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Category: 2010s

Junkyard Gem: 2014 Nissan Leaf


After writing about nearly 3,000 discarded vehicles during the past 17 years, I’ve learned that it takes just over a decade for a new type of car to begin showing up in the big self-service boneyards (not counting unrecognizably crashed and/or burned ones). The first mass-produced battery-electric vehicles of the modern era hit American streets during the early 2010s, which means used-up examples can now be found in Ewe Pullet-type car graveyards. Here’s one currently residing in Carson City, Nevada.


While battery-powered vehicles enjoyed mainstream sales success during the early days of the automobile, there were very few sold from the 1920s through the end of the 20th century. Things in the EV world got more interesting during the late 1990s, when General Motors sold the EV1 and Toyota offered the RAV4 EV (I feel fairly certain that I’ll never run across a junked EV1, but have found a discarded ’02 RAV4 EV).


Then the electron-fueled pace really picked up in the late 2000s. The Tesla Roadster became available to the public in 2008, followed by the Nissan Leaf in late 2010 and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV a year later. The Leaf immediately became the best-selling EV in the world, a title it held for most of the 2010s.


Nissan would like us all to spell this car’s model name in all capital letters, because LEAF is one of those tortured acronyms so beloved by Japanese carmakers: Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable Family Car. This isn’t as annoying as the model names we’re supposed to spell in all-lower-case letters or the ones with punctuation marks, but I’m not going to play that game. This is a Leaf, which means the plural shall be Leaves.


Because EV drivers get to drive solo in California’s HOV lanes, the early LEAF sold very well in the Golden State. This car’s current (and final) residence is across the state line in Nevada, but Carson City is only about ten miles from California.


You can tell it began its career in California from the Proposition 65 sticker on the driver’s side window, which informs car buyers that there may be cancer-causing materials inside. Most owners scrape off these stickers, but this one remained for the life of the car.


This car wasn’t crashed and the interior looks like it was in good shape upon junkyard arrival, so why did it get thrown out? Resale value on the 2014 Leaf and its 84-mile range isn’t so great compared to newer models, so we can assume that some costly mechanical problem ended this car’s career. Nissan wants $14,941.18 for a replacement battery pack, so that’s a good candidate for this Leaf’s demise.


The current Leaf can go up to 212 miles on a charge and boasts 147 horsepower (40 more than its 2014 predecessor) plus far superior fast-charging ability, so the specs on this car seem antiquated just a decade after it was built.

Good for the world, built in America.

What if everything ran on gas?



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Junkyard Gem: 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder


When Chrysler and Mitsubishi partnered to establish the Diamond-Star Motors plant in Illinois, the first cars built at that facility were 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipses along with their Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser twins. The Eclipse went through four generations, with 2012 as the final model year. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of the very last Eclipses, found in a Denver car graveyard recently.

This generation of Eclipse was built starting with the 2006 model year, and it was based on a platform shared with the Galant and Endeavor.

It was substantially larger than the early Eclipses, scaling in at nearly 3,500 pounds.

The Spyder convertible version of the fourth-gen Eclipse debuted in the United States as a 2007 model. Sales were never strong and became downright miserable by the end, with fewer than a thousand 2012 Eclipses (both coupes and convertibles) leaving showrooms.

This car is a base-grade GS with automatic transmission, and its VIN indicates that it was built for fleet sale. This would have been a fun rental car, at least compared to the Dodge Nitros and Kia Rios that stocked rental fleets in the early 2010s.

The engine is a 2.4-liter SOHC straight-four rated at 162 horsepower and 162 pound-feet.

The MSRP was $27,999, or about $38,581 in 2024 dollars.

2012 was also the final year for the Galant in the United States, though that was the model year in which the i-MiEV went on sale here. For the 2018 model year, Mitsubishi revived the Eclipse name — sort of — for the Outlander-derived Eclipse Cross compact SUV, which is still being built to this day.

Rare? Very. Valuable? No.

You could get the Eclipse Spyder with a 650-watt sound system. Driven to thrill.

 



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Junkyard Gem: 2014 Chevrolet Impala Limited


What does a car company do when it introduces a completely revised new generation of a vehicle even while fleet sales of its predecessor remain strong? In the case of 21st-century General Motors, you keep making both versions. That’s what GM did when the tenth-generation Chevrolet Impala had its debut as a 2014 model, continuing to build the ninth-generation Impala for fleet-only sales through 2016 and calling it the Impala Limited. Here’s one of those not-so-rare-but-still-interesting machines, found in a Colorado car graveyard recently.

This 2016 Chevrolet police-vehicle brochure photograph shows the Impala Limited on the left and the regular Impala on the right. The steel wheels on the Limited look better than alloys on a cop car, in my opinion.

The tenth-generation Impala had moved from the aging W Platform to the global Epsilon II platform, making it a sibling to such machines as the Opel Insignia and Saab 9-5. It was built for the 2016 through 2020 model years, making it the final Impala. That was quite a run for a model dating back to 1958.

This car is a good old W-Body, a chassis design dating back to the 1988 Buick Regal, Pontiac Grand Prix and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

That meant that the 2014-2016 Impala Limited was a bit shorter and much less roomy inside than the Epsilon-based 2014-2020 Impalas, but so what? Fleet mechanics had been working on W-Bodies for many years and knew them well, plus there was plenty of production capacity available.

GM had taken a similar route with the Chevrolet Classic a decade earlier; the Malibu moved over to the Epsilon platform for 2004 (making it sibling to the Saab 9-3 and Saturn Aura), while the N-Body version remained in production for fleet-only sales through 2006.

The engine in this car is a 3.6-liter High Feature DOHC V6 with variable valve timing, rated at an impressive 302 horsepower and 262 pound-feet. These cars were quick thanks to their curb weight of just over 3,600 pounds.

The only transmission available was a six-speed automatic. In fact, the final model year for a manual transmission in a U.S.-market production Impala was 1973 (when a three-speed column-shift manual was base equipment on six-cylinder cars).

I was traveling and renting cars all over the country during the Impala Limited’s heyday, in my role as wise and respected Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of Lemons Supreme Court, and every Lemons staffer preferred the ninth-generation Impala to all other rental options during the 2006-2016 period. Even when poorly maintained, these cars always run pretty well, plus they came with decent audio systems and plenty of engine power. In fact, we often held drag races between various rental cars on the long straights at road-race tracks; here I am officiating at a race between a rental Maxima and a rental Impala Limited at GingerMan Raceway in Michigan (the Limited won, as it nearly always did).

I always appreciated the AUX input jack in the Impala Limited’s radio when I rented these cars; this very useful feature was still fairly difficult to find in rental-spec cars during the middle 2010s.

The tenth-generation Impala was bigger inside than the Limited and rode more quietly, but I was disappointed when the ninth-gen cars departed rental fleets.

I haven’t documented any first-generation Impalas in junkyards, but I have photographed used-up examples of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh generations (including Bel Airs, Biscaynes, Caprices and other members of the Impala family).

Clinkscales Chevrolet in South Carolina had deals on ninth-gen Impalas for you!

It was a whole new animal.



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