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Category: 2000s

Junkyard Gem: 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit

When Volkswagen introduced its second water-cooled model for North America as a 1975 model (the first was the 1974 Dasher), it was badged as the Rabbit instead of getting rest-of-the-world Golf badging. The Rabbit name stuck around here through 1984, after which the Golf designation took over in North America. Then, apparently to please nostalgia-prone American VW enthusiasts, the Rabbit name returned for the late 2006 model year. Here’s one of those second-time-around Rabbits, found in a Colorado self-service boneyard recently.

The Rabbit badges stayed on U.S.- and Canadian-market cars until the Mk6 pushed aside the Mk5 for 2010. Then Volkswagen shoved the Rabbit name into the memory hole, where it has remained since that time.

The 2006-2009 Rabbit was pitched to hip North American urban drivers and its brochure included handy guides to “the language of urban driving” that included definitions for such terms as Hurry Honker, Bumper Broadcasting and Spot Sloth. Clever!

It was available as a hatchback with two or four doors. This is the former, which had an MSRP of $15,600 (about $23,211 in 2024 dollars).

The engine is a 2.5-liter straight-five rated at 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet. That’s well over twice the power of its 1975 ancestor.

The base transmission was a five-speed manual, though this car has the far more popular six-speed automatic.

It looks fairly solid inside and out, though there is a bit of rust-through.

It appears to have been turned in as part of Colorado’s Vehicle Exchange Program, open to pre-2012 vehicles that fail their emissions tests.

It’s back, and it’s clogging the city.

For those who can afford a new car but can’t afford to pay for internet.


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Junkyard Gem: 2006 Isuzu Ascender

Things got a little unsettled with the lesser-known players in the GM Empire during the years leading up to the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with plenty of mix-and-match branding efforts. Suzuki badges on Daewoos? Sure thing! Rebadged Subarus for Saab? Why not? One of the sadder stories during this era was the fate of once-proud Isuzu, which was down to just two rebadged Chevrolet passenger vehicles for its final few years in the United States: the I-Series pickup (Colorado) and Ascender midsize SUV (Trailblazer). Here’s an example of the latter type, found in a Silicon Valley self-service car graveyard recently.

Isuzus first entered the American automotive mainstream in 1972, when GM started bringing over Isuzu Faster pickups and selling them with Chevrolet LUV badges. Isuzu began selling I-Marks, P’ups and Troopers here in 1981, followed by Impulses and Styluses (and their Chevrolet/Geo-badged siblings). Isuzu’s real sales success here proved to be with its well-priced trucks; the final U.S.-market Isuzu cars were 1993 models but Rodeos, Troopers and Amigos continued to fly out of American Isuzu showrooms during the decade.

Then sales slumped as the 2000s dawned. The aging Trooper couldn’t compete against a bunch of fresh new rivals and got the axe after 2002. The VehiCROSS was too radical to succeed and was done after 2001. The Amigo (aka Rodeo Sport) went away after 2003, leaving just the Rodeo and the Axiom in the Isuzu lineup. For the 2005 model year, there were no genuine Isuzus left here, just rebadged Chevrolets (Isuzu commercial trucks continued to be sold, of course, and you can still buy a new one today).

GM introduced its new GMT360 SUV platform with the 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada. Sales of those trucks were brisk, and American Isuzu dealers got their own version starting with the following model year: the Ascender, which was supposed to replace the Trooper.

The only meaningful difference between the Ascender and its Chevy/GMC/Olds siblings was its generous Isuzu warranty. On the minus side, Isuzu was in obvious trouble here and potential Ascender buyers feared getting stuck with a truck lacking a dealer network (a genuine concern so soon after Daewoo owners had been directed to the Pep Boys for warranty service in the wake of Daewoo Motor America’s bankruptcy).

In the end, the Ascender and I-Series didn’t sell well. GM announced the discontinuation of the seven-seat Ascender for 2006, with rumors of the five-seater’s demise beginning soon after. 2008 ended up being the final year for new non-commercial Isuzu vehicles in the United States.

Buick and Saab also got their own versions of the Trailblazer, the Rainier and 9-7X.

The actress in this Ascender commercial did a fine job of sneering out the word “minivan” with the appropriate contempt.

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Junkyard Gem: 2003 Mazda Protege5

Mazda sold its Familia small car in the United States from the 1971 through 2003 model years, with some interesting developments right at the very end of that run. There was the Protegé MP3 for 2001-2002, the Mazdaspeed Protegé for 2003 and the Protegé5 wagon for 2002-2003. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of the latter type, found in a Denver self-service boneyard recently.

The Familia went to front-wheel-drive in its fourth generation, with the first examples showing up here with GLC (Great Little Car) badges as 1981 models. The GLC became the 323 for 1986, and its platform ended up beneath the Ford Escort starting with the 1991 model year. The Familia sedan became the Protegé in the United States for 1990, while the 323 name stuck around on the hatchback until it was discontinued after 1994. For 2004, the Mazda3 became the Protegé’s successor here.

Nearly all reviewers loved the Protegé5, with our own scribe describing it as “a cross between the Miata and the Tribute” with a “way cool” interior and excellent handling.

The Protegé5 was available with one of six different paint colors, but most of the review cars seem to have been done up in the “Vivid Yellow” hue you see here.

Young car shoppers who enjoyed riding mountain bikes and skateboards were targeted by Mazda’s marketers, although most members of that group had already defected from wagons to SUVs by that time. Mazda tried not to use the word “wagon” when describing this car, instead referring to it as “a sporty car with a built-in social life” in the brochure.

The engine is a 2.0-liter DOHC straight-four rated at 130 horsepower and 135 pound-feet.

A four-speed automatic was available as an option, but the wise Protegé5 buyers took advantage of the high-revving engine by sticking with the base five-speed manual. That’s what’s in this car.

The factory 16″ alloy wheels looked good.

The original owner’s manuals were still inside when I found it. We can see from the salesman’s card that this car was sold new in Omaha.

You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

The TV commercials for this car got the “Zoom-Zoom” treatment.

Look, Vivid Yellow paint!

This car was known as the Familia S-Wagon Sport 20 in its homeland.

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Scrapyard Gem: 2003 MG TF

When I went on a whirlwind four-day trip to visit the car graveyards of Yorkshire, England, a few months ago, the MG F/TF was near the top of my list of cars to shoot. As it turned out, I found just a single example, at the York U-Pull-It. It was in rough shape, but it’s a discarded example of the very last gas-powered two-seat roadster to bear MG’s storied octagon badge and thus a true Junkyard Scrapyard Gem.

I’d seen a nice British Racing Green MG F at the “MG — 100 Years of Motoring & Passion” exhibit at Le Convervatoire National de Véhicules Historiques in Diekirch, Luxembourg, last fall and got to thinking about the fact that the Fs and early TFs are now legal to import to the United States under the federal 25-year rule. I spent a good chunk of my college years with a 1973 MGB-GT as my daily driver (British Racing Green, of course) and maybe an F/TF would be a fun car to own here. Then sanity returned when I remembered I don’t have room for both an F/TF and my future Mitsuoka Le Seyde.

The very protracted development of the project that became the MG F began in 1984, when the MG brand was owned by the Austin Rover division of British Leyland. Fast-forward to 1994, when BMW bought the Rover Group from British Aerospace (we’re skipping an Imperial ton of convoluted British car-industry history here, because we’re into the whole brevity thing) and that fresh infusion of Bavarian cash meant that the MG F actually became showroom reality as a 1995 model.

BMW sold MG in 2000; it became part of the Nanjing Automobile empire in 2005 and still exists today. For the 2002 model year, MG Rover restyled the F and gave it a non-Hydragas suspension, naming it the TF in the process.

I was able to find an example of one of the very last thoroughly British MGs, a 2005 ZT 190, a few rows away in the same yard. Also documented by me at the York U-Pull-It that day were a Ford StreetKa, a SEAT Altea, a Smart ForFour, an ex-Royal Mail Peugeot Bipper, a Peugeot 307CC, a Citroën C4 Picasso, a Citroën Xsara Picasso Desire, an early Honda HR-V, a Mitsubishi i, a Renault Megane CC, a Saab 96, a 2007 Mitsubishi Colt, a BMW 320td and an Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

This TF was crashed and thoroughly picked over, but it was identifiable.

The TF was powered by Rover K-series straight-four engines of either 1.6 or 1.8 liters’ displacement, mid-mounted and driving the rear wheels. It’s essentially a British MR2 Spyder, but without the staid Toyota image. This car has the base five-speed manual; a CVT was available as an option.

You can get great deals on MG TFs in the U.K. right now, with prices ranging from the low hundreds of pounds on up to asking prices approaching £10,000.

British production of the TF ceased when MG Rover went bust in 2005, but Nanjing Automobile Group restarted production in China two years later and continued building TFs through 2011.

What’s not to like about the TF? Other than the imminent demise of its manufacturer, that is.

Because of charisma… the heart is different.

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Junkyard Gem: 2003 Ford Focus ZTS Centennial Edition

The very first car produced by the Ford Motor Company was the 1903 Model A. 100 years later, Ford decided to build some special Centennial Edition cars and trucks. Ford shoppers could get five Centennial Edition models for 2003: the Taurus, Mustang, Explorer, F-250/F-350 and Focus. All were painted black, the only color available for the 1914-1925 Model T. I’ve been searching for a Centennial Edition Ford over many years of junkyard exploration and finally found this Focus in a Denver-area yard.

Some junkyard visitor before me pried off the special fender and decklid badges, but the “two-tone signature Centennial Leather” seats were still there.

Sadly, the special Centennial Edition key chain, hardcover edition of “The Ford Century” book, wristwatch and letter from Bill Ford weren’t inside the car.

This Junkyard Gem is in rough shape, so here’s what it looked like in the sales brochure. The only previous Focus in this series was an ’02 Mach Audio, so we were overdue.

While the Centennial Edition Mustang was available in either coupe or convertible form, all the Centennial Edition Foci were ZTS sedans.

4,000 each of the Centennial Edition Taurus and Explorer were built, with only 3,000 apiece for the Focus, Mustang and F-Series.

100 years is quite a milestone for a car company, but plenty of special-edition cars for other production anniversaries have been built and I’ve documented many of them in car graveyards. There’s the 50th Anniversary Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight (commemorating a half-century of the 88 model), the XC Edition Oldsmobile Ciera (commemorating 90 years of Oldsmobile), the 40th Anniversary Pontiac Grand Prix, the 30th Anniversary Pontiac Grand Am, the 10th Anniversary Black Red Edition Datsun 280ZX, the 50th Anniversary Nissan 300ZX (commemorating 50 years of Nissan), the 25th Anniversary Chevrolet Camaro, the 30th Anniversary Mercury Cougar and many more. It’s too bad Studebaker isn’t around anymore, because 2040 will be the 300th anniversary of the first horse-drawn wagon built by Peter Stutenbecker in the British Province of Maryland.

This being a ZTS, the top-grade 2003 Focus sedan available in the United States, it has the 130-horsepower DOHC Zetec engine.

Its 1903 predecessor had a clutchless two-speed planetary transmission to go with its two-cylinder pushrod boxer engine, but this car has a more modern five-speed manual.

The Focus remained in American Ford showrooms through 2018, then got the axe because “silhouettes are changing.” You can still buy a new Focus elsewhere in the world, though; it’s built on the same platform as the current Maverick.

When some hooptie early-1980s GM sedan tries to spray your new black Focus with no-doubt-contaminated washer fluid, you know what to do.

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Junkyard Gem: 2008 Suzuki SX4 Crossover

If you want to find some interesting automotive history in your local Ewe Pullet, finding any U.S.-market Suzuki model and peering into its background will tell you a lot about the global car industry from the middle 1980s through just over a decade ago. The Suzuki tale gets a bit convoluted during the second half of the 2010s here; in recent months, I’ve documented discarded examples of the 2008 XL-7 (derived from the Saturn Vue), the 2008 Reno (based on the final Lacetti designed by pre-GM Daewoo) and the 2009 Equator (a thinly disguised Nissan Frontier). Today’s Junkyard Gem is a second-model-year SX4 Crossover, found in a Colorado Springs car graveyard recently.

Suzuki began selling motorcycles in the United States in 1963 (no, the Suzuki Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company was never affiliated with the Suzuki Motor Company, Suzuki being a very common Japanese family name), but we didn’t get highway-legal Suzuki-built four-wheeled vehicles here until the Chevrolet Sprint showed up as a 1985 model, followed the next year by the Suzuki Samurai. Then the 1990s gave us Geo-badged Suzukis (the Metro and Tracker) as well as their Suzuki-badged siblings (the Swift and Sidekick), plus Esteems, X-90s, Vitaras and Grand Vitaras.

The plotline of American Suzuki story goes through some strange twists and turns during the 2000s, mostly due to Suzuki’s role in the far-flung General Motors Empire and GM’s purchase of Daewoo’s car-building operations. Some Daewoos were sold here with Suzuki badges (the Verona, Reno and Forenza), while only the Vitara, Grand Vitara, XL-7 and Aerio remained as pure Suzuki products by 2006.

The SX4 was the Aerio’s successor and debuted here as a 2007 model. It was available in “tall hatchback” crossover and— a year later— sedan form, both styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro and based on a platform developed in partnership with Fiat. The SX4 name stands for Sport X-over for 4 Seasons, which isn’t quite as tortured an acronym as, say, the ones other Japanese carmakers assigned to hardware such as the Powerful & Economic Lightweight Accurate Silent Mighty Advanced or the Lightweight Advanced Super Response Engine. The American Motors Corporation had already used the SX/4 name on a sporty crossover hatchback for the 1981-1983 model years, but perhaps AMC’s use of a slash character made it seem sufficiently different for Suzuki to use.

Upon its launch, the SX4 Crossover was the cheapest AWD-equipped new car available in the United States, with an MSRP starting at $14,999 for the 2007 model (that’s about $23,234 in 2024 dollars).

Our reviewer thought it was garbage, to put it mildly, stating “if you just gotta have a new all-wheel-drive car and cost is your second biggest concern, go get an SX4.” The “security system” (a red LED blinking on the dashboard) and lack of cargo space displeased him mightily, as did the manual gearshift (which felt like “moving a steel rod around in a bucket of pea gravel”).

This car has the base five-speed manual, in fact, which saved the original purchaser $1,100 on the cost of an automatic ($1,704 after inflation).

The engine is a 2.0-liter straight-four rated at 143 horsepower and 136 pound-feet.

It was an affordable car that could deal with snow and mud while looking somewhat truck-ish, and it hauled people around for 16 years.

Suzuki brought out the pretty decent Kizashi for 2010, but it was too late. The company gave up on selling cars and trucks here for 2013, after which the only new highway-legal Suzukis available here had two wheels apiece. Suzuki still does well selling cars elsewhere, though, with the Hustler reigning at or near the top of the JDM best-seller list for quite a few years.

Just because there’s a gas crisis doesn’t have to mean there’s a fun crisis.

The SX4’s European cousin was called the Fiat Sedici.

Gets good traction even on a violin.


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Junkyard Gem: 2003 Chevrolet Tracker

When General Motors created the Geo brand to sell vehicles designed and — in some cases — built by Japanese partners, the first four models were introduced for the 1989 model year: the Metro (Suzuki Cultus), Prizm (Toyota Sprinter), Spectrum (Isuzu Gemini) and Tracker (Suzuki Sidekick). Geo got the axe in 1997, with the Metro, Prizm and Tracker becoming Chevrolets. Of those, the Tracker survived the longest, with U.S.-market sales continuing into 2004. Here’s an example of a very late Tracker, found in a North Carolina car graveyard recently.

The 1989-1997 first-generation Trackers were based on the Suzuki Sidekick, while the 1998-2004 Trackers had the Suzuki Vitaras (not to be confused with the much grander Grand Vitaras) as their siblings.

Production of these trucks for the South American market (as the Chevrolet Vitara) continued in Ecuador all the way through 2014. The Tracker name has also gone onto some versions of the Chevrolet Trax around the world.

This one is a base four-door hard top/rear-wheel-drive model, which had an MSRP of $17,330. That’s about $29,789 in 2024 dollars.

You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

The engine is a Suzuki 2.0-liter straight-four rated at 127 horsepower and 134 pound-feet.

A five-speed manual was base equipment, but very few American vehicle shoppers wanted three pedals by the middle 2000s. This truck has the Aisin four-speed automatic.

We like it loud.

It appears that someone associated with this truck graduated from Julius L. Chambers High School last year.

In the United States, the Tracker was replaced by the Saturn Vue.

If Tracker can handle (unspecified Middle Eastern country), it can survive the jungle back home.

Siempre contigo.

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Junkyard Gem: 2007 Audi S8

If you want to find examples of punitive automotive depreciation, look no further than the European luxury sedans in your local Ewe Pullet car graveyard. How about a Mercedes-Benz S600, which sold new for an inflation-adjusted $282,544? Or a BMW 745i and its $114,895 price tag in today’s money? Big, powerful Audi sedans face the Depreciation Grim Reaper as well, and today’s Junkyard Gem was the one of the most expensive 2007 models Americans could buy with the logo representing Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer on its snout.

The 2007 Audi S8 started at $92,000 (the example that awed our reviewer was a fully loaded model that listed at $110,920), which comes to about $141,958 in 2024 dollars. The A8 W12 for 2007 cost even more, but it wasn’t as evil-looking as the S8.

This car, currently residing at the Denver Pick Your Part, is only the second discarded S8 I’ve documented, after a 2001 model in a North Carolina yard. Ordinary A8s are much easier to find in junkyards, of course, as are examples of its Audi V8 predecessor.

Under the hood is a wild Lamborghini-sourced DOHC V10 engine, rated at 450 horsepower and 398 pound-feet and connected to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

This car was governed to 155 mph and could run mid-13-second quarter-miles (about the same as the small-block-powered ’65 Chevy Impala sedan I was driving a few years earlier).

It still has the proprietary cable that allowed you to connect your iPod to the audio system.

This car has the optional Ban & Olufsen sound system, which pushed the price tag past the six-figure threshold (in 2007 dollars).

Why is such an amazing machine in a place like this? Well, you can’t skimp on the maintenance in a car with this much technological wizardry inside, and A8/S8 repair costs often look unfavorable when balanced against the resale value at age 14.

The keys were still with this car when it arrived here, so we can assume that it needed a fix that cost more than its current real-world value.

You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

The music in this dealer promo video is appropriately oonsk-oonsky for the Autobahn.

Vorsprung durch Technik.

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Junkyard Gem: 2005 Honda Accord, Hello Kitty Edition

When you’re a young city-dweller and your car is a generic 20-year-old sedan with the base engine, what do you do? You personalize it, of course, and that’s what the final owner of this Accord LX did. An unfortunate rear-end collision sent this car to a Denver car graveyard, giving us an illustrative snapshot of a place and time in popular automotive culture.

This car began life as one of the more than 350,000 Honda Accords sold in the United States for the 2005 model year. It’s a dime-a-dozen mid-level DX four-door with the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 160 horsepower.

It has air conditioning, a CD player with AUX input jack (a fairly rare feature in cars built before the late 2000s), an automatic transmission and a large helping of that legendary Accord reliability.

All in all, a very sensible car. But where’s the fun?

So, a shopping spree including pink spray paint, aftermarket accessories and many decals followed.

A not-so-fast but reasonably furious wing was bolted to the decklid.

When you’re a member of the Slow Car Club, you can be proud that your Accord doesn’t have the 255-horse V6 under its hood.

Inside, all the seats feature Hello Kitty seat covers.

Because genuine Hello Kitty wheels are very expensive, this car has regular 15-inch steelies painted pink.

Because all is not sweetness and cuddles in the Hello Kitty universe, there are spike lug nuts.

But did you die?

Break parts, not hearts.

One might apply this sentiment to the driver who crashed into this Accord and sent it to the junkyard.

It’s worth fixing a three-year-old Accord when this happens, but not so much with a 19-year-old Accord.

When you own a McMansion like this one, you require the low depreciation of the 2005 Accord LX.

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