Most of the time our attention is forward-facing; focusing on new car models that are upcoming, or of things just over the horizon. The twinkle you get in your eye from dreaming of all the wonderment that is to come as the world turns and progress shows its shining smile.
There is just as much excitement happening with yesterday’s cars though and this space is for celebrations of automotive life well-lived, reflection upon those that had troubled lives and also a place for frustration towards those cars that met their demise too early.
The Legend of Gossin’s Gold continues with more graveyard garbage and grievance! That’s right, my fellow Autopians, I’d like to extend a most hearty welcome back to the 3rd edition of Gossin’s Gold — the series in which I point out the gems I discover in my local junkyard — after what was way too long of an interim hiatus.
Why “too long” you say? Well, I have been really focusing my free time on getting my fleet ready for the dark, cold, short winter months here on the Carolina Coast, and also trying to think of new ways each day to get DT to approve my Jag XK8 article. (Still tryin’!).
Let’s start this thing up though since it’s Go Time (similar to Bo Time, I live near a Bojangles)!
2004 Mercedes S430
Of course, I had to kick off another episode of this column with a wicked expensive and good-looking German luxury car; they’re such low-hanging fruit! When I first spotted this car in the yard, on the week it came in, I was instantly drawn to it and sent a picture to the team Slack chat. Matt instantly responded and said that he loved that color and the car. He’s right – it looks so good. This car has a definite imposing presence and good gravy man, that paint color is the absolute heat. The pictures from my cheap refurbished Motorola cell phone do not do it justice.
With the usual state of affairs being a non-crashed body with intact glass and a presentable interior, it seems that this Mercedes fell to the same fate as its overly Rube Goldberg-electro brand mates: mid-aughts German electronics and beyond-stupid, failure-prone suspensions.
The engine is a Mercedes-Benz “M113” 4.3 V8, and I can say from past wrenching experience on this exact engine, that they are easier to work on than you’d expect. They provide 275 hp but it doesn’t come about until 5,750 rpm. If you’re the S-Class owner out there that’s winding yours up to almost 6K RPM to get the most out of your engine, we salute you.
This is a shot of the unit that I rescued a couple years back.
This was removed the following week, which adds a twist to the end-story of this car. This is a U-Pull-It yard, so if someone’s going to take an entire day to pull an engine, it had better not be blown. That would be rough.
Was it the air suspension that did this beauty in or was it an electrically-sourced demise? Hard to say, but either is more probable than anything else. These engines are known to be quite hardy; I loved the power and smooth delivery of the example I briefly owned.
These cars weren’t sold in large numbers, but they seem to be vanishing faster than most other cars of their era. I see new examples coming into this yard every week and yet I don’t see many versions of these cars in traffic, parking lots or anywhere other than the junkyard. That’s anecdotal, yes, but you know it holds some merit.
I believe that the 13-25-year-old S-Class may be one of the most rapidly disappearing cars in America.
2003 745L i
Same aisle, a few cars down is an attempt at making the same style of car, but by Mercedes’ Bavarian competitor. As you can see, the end results are about the same.
Thomas Hundal and I were discussing these top-end German luxury cars a couple of weeks back (he’s a fan; you can guess my feelings on the matter) and he was saying how incredible the speed is; specifically the speed at which they lose their value. Coming from Thomas that’s meaningful since he always can find a positive point in these types of cars.
“I can’t wait to own a new ‘23 7 Series once they’re $500.” -T. Hundal
Again here, the story is similar, as the body and interior both look to be in decent shape. This car was not felled by an accident. The paint has a luxurious sparkle-type glow to it and seems to be the kind of paint that you don’t usually see on a more plebeian mobile.
Contrary to what the entire world seemingly thought at the time, I really liked Chris Bangle’s styling of this era BMW. “Flame Surfacing” is what I believe it was called. They had a more upright, chunky/block-like feel to them, especially when compared to the more streamlined, windswept-looking Mercedes above.
I was a broke-ass college grad who was swimming in student loan debt when these cars were released and anything that was anywhere near close to affording them was something that didn’t happen in this version of the timeline. Seeing them as complete hulking wrecks in this day and age reminds me of the passage of time. It also reminds me of how my (enthusiast-scorned) ‘93 LeBaron outlived a good many of them.
2012 MINI Countryman
Speaking of things that I would like a word with the larger enthusiast culture about, here’s another 11yr old dead MINI. Do you see any accident damage? Any signs of water damage?
You don’t? Neither do I. This car joins ~5-10 of its factory-mates in the yard, as there is a near steady procession of these cars through the junkyard front gates. I think it may be a toss-up between Land Rover and MINI as to which brand gets The Most Undeserved Pass (On Quality) from car enthusiasts. This is an 11-year-old car that was far outlived by my (enthusiast-scorned) ‘93 New Yorker and ’03 Dodge Stratus.
I mean, with almost every other car that’s ever existed, crap cars get dunked on and good cars excel on merit. Not with MINI. Those zany Germans have found a way to sell you a “British” car that is full of artifice and problems, but they have expertly hid them behind great design, paint and fun attributes.
This one probably had some nice leather seats, since they were yanked out and sold within a couple of days of this car arriving on the lot. This yard advertises new arrivals on Facebook so when someone is really jazzed about an arrival, they are usually at the yard at 9 a.m. the day it is open to the buzzards.
You probably also notice that the headlights and taillights are missing as well. Seasoned U-Pull-It veterans know that there wasn’t some guy that really needed a new set of Countryman lights (both front and rear). No Sir or Madam! This person was a light fixture eBay flipper. Certain lights that you can get from yards like this one for $40-$60 can go for much more online.
Look, maybe that’s a little harsh; let me see if I can end this one in a little more positive of a tone. My mom bought a new MINI in around 2008 in “I Just Got Divorced Red” and man she loved it.
Until the timing components prematurely walked off the job and the engine shredded itself at about 50K miles. There is no MINI dealer in Utica, NY (where she lived at the time) so she had to figure out a replacement car with the MINI dealer in Albany NY (90 miles away).
When a car lets you down, that’s one thing, but when a car lets your mom down, it’s an entirely different level. Your mom is always #1 and MINI needs to get its shit together. You don’t mess with the moms.
Ok, that wasn’t that great of an example I suppose, but hey, at least they have fun styling, great paint and can attempt to persuade you to “motor“!
1989 Mitsubishi Mighty Max
What happened to fun Rad-Era trucks like this one, right?! Fun colors, the correct amount of doors, a manual transmission, easy to park, decent fuel economy and in a reduced-in-size design that nobody could say was emasculating (masculinity: still strangely baked into truck imagery and marketing).
When I was in college, trucks like these were the go-to for broke-ass college students and surfers at my beach school (UNCW). They were cheap, usually high mileage, and everywhere in the late 90s. Sadly, fun little Japanese trucks like this Mighty Max, the Ram 50, The Nissan HardBody, the Mazda B-Series, the Isuzu Pup and others of their ilk were all outlived by the Ranger, S-10 and Dakota (those never seem to die; you can still find a ton of ‘em for sale).
Speaking of the Ram 50, I believe this truck shared pretty much everything except the badges with its Dodge sibling. That steering wheel especially, since it was such a departure from the Chrysler-sourced wheels in the rest of their wares.
I love the color. Who cares if it appears to have been repainted. The Rad Era was more than just a feeling, it had real energy; it was a movement away from the weird-ass earthy browns, greens and oranges of the ’70s and the techno digitality of the ’80s.
I was a forward-moving, forward-looking pre-teen when the Rad Era started. For a color movement to inspire so many folks to get behind fluorescents, it shows the incredible energy and fun that moment brought to the table from a cultural color-design perspective.
1984 Chevrolet El Camino Laurence Rogers Special
Laurence Rogers rules. The man is the only person I’m friends with on the entire continent of Australia (other than my cousin Samantha, but she’s family. Hey Sam!). Laurence also loves Utes. He built one with our own Dave-o Tracy. He is also one of the driving, motivating forces (alongside The Bishop) behind the upcoming Ute-ification of my ‘94 Buick Parkamino Avenuero.
That’s why when I saw this absolute stunner of an El Camino in the yard, I felt that we had to feature it here on Gossin’s Gold: Graveyard Garbage & Grievance as a tribute to Laurence’s good taste and exquisite style. His love for Utes is real and is really, really changing my appreciation towards them!
At 43, there’s not a lot of things that really move the meter much, as you get set in your ways as you firmly plant yourself in middle age. Laurence was able to do that for me though and for that, I’m forever grateful. Food tastes better, I’m sleeping better, I have more energy, etc all because I’ve accepted Utes into my life.
It looks like the left door panel, steering wheel and gauge cluster were immediately taken from this bad boy. That makes sense, since I’m sure they fit the Cutlass, Grand Prix and Regal of the same era.
It seems the same could be said about the hood and front bumper. There was only a single wheel remaining as well. That beautiful bed out back is such a clean design on these final-gen versions of the El Camino and those buttress-type sail panels that flank the rear glass will also be making an appearance in a certain semi-Autopian-famous Buick this spring.
1988 Toyota Cressida
My uncle Tom “Big T” Onisk used to have a Camry in dark blue from this same year. It shared many design and mechanical elements with the Cressida and served as my first experience with a Japanese car.
Growing up in the ’80s, by far the majority of the cars you got into (in Utica, NY) were American. My uncle was badly burned on a Renault Alliance with a bad transmission from our local Jeep dealer. He then swore at them quite a bit, then swore to himself to only drive the most dependable of Japanese cars from then on out (he kept this up until a few years ago when an all-black Explorer showed up in his driveway).
The way it smelled, the difference in materials, craftsmanship, the way the doors, windows, switches and buttons all moved was just, different. It was noticeable even to an 8-9-year-old me. Yes, the love for cars has been a lifelong one. My mama didn’t raise no quitter.
Looking back at the design from 30+ years later, it seems pretty busy, right?! The chrome window surrounds and door handles, that big-ass black bump strip that runs around its waist and bumpers, the color-matched mud flaps, etc. Looking back at the front end, tell me honestly that you wouldn’t confuse this with a Maxima of the same era. Be honest.
The fact that this car rolled on though its long life that began in the ’80s and ended in 2023 is a testament to fine engineering.
Bonus: It’s movie time. Sit back and grab a Stanley Tucci Negroni and watch these!
Well that’s it for this time, my Autopian friends! A very sincere thank you for being here with me and for making this wicked fun column possible. Without your clicks, this segment certainly wouldn’t stick (around)!
I’m heading back to the yard this coming weekend for more fun Garbage & Grievance hope to see all of you here again soon, my dudes and dudettes!
The Legend of Gossin’s Gold continues!
All photos by Stephen Walter Gossin unless otherwise noted
- Is The $1,200 Beat-To-Death Pontiac Grand Am For Sale In Every Town Worth It? I Found Out.
- How I Got Six Years Of Service Out Of A $220 Car
- What I Learned Trying To Flip Two Dirt-Cheap GM “J-Body” Coupes That Nobody Wants
- How I Saved A Once-$90,000 Mercedes SL I Bought For $1,900
- 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
- I Bought A 29-Year Old Buick With 68,000 Miles On It To Prove The Haters Wrong
- What I Learned Restoring A $600 Dodge Ram With A Burned Up Transmission And Ruined Interior
- How I Bought A Broken Version Of My Dream Car For $300, Then Nursed It Back To Glory And Let It Free
- How I Saved My Buddys’ SUV After It Died At The Most Embarrassing Possible Time
- ShitBox Showdown: The British Are Back In The Cape Fear
- Gossin’s Gold: Graveyard Garbage & Grievance Vol. 1
- Gossin’s Gold: Graveyard Garbage & Grievance Vol. 2