to Indiana more than a few times and all I can say is….man, it was a piece of shit. It’s honestly the reason I have never bought another VW in my life some 30 years later. Probably not entirely fair to write off a brand based on that econobox but hey, they should have put more effort into it.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
9 months ago

The Audi 90 and the Mercedes R350 are where they belong. I’d love an Audi 90 in good condition, but this is waaaaayyyy beyond repair. Still crying for the Opel: my dad had an Ascona A, two Ascona B, and two Ascona C.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
9 months ago

The “two-door wagon” body style is under-appreciated in this country, so I’m glad to see two such examples (the Fox and the Opel) caught Stevie G’s eye.

Also, any website that offers a 100% increase in SWG content is a winner.

Let me know when the bookings open for the “Gossin’s Gold Junkyard Tour” series. Who needs Rick Steves!?

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
9 months ago

God, even in his top shot he’s a handsome bastard.

*hisses cattily while puffing a cigarette*

Danger Ranger
Danger Ranger
9 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

He’s pretty dreamy!

Obnoxious 986 Peasant
Obnoxious 986 Peasant
9 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

The 910 is home to some of the most beautiful rednecks I have ever seen.

Rafael
Rafael
9 months ago

Hey man, welcome back! Say, what about a poll at the end for “which one would you save”? If budget and law weren’t a concern, I would keep the Fiat and maybe the Opel 🙂
BTW, as for the law, are they dead forever? No registering in another state? 🙁

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
9 months ago
Reply to  Rafael

Ohhhh great idea. How about a track-daily-burn poll?

Rafael
Rafael
9 months ago

That’s even better! Each article, three cars, three options, only one survivor (well, technically two, but the “track” one probably won’t last long)

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
9 months ago

Seeing good-condition (or at least Tracy-acceptable condition) enthusiast-spec cars in a junkyard leaves me really ambivalent. I completely understand the frustration of seeing cars that probably have more life in them with some patience, a few 10mm sockets, and a few six-packs.

I’ve been in the position of tearfully signing away the title to a seemingly good-condition car for a tow truck driver to haul away to a scrapyard. To rehash a story I’ve told here before, my car was stolen and the electrical system completely toasted prior to police recovery last year. It wasn’t a special ride (a Camry), but it had passed through three members of my family at pivotal times in our respective lives. It meant something to me. It ran perfectly, and the body was OK, but it was going to be $600 just for a shop to pull things apart and fully diagnose the electricals (I do my own wrenching, but I prefer to have a shop diagnose issues that don’t arise under my own care).

Meanwhile, I had quit my job and was sweating over paying for grad school, so I took the $450 from the scrapyard. And honestly? I still feel kind of bad about it.

I honestly don’t know what the right thing to do is in that situation, or what to ultimately feel. And when I see cars in similarly good condition in a junkyard, these weird feelings come back. It sucks to see a good car in a junkyard. It sucks more to think about what kind of situation, time or money-wise, might have led someone to need that check from the scrapyard more than they wanted that car.

Last edited 9 months ago by Sensual Bugling Elk
James Milton
James Milton
9 months ago

DT has his next Moab project.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
9 months ago
Reply to  James Milton

The Opel? When the bottom half of the cat rots away, the break over angles vastly improve.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
9 months ago

Just the other day I was wondering to myself, “where has SWG gone? I haven’t seen anything from him on the site in a while.” Well, glad to see you again, sir. Excellent piece, and I look forward to more in this series!

That guy
That guy
9 months ago
Reply to  Here4thecars

“Where has the rum gone?”

Adriano Michalzeszen
Adriano Michalzeszen
9 months ago

I never knew USA got this VW on the 80s.

Brazilian market has the VW Parati with an AP engine and 5 speed stick which is arguably much better than this setup.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
9 months ago

The Gol/Parati were shipped here to answer the challenge from the then-new Hyundai Excel and the Autopian-approved Yugo GV, which undercut the Golf significantly on price.

Cyko9
Cyko9
9 months ago

The Jeep and the Fox are both appealing, but I imagine any expense to restore them would be greater than buying a better, more complete/working version of either.

I’m fascinated by junkyards. They’re the cemeteries of Autopia. You see some amazing things sometimes, but the stench of death & decay surrounds you – reminding you that we all live, die, then disappear. Junkyard crawling is a melancholy experience.

Echo Stellar
Echo Stellar
9 months ago

That R-Class gave me chills (the bad kind). My 2011 was a used car nightmare. Stereotype utterly confirmed. Insult to injury, it wasn’t even that great to drive. After losing $17k in one year due to depreciation, expensive maintenance, and never-ending repairs, we sold it to the next miserables in line. They bought it even though it suddenly started misfiring on the test drive!
I keep my car history, including VINs. Looked it up two years after selling and it had been listed as a used car at a Ford dealer somewhere, looking sad and having lost half its value again. Next check in? My bet is crushed salvage. MB are willfully disposable vehicles, preying on the misinformed.

Tap-n-Die And Some WD-40
Tap-n-Die And Some WD-40
9 months ago

Great series SWG. Looking forward to more!

Somehow this article brought up an old memory. On a trip to the junkyard with my brother, we stumbled across a 90s Pontiac Bonneville. We had a similar Bonnie as our family car growing up, and it became each of our first cars when we learned to drive (mine first; his second, after I bought a Geo Prizm to learn how to drive stick).

Even though it wasn’t the same car, we still sat quietly in the junked Bonneville and had A Moment where we opened and shut the doors, clicked some of the buttons, moved the wiper stalk, etc. All those childhood and teen memories came right back.

Junkyards are hallowed ground.

lastwraith
lastwraith
5 months ago

Big fan of the Bonne. Those 3800 series engines are so great too. Tons of torque down low, they roar to life, and they essentially sleep on the hwy, giving you low 30s MPG there. Plus they are fairly basic (in a good way).

Last edited 5 months ago by lastwraith
John Hower
John Hower
9 months ago

Entertaining writing, SWG. Good job! I look forward to this series. My junkyard cruising days are behind me now, but I did plenty of it in years past. Now that I think of it, I was in a local yard about four years ago looking for wheels for my Silverado.

Keep it up, SWG. I enjoy your writing.

Fawgcutter
Fawgcutter
9 months ago

I had an ’88 Fox Wagon with 4 speed stick. Held onto it until it cost me more in monthly repairs than a new car monthly payments (replaced it with a ’01 Saab 9-3 Turbo with a corporate discount). That and I was working at GM then (none of the Detroit 3 wanted to see a car not made by them in their parking lots). It was good for what it was: cheap transportation until you can afford better.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

A good start for a column only to waste everything. You want to save these give contact info for the yard. Negotiate a discount for any purchases from the column. Otherwise its just crap pictures from a junkyard. I need 1978 fiat 124 spider parts but this one is useless because where is it? You think members and the yard might benefit from contact information? Heck the yard might become a member if you allowed a car with parts each month. So much potential so little effort.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

Didnt mean to be harsh. I just think your column would be better as a autopian fund raiser plus a membership drive. Also have had a few drinks so i may be loopy. Sending DT THE IDEA.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Why are you still reading the autopian? You seem so grumpy all the time.

Jeff Markham
Jeff Markham
9 months ago

I worked at Pizza Hut when I was in my late teens (91-94). One of the delivery drivers drove a Fiat Spider. I always thought it was a good looking car and kind of wanted one. One time when she was on a delivery she hit a bump and a strut broke through the mount in the uni-body due to rust. That was the end of that car and the end of my desire for one.

Fred Fedurch
Fred Fedurch
9 months ago

The Audi 90 is FWD. No Controls for the differential locks on the center console.

https://blog.034motorsport.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/David-1991-Audi-90-IMSA-Tribute-034Motorsport-featured-user-16.jpg

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