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!
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.
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.
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.
When was the last time you saw a green, stick shift, ’82 Sypder? I think this is my first time seeing one.
’88 VW Fox Wagon
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.
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.
’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.
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.
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.
’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.
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.
Such a cool rear end design. Sadly this car will cease to exist in the next 2 weeks.
’11 Mini Cooper
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.
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.
’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.
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.
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).
[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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- Why The Dirt-Cheap Broken Jaguar X-Type For Sale In Every Town Might Actually Be Worth Buying And Fixing
- I Took On A Bad GM Design In A Hail-Mary Attempt To Fix My Friends Broken Suburban But It Was Too Little Too Late
- I Asked The Internet Which of My Cars I Should Sell. Here’s What The People Said
- I Have More Cars Than Parking Spaces. Help Me Decide What Stays And What Goes
- What It Was Like Owning And Fixing My First Jeep After Owning Over 100 Non-Jeeps
- How I Saved My Buddys’ SUV After It Died At The Most Embarrassing Possible Time