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Category: Wagon

Junkyard Gem: 1982 Toyota Cressida Wagon


There was once a time when many car manufacturers each offered station wagons to American car shoppers in several sizes. During the early 1980s, even Mercury had wagons available in small, medium and large sizes, and Toyota was right there with three of its own: the little Corolla, the somewhat bigger Corona and the opulent Cressida. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those Cressidas, found in a car graveyard in the Northern California hometown of John Steinbeck.


The rear-wheel-drive Cressida was available in the United States from 1978 through 1992, going through four generations along the way. It descended from the Corona Mark II, and in fact retained the Mark II name in Japan well into our current century. Until the Lexus LS 400 showed up here as a 1990 model, the Cressida was the most luxurious U.S-market Toyota car during its reign here; the Avalon is the closest thing to the Cressida’s replacement in the United States market.


This generation of Cressida was sold in the United States for the 1981 through 1984 model years, and it was closely related to the Celica Supras of the same era. That means it has an M-series overhead-cam straight-six engine driving the rear wheels. One big difference between the 1982 Cressida wagon and the 1982 Celica Supra is that the wagon didn’t get an independent rear suspension (the Cressida sedan did, though).


In this case, the engine is a 2.8-liter 5M-E with electronic fuel injection, rated at 116 horsepower and 145 pound-feet. Curb weight was just 2,906 pounds (significantly less than that of the current Corolla), so its performance was decent for the era.


A four-speed automatic with an overdrive top gear was standard equipment.


The MSRP for this car was $12,699, or about $42,294 in 2024 dollars. The only 1982 Toyota with a higher U.S.-market price tag was the $13,218 Land Cruiser four-door.


This was a California-market car from the beginning, as we can see by the underhood emissions sticker.


The 1982 Cressida came with plenty of standard features that were extra-cost options on most comparable cars (beyond the automatic transmission, that is). Air conditioning, cruise control, rear defroster and an AM/FM four-speaker audio system were included.


I’ve found plenty of high-mile Toyotas in junkyards over the years, including an Avalon that drove 949,863 miles and a Camry that did 648,928 miles, but this Cressida barely cracked the 100k mark during its 42-year life.


The wagon version of the Cressida was available in the United States from the 1978 through 1987 model years, after which it was replaced by the high-end trim levels of the Camry wagon.


These cars have something of an enthusiast following, but that wasn’t enough to spare this rust-free one from its junkyardy fate.

Nobody else can give you the feeling!

Sadly, we never got the turbocharged version on our shores.



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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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Junkyard Gem: 1993 Ford Escort LX Wagon


The original North American Ford Escort was based (somewhat loosely) on its European cousin and was sold from the 1981 through 1990 model years. After that, the mighty Ford Empire turned to its Japanese ally, Mazda, for the Escort’s platform and that’s where it remained until the final ZX2 Escort coupes were sold here as 2003 models. I’ve neglected those early Mazda-based Escorts in this series up until now, so here’s one found in a Colorado car graveyard recently.

The U.S.-market Escort was available in wagon form from 1981 through 1999 model years. For 1993, the Escort wagon came only with the LX trim level and its MSRP was $10,367 (about $22,795 in 2024 dollars). It appears that this one started out at a dealership just outside of Kansas City.

A 1993 non-wagon Escort buyer getting the LX-E or GT models got a 1.8-liter DOHC Mazda four-cylinder rated at 127 horsepower, while all the other American Escorts that year came with this 1.9-liter Ford CVH and its 88 horses.

Wagons deserve manual transmissions, and that’s what this car has. A four-speed automatic was available in several option packages or as a standalone purchase for $732 ($1,610 after inflation).

This car was a platform sibling to the Mazda 323 aka Protegé, which made it a close cousin to the 1991-1994 Mercury Capri. Its Mercury-badged twin was the Tracer.

Station wagons were on their way out of favor with American consumers in 1993, nearly a decade after the first Chrysler minivans and Jeep XJ Cherokees appeared, two years after the debut of the Ford Explorer and the model year of the first Jeep Grand Cherokees. Three years later, the Toyota RAV4 showed up in the United States, followed by the Honda CR-V a year after that, ensuring that Escort-sized wagons didn’t have much longer to live on showroom floors.

This deeply offensive bumper sticker was the creation of the late Frank T. Kostecki, an Ohio fur trapper and businessman who owned Kosky’s Trading Post in Sullivan and offered a full line of stickers promoting the consumption of roadkill possum.

Ford still hadn’t gone to six-digit odometers on the Escort by the time this one was built, so we can’t know its final mileage total.

Your friendly Northwest Ford dealer would toss in air conditioning, AM/FM stereo and a luggage rack at no extra cost!



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Junkyard Gem: 1977 Dodge Aspen Wagon


Chrysler killed off the wagon versions of the Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart compacts in the United States after 1966, which meant that the only new small station wagons offered through the middle 1970s by American Dodge and Plymouth dealers were the Mitsubishi-built Colt and the Hillman-built Cricket. Meanwhile, American Motors was doing pretty well selling Hornet Sportabouts, so something needed to be done. That something turned out to be the Dodge Aspen and its Plymouth Volaré sibling, which debuted as 1976 models and included longroof versions. We saw a discarded Volaré wagon in glorious brown a couple of years back, and now it’s the turn of a similarly brown Aspen wagon, found in a northeastern Colorado self-service boneyard recently.

For quite a while, American manufacturers giving place names to their products preferred to use the titles of picturesque (or at least wealthy) regions with warm climates, e.g., Bel Air, Capri, Monaco, Barcelona, Montego, Monte Carlo, Cordoba, Granada, Torino, Riviera and so on. Aspen, Colorado, isn’t warm but rich people like to ski there and so it seemed like a properly aspirational name for the cheapest U.S.-market Dodge not built by Mitsubishi. Later on, other ski-centric regions of the American West, such as Tahoe and Telluride, were used for vehicle names.

Aspen got even more absurdly wealthy in the decades that followed the Dodge Aspen (which was built for the 1976 through 1980 model years), so Fiat Chrysler couldn’t resist reviving the name on a luxed-up Durango with Chrysler badges during the late 2000s.

The Aspen and Volaré replaced the dependable but antiquated Dart and Valiant, with the general idea that they would be a bit bigger and more modern-looking than their predecessors while still being cheap, simple transportation.

The chassis design was all new, though it still used an old-timey torsion-bar front/leaf-spring rear rig. The powertrains were essentially identical to those of the Dart/Valiant.

The base engine in the Dodge Aspen was the 225-cubic-inch (3.7-liter) Slant-6, but this car has one of the optional LA-series small-block V8s. Both the 318 (5.2-liter) and 360 (5.9-liter) were available in these cars; the two look identical at a glance and I didn’t feel like catching hantavirus from all the rat poop I’d have had to remove to look at block casting numbers. If it’s a 360 and it’s original, then it’s the two-barrel version with 155 horsepower rather than the four-barrel with 175 horses.

The transmission is the optional three-speed automatic rather than the base three-speed column-shift manual.

In 1977, American Dodge dealers offered car shoppers four sizes of new station wagon: the subcompact Colt (then in its final model year in wagon form here), the compact Aspen, the midsize Monaco and the full-size Royal Monaco. 1977 ties with 1964 for the title of Peak Wagon in the United States, with 47 different wagon models available here that year. The decline in wagon popularity happened slowly until 1984, when the introduction of the new front-wheel-drive Chrysler minivans and the Jeep XJ Cherokee marked the beginning of the end for the American longroof.

How much was the 1977 Aspen wagon? This one appears to be a top-of-the-range Special Edition, so its MRSP with 318 V8 and automatic transmission would have been $4,758, or about $25,403 in 2024 dollars. The cheapest possible 1977 Aspen wagon (with six-cylinder engine and three-on-the-tree manual transmission) started at $3,953 ($21,105 after inflation).

Meanwhile, the 1977 Colt wagon started at $3,900 ($20,822 today), so it wasn’t much cheaper than the Aspen.

This car has some pricey options beyond the $270 ($1,442 now) automatic transmission, the biggest-ticket one being the $466 air conditioning ($2,488 in today’s money).

The rear window in the Aspen/Volaré wagons didn’t open, but Chrysler still included warning stickers to prevent users from driving or idling with the hatch-style tailgate open and huffing carbon monoxide.

There were some notebook pages with maintenance and repair items dating from the 1980s inside.

The Aspen/Volaré platform lived on, in slightly modified form, through the 1989 model year (when it underpinned such cars as the Dodge Diplomat and Chrysler Fifth Avenue). The final new Dodge wagon sold in the United States was the 2008 Magnum.

Hey, it’s Dr. Dolittle pitching the Aspen wagon!



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Junkyard Gem: 1994 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon


Volvo began selling brick-shaped rear-wheel-drive station wagons in the United States with the 145 in the 1968 model year, continuing the tradition with the 200, 700 and 900 series wagons and all the way through the very last 1998 V90s. The benefits of front-wheel-drive proved impossible for those Göteborgers to resist, though, and so the 850 was developed. The 850 sedan first appeared in the United States as a 1993 model, with the wagon version following in 1994. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those first-year 850 wagons, found in a Colorado Springs self-service yard recently.

The 850 wasn’t the first production Volvo with front-wheel-drive (the 1986 Volvo 480 beat it to European showrooms), but it was the first one available on our continent.

The base 1994 Volvo 850 wagon for the U.S. market had a 2.4-liter DOHC straight-five rated at 168 horsepower and 162 pound-feet, but this car has the turbocharged version with its 222 horses and 221 pound-feet.

American buyers of the 1994 Volvo 850 had the choice of a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Most took the automatic.

This car is a loaded model with power sunroof and other goodies in addition to the slushbox, so its MSRP was $30,985 (about $66,194 in 2024 dollars). This was a bit less than a similarly equipped 960 wagon (which listed at $34,950, or $74,665 after inflation). The antiquated but reliable 240 wagon had been discontinued the year before, with the 740 wagon getting the axe the year before that).

This car just made it past the 200,000-mile mark during its career on the road. That’s respectable, though I’ve found discarded Volvos that made it beyond 400,000 miles (and one that got to 631,999).

The interior looked pretty good before someone smashed all the windows. Perhaps vandalism sent a running car to this place.

Someone was kind enough to write down the security code on the factory radio.

Drive safely.

For those of you who hate to commute but adore driving.



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Junkyard Gem: 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity Wagon


The beginning of the end for station wagons arrived as the second half of the 1980s dawned, thanks to Chrysler’s introduction of its game-changing minivans and AMC’s introduction of the even more influential XJ Jeep Cherokee (both as 1984 models), but few noticed at first. At that time, GM’s Chevrolet Division still offered wagons in three different sizes: the Cavalier, Celebrity and Caprice Classic; today’s Junkyard Gem is an example of the middle type, found in a Denver self-service yard recently.

The Celebrity was based on GM’s front-wheel-drive A Platform, which was derived from the X Platform that underpinned the Chevrolet Citation and its kin. It was built from the 1982 through 1990 model years and was a huge success with well over 2 million sold. The Celebrity has all but disappeared from streets and car graveyards by now, so this is a rare opportunity to follow up the base-model ’87 Celebrity sedan we saw a few years ago with a loaded longroof version.

The Celebrity’s near-identical siblings were the Buick Century, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera/Cruiser and Pontiac 6000.

I have some personal and not-so-pleasant family experience with the Celebrity. My parents were patriotic Midwesterners who chose Detroit machinery (with a couple of notable exceptions) to drive from the time I was brought home from the hospital in a 1956 Olds 88 after my birth until I was off at college during the middle 1980s. They’d had an unpleasant experience with a 1979 Ford Granada, writing it off to simple bad luck, but then my dad decided to trade in his 1978 Pontiac Bonneville on a new Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport sedan (above is the only surviving photo of that car, shot past the snout of my now-legendary 1965 Impala sedan). That car was an across-the-board lemon, failing repeatedly under warranty and then even more repeatedly later on, and it drove my parents into the waiting arms of Toyota and Mazda, from which they never returned to Detroit iron.

That said, my family’s Celebrity experience wasn’t universal, and there are still devoted Celebrity enthusiasts to this day. That becomes relevant when telling the tale of today’s Junkyard Gem, because it will lead us to a heartwarming junkyard happy ending.

This car’s interior was just beautiful, leading me to believe that the 43,977 miles showing on its five-digit odometer represented the actual mileage. What a waste of nice interior parts, I thought, but then I remembered that I knew a Celebrity wagon owner!

Yes, the same married couple of Denver-area 24 Hours of Lemons racers who compete with a Chevy Vega and bought a 1990 Dodge Omni for their 16-year-old (because it’s a cool old car that, amazingly, came with a peace-of-mind-providing driver’s-side airbag) picked up a Celebrity station wagon to drive in the Route 66 Lemons Rally last month. Since my tip about a junked 1988 Plymouth Horizon led them to a bonanza of Omni parts, I let them know about the super-clean Celebrity in a nearby boneyard.

As it turned out, they had too many weird hoopties in their stable and had just sold their rally Celebrity to an enthusiast in Iowa who owns several nicely restored Celebrities. He would be flying out to Denver to pick up his wagon and was elated to learn of a nearly-impossible-to-find parts donor in a Mile High junkyard.

After picking up his new ride, he drove the 10 minutes over to U-Pull-&-Pay and harvested all these Celebrity goodies to take home.

As an added bonus, he found the original build sheet under the rear seat and sent a photo. Look at all those expensive options!

As the build sheet states, this car was built at the Oklahoma City plant and then sold new at Osborn Chevrolet on South Havana Street in Aurora (now Celebration Chevrolet at the same location). You can get incredible Korean food in that neighborhood today, by the way.

The base engine in the Celebrity was the 2.5-liter Iron Duke four-cylinder, but this car has the optional high-output 2.8-liter V6 and its 125 horses/160 pound-feet. A 4.3-liter diesel V6 (which was an Oldsmobile design not related to the Chevrolet 4.3-liter V6) was available for the 1985 through 1986 model years, but had been dropped by the time this car was built.

The HO 2.8 got multi-port fuel injection, while the ordinary 112hp 2.8 had a two-barrel carburetor.

For 1986, Celebrity buyers could get a four-on-the-floor manual transmission as base equipment with cars built with Iron Duke or carbureted 2.8 engines (almost none did), but the HO 2.8 cars got this four-speed automatic. Just to confuse matters, the Iron Duked ’86 Celebrity could be purchased with a three-speed automatic.

This AM/FM/cassette radio with auto-reverse and Dolby noise reduction is serious audio hardware for a low-priced American car of the middle 1980s. Celebrity buyers for 1986 got nothing as standard audio equipment, as in the only tunes you’d get in the car were the ones you sang yourself; this unit (which was the second-to-the-top radio option for the 1986 Celebrity) cost a cool $319, or about $909 in 2024 dollars. You really needed it, however, if you wanted to do justice to the hits of the era.

Junkyard employees generally don’t have time to futz with malfunctioning GM hood latches when it comes time to yank the battery and drain all the fluids, so they’ll take this kind of drastic prybar action to open a hood quickly. That’s a shame, because this car’s body was in good shape when it arrived here.

Interestingly for a Detroit wagon with so many options, this one doesn’t seem to have the rear-facing “wayback” seat.

It will be crushed soon, but at least many of its parts went to a good home.

The Celebrity sedan was replaced by the Lumina, with the Lumina APV minivan taking over midsize family-hauling duties. The very last new Chevrolet station wagon available in the United States was the longroof version of the 1996 Caprice.

Drive today’s Chevy. Live today’s Chevy.

The roomiest front-drive wagons in America.





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