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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

On the Verge of Unobtainum: A mad junkyard dash to save endangered parts

To all my fellow classic luxury car enthusiasts, I feel your pain. We avoid the usual smattering of classic American trucks or muscle cars, where catalogs and vendors aplenty offer every restoration part needed. It must be hard to get soft bits for a 1976 Cadillac Seville these days, and I can't even fathom how much it'd cost to restore an Exner-era Imperial.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/on-the-verge-of-unobtainum-a-mad-junkyard-dash-to...
129 REPLIES 129
CitationMan
Gearhead

Great story! Would love to hear about some more great finds.
I believe the 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo was the first production car with standard dual airbags. I used to have a 1990 944S2 Cabriolet with dual airbags. I always wondered what the airbag life expectancy was.
Sajeev
Community Manager



Ah yes, the 944 was indeed the first car with standard dual airbags! I was gonna google that up and add it to the article, but brevity became more important once I blew past (way past!) the 1000 word mark.
OldCarMan
Instructor

In 1988, Chrysler became the first United States automaker to fit a driver-side airbag as standard equipment, which was offered in six different models. The following year, Chrysler became the first US auto manufacturer to offer driver-side airbags in all its new passenger models. (per Wiki)
ALL firsts are relative!
relton
Advanced Driver

GM first offered airbags in 1971, in their large cars, for fleet sales, and in 1973 for general public sales. In addition to steering wheel and IP bags,they had lower bags for knee restraints. They were options in the large cars, and were not popular options. 1976 was the last year they were offered. Claiming airbag "firsts" for cars in the 80s is ignorng an important part of history.

In the 80s IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) was advocating for airbags. To show the reliability of them, they bought a junked 1971 Chevrolet Caprice. It had long since become inoperable. But they put a new battery in it, and did a 30 mph barrier test. The airbags worked perfectly. GM used, and still uses, gold plated connectors and contacts in the electrical system for airbags to prevent corrosion from causing a failure.

It was a long time bfore other cas offered comparable airbags.
Sajeev
Community Manager

I’d like to think having the word “standard” in my description of airbags would imply that other vehicles had them in the past, and would help me keep a long editorial from getting any longer.
Tim
Technician

I'm thinking relton may have had a bit of jealousy from his GM-fan perspective. 😁
Sajeev
Community Manager

Certainly not the case, as Relton and I are (or were?) both Lincoln Mark VIII fans. 

Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

No one talks about the 200 people who died from the first air bags breaking their necks.
Collateral damage, I guess.
61Rampy
Instructor

In 1973, I was co-working at a Texaco station with a guy who had just bought a new 73 Impala. While looking it over, I noticed it had an Oldsmobile dashboard. GM had developed the airbags for the Olds dash, and used it in whatever car they were putting airbags in. (Maybe not Cadillac). It was the first airbag car I had seen, and the last until I worked at a Ford dealer in the 90's. Side note: I did see a 90-something Tempo with airbags (they normally had those neck decapitator motorized belts back then. Also saw an AWD tempo, and it had a rear diff that looked like something out of a lawn tractor- it was very weird.

Sajeev
Community Manager

The Tempo had an optional airbag (driver's only) in the late 1980s, and yes, it was so much better than the motorized mouse belts of the standard one. 

ap41563
Intermediate Driver

I also have alerts set up for all the local junkyards for the last generation of Buick Le Sabre. I have been looking for the defroster panel on the upper dash. My Buick is a Celebration Edition so I have the rare Heads Up Display and this trim panel is unique to show the projection on the windshield. After waiting for a year the right one showed up locally and I rushed over. I was crushed when I opened the door to see that panel in 4 broken pieces. I am not sure what the person before me was on the hunt for has nothing else seemed to be taken apart.

It always a bit surreal to me to drive my clean and working Buick to the junk yard and walk in and see my twin looking rough as the Continental above. Just how does a car get to that point to end up there? If cars could talk...

Sajeev
Community Manager

So I'm not the only one getting alerts for unloved sedans of this generation! I remember that HUD, and yes, you are in for a long hunt. I'd recommend plasti-welding, something I will need to do when the next car I need from the junkyard hits my newsfeed.
ap41563
Intermediate Driver

My my alert list includes the following:

2000-2005 Buick Le Sabre
2000-2005 Cadillac Deville

Thankfully the above show up on a regular basis although not the Celebration Le Sabre, or my DHS Trim Deville but I am currently hoarding interior trim pieces. I have become an expect a plastic welding as the trim pieces for this generation of GM have gotten brittle over what now is 20 years.

I also keep a look out for my childhood cars:
1986-1991 Taurus/Sable
1991-1997 Toyota Previa

But they very rarely show up these days.

Thanks for saving a 1988-94 Lincoln Continental. I have always thought they were great looking cars but got a bad wrap for the very reasons you listed above. (Although I may be jaded as I live with the "DeathStar Deville" ) My neighbor had a 1988 model in 2000 that honestly was beat within an inch of its life at 12 years old. It had been wrecked a few times and never put back right. He had me detail it and the water pump was leaking badly and failed to tell me about and made a mess on my dads driveway. He did it no favors sadly and he kept it for a year or so and then it disappeared. I have not seen a clean nice looking Continental in years. Thank you for keeping one nice and alive and willing to go though a biohazard for interior trim.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Thank you for your kind words, and for sharing your junkyard searching story. It's nice to hear I'm not the only one doing all this work for under appreciated cars like this!

ap41563
Intermediate Driver

Hey looking through your articles I don't think you've written up anything about your 89 Continental. I think we'd all like to read about it when get some time to write it up.
Sajeev
Community Manager

You are right, and I can make that happen! 

JeffW
New Driver

I got rid of my 05 Lesabre Limited this past summer, and it had the heads up display. I loved that car, but the Michigan winters were doing a number on the underside and quarters, so I sold it. I suspect it will wind up in a Saginaw area junkyard within a couple of years. Too bad, really… it was gold on gold, with a spotless leather interior, and that 3800 was still getting me 30+ miles per gallon, only burning half a quart every 3500 miles.
ap41563
Intermediate Driver

I am fortunate to live in the south, so 16 year old cars here are rust free as long as they've live down here there whole life. My Cadillac which was my daily driver started hating the hour long commute I had pre-covid. I wanted to spend less than 5k on something that would be reliable and my go to was the Le Sabre with the 3800, found one owner with 89k on it pearl white and chrome rims. It matched my Deville and when in the driveway people thought 2-90 year old Grandma's must have moved in with me. It's been dead reliable and I expect to keep as my daily at least till 2024 when hopefully the used car market calms down again.
ILuvOldCars
New Driver

I am going to be disposing of a 2001 DeVille DHS in the coming weeks. Belongs to my 94 year old mother in law. Only has 60k miles but didn't get driven during covid.  Condition is not bad but brakes, tires and battery are shot. It's in Columbus Ohio.  Not parting, must trailer the entire car. Want it?

ap41563
Intermediate Driver

What color is the interior ? Honestly the "Deathstar" has hit mine at 169k so I need to replace the whole drivetrain. It belonged to my Grandmother and it's now a "weekend" car but I wish I could take it on long trips again as nothing beats it for 12 hour interstate drive days.
hyperv6
Collector

Cars in general are getting difficult to find in traditional junk yards. Most are being salvaged as soon as they are turned in. Buying a privately owned parts car is becoming the likely source of parts anymore. 

I can recall in the 80’s finding things like 65 GTO’s or even once a stainless top 50’s Cadillac Eldorado Barritz sedan. 

Today a car goes in and parted out for resale on the web and the rest is shredded. 

I recall on Seinfeld the green 73 Impala Kramer has with the Assman plate was one of the first Chevys offered with an air bag. Look at the steering wheel and you see a very rare steering wheel. 

audiobycarmine
Technician

That '50's Eldorado was most likely an Eldorado Brougham...
They were the ones with the stainless steel roof. Super Rare.
A Biarritz from those days was a convertible, with the Seville as the hardtop.
DUB6
Racer

I've said it before and here we go again: I love reading comments on this forum, because I'm always learning new things (or at least things that I didn't even know I didn't know, so never went out of my way to look up).  My challenge now is to remember it and figure out how to interject it into a conversation with "the guys" so they will look at me as some sort of knowledge guru or something.  [Don't laugh, it's happened before!]

kyree-williams
Detailer

That happened to me a few weeks ago, when I happened to find a 2005 Jaguar XJL at a local junkyard online. I figured I could get some of the broken trim pieces or some cleaner carpet-liner panels. out of it for my 2006 XJ Vanden Plas.

Nope. Not a single salvageable piece.

And it was the only X350-generation XJ they had, too. By contrast, they had at least seven examples of the Lincoln Mark VIII, a car that should be just as rare.

Sajeev
Community Manager

Times like these are disappointing, but that's the chance we take when we get access to an old car at the end of its life!  Ironically I now need parts for my Lincoln Mark VIII, and the only two around are the GEN IIs. Maybe I will write another one up when I get my hands on a GEN I at a local yard. 

Melmark93
New Driver

hyperv6 is absolutely correct. I have 3 Gen1 MarkVIIIs, 2 are mint and the 3rd is a daily driver/donor car. My wife hates it being around, but it supplies a stream of parts to the other cars.
Land_Ark
Intermediate Driver

There's a junkyard about an hour from me that does a good job photo graphing the new cars as they come in. I check it just about every day to see what they've got. I also enjoy looking at wrecked cars trying to piece together what probably happened.
I also search for:
2005-2009 Subaru Legacy and Outback
2004-2006 Pontiac GTO - of which I have never seen any at any you-pull
2003-2008 BMW Z4
2001-2005 Lexus IS300
Cadillac Caterra (uses the same door handles as the GTO but they were made of metal instead of the plastic of the GTO which is prone to severe paint flaking)

One time last year I nearly jumped in my car and drove to strip a 2009 Scion tC. It was the RS 5.0 model which had TRD parts and red insert seats. I would have gotten everything off of it despite the fact that I haven't owned a Scion tC since 2010. But, having owned one I knew the parts that are the most valuable and hard to find. And what if I decided to get another tC? I could put all those parts on it and make my own TRD tC. I managed to talk myself out of it by convincing myself that junkyard prices have gone way up recently and I really don't have the space to store them - what with a pair of seats from my previously owned tC still sitting in my garage today.

Last month I made a trip looking for an overhead console to replace in my 2007 Legacy GT wagon because a common faulty solder joint in it causes an airbag light to come on intermittently. They had 5 Legacies and Outbacks of the generation but no 2007s. That was when I learned that the 2007 console was a 1 year only part and did not work with the other years there. I left empty handed.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Shame you couldn't save those TRD parts, mostly because they will be a decent investment over time. When I save rare parts like that, even at full retail prices at a major junkyard chain, I always make more when I re-sell them on Facebook Marketplace and/or Facebook enthusiast groups. Not that I do it often, but when I do the profit margins are well over 100%. 

Land_Ark
Intermediate Driver

LALALALA!! I'm not listening! Nor was that also shouting inside my head. I am hopeful some other savvy shopper grabbed them. I would be unhappy knowing they went to the crusher.
Sajeev
Community Manager

I feel the same way about a 2003-ish SVT Focus I saw a few years ago in the yard that had the rare HID lights, aftermarket speed bits and a nice set of factory wheels. Wanted to grab it all, but alas, I did not!!! 

DUB6
Racer

Enjoyed the story - although I don't relate exactly to info about Tauruses and Continentals. I think many of us "of a certain age" really understand the joys of junkyards and the thrill of "the find". Younger folks are not going to have a tote or bin with treasures found while prowling an automotive scrapyard, and that's a shame.
Just today I saw a mid-seventies T-Bird being loaded into the crusher with a big forklift as we drove past a local yard. Looked to be a fairly complete car (or at least the side I could see). They had two or three smashers stacked on a nearby flatbed. So I assume that truck will be rolling out with a full load before the day is done, and a dozen or more parts cars will be gone forever.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Glad you enjoyed my little tale to tell, but I'm happy to say you're 100% incorrect about "Younger folks are not going to have a tote or bin with treasures found while prowling an automotive scrapyard."

I'm in my mid-40s and I was one of the oldest people at that yard. Not just this time, but on a regular basis. There were a ton of millenials there, but they aren't the types of big city millenials that get covered in the media. But they exist, and they're just trying to keep their old cars alive with junkyard parts. 

DUB6
Racer

Well that is encouraging, but at least in this area, the scrapyards themselves are disappearing.  So it's not the lack of younger folks visiting them that I'm lamenting, it's the lack of places for them to visit.  I see cars being bought right at the local used auto auction that go directly to the crusher instead of to a pick-a-part yard.

Sajeev
Community Manager

Wow, that's definitely not a problem here. Demand is high and junkyards (be it U-pull or U-just-buy) are plentiful in Houston. 

DUB6
Racer

@Sajeev - so, does that mean that I'm not 100% wrong, just maybe 97.86%?  😋

Sajeev
Community Manager

Let's go with 82.38% 

Spookysgarage
Detailer

Wow, those are really difficult to find parts for! Where I am employed, those large cars of the late 70's and 80's are just a dead hero and space taker in the yard.
However- the Caprice and Impala cars part out exceptionally well.
Check us out!
https://www.allamericanclassics.com/
DavidFlamer
New Driver

I had a 1992 and 1993 (and 1996 and 1999) Taurus SHO. A lot of the parts on these cars did have some interchangeability.

The earlier SHO's were seriously under braked. One of the swaps that was popular on these cars was taking the much larger FWD Continental spindles, rotors and calipers and putting them on the SHO's Made a huge difference in stopping power. I'd still have the 1993 if I did not get T-boned in it.
Sajeev
Community Manager

I have severe duty, Taurus Cop Car front brake pads on my Conti thanks to the interchangeability you've mentioned.

 

I think the brake upgrade you mentioned is from 95-02 Continentals (and Mark VIIIs), as mine has 15" wheels that don't clear those brakes. I am pretty sure what Ford designed to stop the 1988 Continental was re-used in its entirety for the SHO program...for better or worse. 😉

stevedale
Intermediate Driver

Great article! What I like most about it is that you're expanding the conversation about car collecting/restoration, etc. to include vehicles that aren't often recognized as being in that realm. Great work you've done with your Lincoln -- a beautiful machine!
Bottom line, as the vehicle industry accelerates toward EVs anything that is ICE based is going to be more and more collectible.
steve
JEL395
Intermediate Driver

Totally agree, where else today can we find ongoing eclectic conversations of this nature ? Mr Mehta and Hagerty have done a fine job of curating and informing all. Cheers
Sajeev
Community Manager

Curation is the name of the game these days! (Well, at least for me.) 

highmiles
Pit Crew

I love the junkyard. I can attest to the joy of finding that car that miraculously has all the plastic bits that break off your car when you look at them in good condition and in the right color. This is how I keep the 2001 Volvo S60 my son drives alive. Hey, it's a five speed!
Pro-tip. Don't text any friends with "I'm at the junkyard, need anything?" unless you really have nothing better to do that day. Of course, I always text them...
Sajeev
Community Manager

When I was there I shockingly found an early 1960s Dart for my friend to look at. I might join him at this yard once again this Sunday. 😀

Hooper70
Pit Crew

Great story! Don't forget to scan your local police seizure auction(s), older Continentals & Cadillacs pop up quite frequently...guess gangsters like the plush ride:)
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Parts for ANYTHING more than a few years old is hard to come by and the condition of parts is poor. It has been that way for the past 30+ years in metro areas of any size. Land costs are high so the turnover of parts has to be as well. And those cars that end up in rural areas get weathered to death. The plastics just decompose and die. 40 years ago when I was looking for parts for my 69 Chevelle, the pickings were slim then. They were practicing the 'anything older than 8 years gets shredded' routine after only spending two or three weeks in the yard which is crazy because you could get stuff new for those late models still. It's the older stuff that we needed. Now if you have the money, you can get almost anything reproduced due to 3d printing and CAD manufacturing (if you have the prints). Dashboards can be redone. Some seats can be restored easily if the fabric is still out there. All is not lost (except for those who can't afford to do it).
Zephyr
Technician

Exactly right. Here in the S.F. Bay Area the junkyards crush anything more than 5 years old and anything too unusual to have a big market for parts. A yard once told me that they crush all Volvos, even the late model ones, because Volvo owners don't buy used parts. You have to go to the rural areas to find older cars. Another problem is junkyards being put out of business by lawsuits from environmentalist groups claiming that they are polluting the ground water, and drummed up lawsuits from lawyers claiming that junkyards are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing equal access to disabled people. In reality, if you are disabled most junkyards will gladly have one of their employees fetch the part for you, but the fact is the lawyers pushing the issue aren't actually looking for equal access, they're looking for money.
GForce
Pit Crew

Not sure if the parts are interchangeable or not and probably too far and expensive to ship. But I have a deceased in-laws 1994 Continental with under 100k. White with blue leather and a moonroof (that worked last I checked). The only issue are the notorious rear air shocks and power steering. Other than that it cranks whenever I go out and move it in the driveway to keep the HOA off my back (I keep it backed in so they can't see the expired registration). I need to get rid of it, but hate to sell as just a parts car or a junker as it isn't.

I know it is fwd and they are easier to spin the wheels, but can't believe the 3.8L lights up the tire like it does when I drive it through the neighborhood (yes, fighting the lack of power steering).
Sajeev
Community Manager

Yeah shipping one isn't really worthwhile, and I don't need a whole car's worth of parts. That long-runner intake 3.8L does give more torque than you'd expect, but that's about all its good for. Still, I love these cars and I hope you can find it a decent home...and not one that will scrap it the moment it no longer becomes "affordable transportation."