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1975-1985 Domestics---the Doomed Decade?

My friend called me up yesterday to complain that he has been unable to junk a '79 Seville. He claimed the wrecking yards would not accept cars of that vintage.

I was a bit surprised so I called up three yards in my area, and sure enough, none of them were very anxious to go pick up the car for free. The word was that 1975-85 domestics are not worth the yard space for parting out, and that there is very little demand for parts for them. One guy told me he even refused an '82 kind of stripped (stolen) and rough Corvette C4.

If this is true, then these cars are quite doomed, since there will be no parts for those people who might want to save the one they have.

When I stopped to think about it, the junkyards' position makes perfect sense from a business point of view. Very few folks are saving and restoring these cars, so parts demand is very low. Since the wrecking yards are now falling under more regulations regarding disposal of fluids and size of yards and how they can be stored/stacked, it seems logical that you arent' going to keep just any old thing in your yard.

I feel this position by the wrecking yard also accurately reflects the low value of these years of domestics in the collector car market.

By the way, the yards also are not much interested in early Japanese cars or trucks. They still like pre 1975 domestics though.


  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    It's true. I spent my first years growing up in the early part of the 80s. When I was a little kid, my parents had an '81 Ford Granada, '85 Mercury Marquis, and '87 Olds Cutlass Ciera. All of these cars had their share of problems, most notably constant engine stalling anywhere at any time. They were dumped pretty quickly. The only good domestic of that era that we had was an '87 Chevy Nova, and we still have and drive it daily.

    My godfather's cars during that time were a '78 Olds Cutlass, '84 Olds Omega, and '85 Buick Century. All junk. My best friend's parents had a '78 Chevy 4x4 pickup and an '82 Ford Club Wagon. They were junk, too, because they both rusted out and aged at a pretty fast rate. I remember these things because we all lived in the same neighborhood. But my former next-door neighbors had the ultimate in junk: they owned a '77 Vega hatchback and an early '80 Citation. As far back as I can remember, these cars were so crappy that it wasn't funny at all.
  • Shiftright-

    What kind of junkyards are you dealing with? They must be the more urban variety, that stock mainly late-model wrecks, rather than old cars that were just junked because of age. I have no trouble finding loads of '70s and '80s full-size GM cars in rural you-pull-it junkyards when I need parts for my 1986 Parisienne. I once found a Parisienne that was absolutely identical to mine except for the color. But you're probably right that the survival rate for 1975 and newer vehicles will be surprisingly low. I think the ones most likely to survive are those that were owned for their first 15 years by old people who rarely drove them. Both my Parisienne and my brother's 1977 Celica have that sort of history.

    -Andrew L
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    Assure your friend that if he really wants to get rid of his post-1975 domestic, the midwest is the best place for it.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    There's a junkyard here in MD that I deal with alot. If you have a RWD Mopar, they'll take it. Any year. They do specialize in Mopars though, so that probably has something to do with it ;-) Evidently, there's still enough old Mopars out there to keep the junkyard supplied. Last time I was in there, I'd say they had about as many Darts and Valiants, which hadn't been built now for 26 model years, as they do LH bodies! Of course, the big diffeence is that the only reason the LH bodies are endng up in there is because of accidents. Every single one was wrecked, so I guess even the oldest '93 models still have enough book value to fix, even if something major goes like the tranny or engine. The old A-bodies were in there for a variety of reasons...old carcasses that had been stripped bare, slant-6 sedans that had sat around in someone's back yard for ages and finally seized up, but, surprisingly, still a lot of them in there from accidents.

    As for Ford and GM cars, they still had a fair share of '70's and '80's cars. Mainly downsized ones. Not too many big '71-76 GMs or '73-78 generation Fords. They used to get a lot of these cars in, but I think it finally got to the point that most of these cars are past their peak, as far as the mass exodus to the junkyard is concerned. Most of the ones that were going to get wrecked or die from a mechanical failure probably did years ago, and the rest are either meticulously maintained, or nickeling and diming their owners to death as we speak.

    We did have a situation back in '94 though, when some friends of mine wanted to get rid of a '76 Hornet wagon. It still ran fine and looked pretty good, although it leaked oil from a broken valve cover bolt. They just wanted to get rid of it...even if they didn't get anything for it. But when they called around, none of the junkyards would even take it for nothing! I think they even offered to pay, and one junkyard just said "we don't have a need for that type of car". Finally, we made a 90 mile trip down south of Culpeper VA, to a huge junkyard, in the hopes that he'd take it. He gave them $90.00 for it, mainly because it had new tires.
  • Well, a junkyard that's a REAL wrecking yard, and not some farmer's dump, needs to decide what kind of inventory to keep to stay in business.

    Modern wreckers aren't like the old mom and pop yards, they are often computerized, have hot-lines, and a good business sense. I certainly understand their reluctance to keep 75-85 domestics if there is no demand for parts.

    Specializing helps, but if you do specialize you need to publicize a lot to gather business from a wide area.

    Lance--It really wouldn't pay to ship a post 75 car to the midwest, and they aren't worth enough for anybody to come out and get one here, seems to me. If it was, it would be a booming business, but it ain't, so it' ain't.

    But the Seville will go to the recycler, so that's something. More steel for new Mustangs or whatever.
  • Shiftright-

    The "real" wrecking yards are good for body shops and stuff, but they're so expensive! I would rather drive to Nowhere, Pennsylvania and get a fender for $15 than pay $60 at a local yard. The old-fashioned rural yards have been extremely helpful in restoring my brother's 1977 Celica. We were able to get a hood, a bumper, a headlight assembly and various trim parts for a grand total of $65 at one such yard. By the way, the Celica is coming along well...all its mechanical work is done, so it's fully roadworthy. We have cleaned out the interior and replaced the dash pad and floor mats, and the front-end body work is done. All that remains is to fix rust on the doors and rear quarters, and get it painted. If it weren't for cheap junkyards, this project would have cost big money. I think each variety of junkyard has its usefulness.

    -Andrew L
  • Yeah, but if isn't run as a business, it's not going to be around long. Yards aren't going to make money stocking old Celicas That is, you would have to admit, an absurd business model for 2002. If your yard is doing that, you can kiss it goodbye, right?

    Junkyards are dying out at a pretty fast clip. Only the smart ones are going to survive.

    You know, business life is cruel. Maybe it sounds hard-assed to say "get rid of all our 1975s-85s, they aren't making money", but that's what it takes to do business apparently, these days. One yard I spoke to said he was in business since 1960. In his immediate area, he is the last of 25 yards. And he is in a very industrial area, Richmond, Calif. It's not a pretty landscape, so the issue isn't environmental. The issue is that he kept up with trends and changes.

    He actually has a bunch of old cars, but they are 50s-60s cars he is selling complete, as "builders". I think they are piles of junk myself, but he seems to think someone is really going to come in and buy a bombed-out 68 Chevelle 4-door. Lotsa luck, pal.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Out in East Palo Alto there used to be six or seven yards, some of them just holes in the wall, but the last time I was out there it was just one big flossy yard--or as flossy as a wrecking yard gets. Consolidation seems to be the name of the game.
  • Some yards are so fancy they are hardly good deals anymore. They are charging 60% of list price for used parts. They can go take a flying leap.

    I think if any yards continue to carry 75-85 cars it will be these "pick a part" type yards, which are generally utilized by less affluent folks who are just trying to keep old crates running. So maybe that type of operation can make such inventory work for them.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    My family doctor bought a '76 Cadillac Eldorado convertible in '84 for $10k. Drove it for 11 years until the brakes failed at only 58k miles. The body was totally restored in '93; now it just sits in his driveway, doomed to eternity (i.e., rusting out, tires going bad, etc.). Another example of 1970s American mediocrity. I think the brake system failed just because the whole vehicle is just too darned overweight; I think 5,100 lbs.
  • I am trying to unload a similar car (for a local charity), only this one is in great shape. But no action at all on it. Since it is perfectly restored and only has 71K, I'm sure my local junkyard would haul it off for! I drove it 100 miles and I was pretty surprised at how bad a car it was. The 1964 Cadillac I owned was ten times the automobile.
  • I'm surprised that you can't even give away a Cadillac Seville (generation 1)! These days, a number of people still love those monsters dearly and I would think that it should not be much of a difficulty to either give it away or sell it. In the San Francisco Bay Area where I am, I see a few of these vehicles around and people sink large amounts of money into them to keep them running. It is true that many parts for them are very expensive now and additionally, some trim parts are only available used. Heck, if runs well, who knows, I might even be interested in it.
    But, to get back to the topic at hand, the period of 1975-1985, was probably not the best period for American vehicle innovation or design.
    The X bodied GM products with brakes that locked up too early, rusted out or with Cadillac selling a badge engineered Cavalier, certainly weren't great achievements by any measure. And, they weren't alone.
    Chrysler finances were shaky and on the road to bankruptcy and they didn't help themselves by continuing to build the Valiant and Dart with worn out body dies. The result was water leaks everywhere, rust, and even worse quality control than earlier models. The replacement Volare and Aspen had transverse torsion bars in the frnt suspension with the frnt shocks placed at a 90 degree angle to the torsion bar and control arms, right next to the subframe! It was the only car I could ever remember driving that if you didn't have the frnt shocks installed, you wouldn't know it! (I know, I tried it///) It does not take an engineer to tell you that a shock should be placed where the suspension would have the most travel!
    Ford and AMC didn't do any thing helpful either. The revised 1974 AMC Matador/Ambassador (sedans)looked nose heavy and ugly with the revised frnt end and really needed a new body shell, not a revision to the 1967 body. Ford
    built the "all new" Granda on the Maverick platform and later added an ES "European Sport" sedan with blackout grill, but little else in the area of performance or comfort.
    It would be fair to say, as our host as previous stated, that during this period of American automotive history, we did not create a legend in our own time (1975-1985)....And, beginning with the 1974 fuel crisis, the Japanese, began to gain a foothold in the American market. By the way, the Europeans, weren't much better, at least at first. Both VW and BMW built machines that certainly were not very good mechanically at least during the 70's. Remember the VW Rabbit with the complicated 2 bbl Solex; the BMW Bavaria with dual carbs, worthless ZF automatic and leaky power steering? So, you see that doubtful engineering and design wasn't just limited to American car makers...And, don't forget FIAT and the machines they built....
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    I'm actually surprised it's hard to unload that thing, too. They actually had a bit of a following for awhile. Kind of a '70's version of "The Caddy that Zigs"! Well, compared to a typical Lincoln or Sedan DeVille of the time! Still, they're about one of the cleanest designs of the '70's, so that has to count for something!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I think Shifty's talking about an Eldo. The Seville is nothing more than an upgraded Nova with an Olds small block. But at least it's not a Cimarron.
  • I'm surprised that people have a hard time selling Eldorados. There certainly is a market for parts for those cars. The hubcaps alone from a '76 will easily bring $50.00 each, sometimes a lot more. Shiftright, if you can't get anyone to buy the car, I'll take the hubcaps :-)

    -Andrew L
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    ...I love those big boats; I'd almost be tempted to take the whole car! Shifty, do you think it'd make the trip out to Maryland? I'd hate to think about the fuel bill, though!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,346
    The old time "junkyards" are now "auto Dismantlers". They have heen hard hit by enviromental laws, zoning and just plain high real estate prices.

    I'm very familiar with Richmond and East Palo Alto..hardly the garden spots of the Bay Area....keep your head down...still they have to be very smart to stay in business.

    In another thread I think I started here I mused about the old time junkyards and how they had changed.

    Here in the Seattle area on the Eastside we have a chain of wrecking yards, owned by the same people. The place is almost sterile it's so clean and organized. The prices (I think) are NUTS!! They seem to know exactly how much they can charge before the customers just buy a new part instead.

    But...they seem to be thriving!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I'll bet they do know exactly what percentage of list people will pay for a used part, maybe even by category. The National Association of Auto Dismantlers (or whatever) probably did some focus groups.
  • Let's see...the gas bill for the Eldo to Maryland would be about $450-$475 I'd guess.

    The reason the Seville is so hard to unload is that it is a bit shabby. If it were really nice, near mint, , maybe you could still get $2,000 for it.

    The Eldo has been priced at various levels, with no luck... I'd guess that someone will bite around $5,000, if the charity has to go that low, or lower. I think there is always SOME market for a nice, well-kept car, no matter what it is.

    We were mostly talking about the stuff that ends up in junkyards, though.
  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    $1 minimum bid, no reserve. Even if you can't give it away, somebody will see it on E-Bay, think they can fix it up, and give you a dollar take your problem car for their own.
This discussion has been closed.