Backstories of Abandoned Roadkill Cars

Some you love, some you hate, some you kick to the curb and then wish you hadn’t. It’s a cycle for every car sicko who buys and sells whole fleets of project cars every year, and we’re the Typhoid Marys of gearhead cooties. In the 44 episodes of ROADKILL filmed thus far, we’ve laid hands on 43 different star cars. Many became characters you know: the General Mayhem, the Muscle Truck, the Blasphemi, the Rotsun. Others have fallen off the cliff of obscurity, and a few that have disappeared leave fans asking us, unrelentingly, “Hey, whatever happened to … ?” This story is here to forever answer those questions about some of our cars that you haven’t seen in a fortnight—which means just two weeks, but our brains are so ROADKILL-addled that two weeks seems like a decade. You’re lucky we remembered this stuff at all, or at least that we were able to fabricate believable stories about these ROADKILL orphans.


The Junkyard Cuda

Hooptie: ’67 Plymouth Barracuda coupe
Episode: 11

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Backgrounder: This car was abandoned at CTC Auto Ranch in North Denton, Texas, until we got there and overpaid to own it, then mooched off CTC for a week as we wrenched in the yard to make the car run with its 360-cubic-inch small-block. We added nitrous even. Next, we drove the car to a drag race in Houston, narrowly escaping carbon-monoxide poisoning on the way, before making one dragstrip run and then auctioning the car right there at the track.

Where is it now? The auction was won by Linda Massingill of the School of Automotive Machinists in Houston. She immediately flipped it to another guy who was there who turned out to be some relation to the guy at CTC Auto Ranch—where the car sits to this day. The law of Finnegan Economics was working against us, but man, did CTC make out.

Instant Expert: The Plymouth Barracuda was introduced in 1964, just weeks ahead of the Ford Mustang. It was based on the Valiant platform and was considered by Chrysler Corp. terminology to be an A-body. That was true through 1969. The Barracuda switched to a larger E-body platform for the ’70-’74 model years and was then discontinued.

POWER GUIDE
The Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth small-block “LA” V-8 introduced in 1964 was available in 273, 318, 340, and 360 cubic inches. Ours was a mid-1970s 360.


The Baja Bug

Hooptie: ’69ish VW Beetle
Episode: 28

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Backgrounder: Fred Williams of “Dirt Every Day” initially bought this for his episode 23. When we invited Fredly to do ROADKILL with us on the sand dunes after we cut the fenders off of our Muscle Truck and added off-road meats, we fell in love with the Bug and ended up driving it home. Fans fell for the gag, but we never really traded Fred for the truck.

Where is it now? The VeeDub hung around our shop for months and ended up like a staff loaner car before it got sold to a guy who works as a bartender nearby. We still see it cruising around once in a while and wonder if the dude ever got the driver door to stop flying open on corners.

Ever Notice? VWs and flatfender Jeeps often have issues with model-year identity. For example, we think our Bug was a ’69 body on a ’66 pan. The bodies and frames (or pans, in the case of the VW) are so easy to swap around that VIN ambiguity kicks in over the years.

CLEAN HANDS
The Bug was the most reliable car ever in our fleet. We fixed a fuel line and ignored a broken park-brake cable. That’s it.


The Gremmie

Hooptie: ’75 AMC Gremlin (with a ’76 grille)
Episode: 17 and 25

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Backgrounder: Freiburger bought this six-cylinder Gremlin in 2008 off eBay, subsequently investing thousands into storage before selling the car to Video Travis (our onetime staff director and now occasional freelancer). But that was after episode 17, wherein we used the Grem to flat-tow a Prius, which ended in a blowout and spinout off the highway that was most certainly the closest we’ve come to life-altering injury in the process of filming ROADKILL. Travis later came to his senses and sold the car back to the company, and it was used for an April Fools’ episode of Motor Trend’s “Ignition” car-review show wherein host Carlos Lago blew up the little 232-cubic-inch inline-six.

Where is it now? The company still owns the car, though no one is sure why except Freiburger, who still wants to execute his original vision for the car: The Hemi Gremmie.

It’s True: The initial design for the Gremlin was done by Richard Teague on the back of an airplane barf bag.


Macho Grande

Hooptie: ’73 GMC Suburban
Episode: 8 and 25

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Backgrounder: This was Freiburger’s beater. He bought just before it was used to haul the bare shell of Finnegan’s ’55 Chevy to Jim Meyer Racing in Oregon in episode 8. The previous owner swore that the truck had 345,000 miles on it, and the 454 big-block gave us little reason to doubt it. Quarts of oil had the life expectancy of a taco.

Where is it now? During a fleet-reduction program, the Sub was sold on eBay and shipped off to Finland, and we recently saw an Instagram post of it cruising the streets there.

Gotta Say It: We don’t think we’ll ever get over Macho Grande. Those wounds run pretty deep.


The Lowrider

Hooptie: ’80 Chevy Monte Carlo Landau
Episode: 39

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Backgrounder: We never laughed harder on any ROADKILL shoot than when we took a lowrider with full-on hydraulic suspension across the desert. Or at least a few miles into the desert. The car had a nice frame-wrap job, but the rest of it was sketchy at best, and the 3.8-liter Buick V-6 (that came in the Chevy from the factory) was probably the most gutless powerplant in ROADKILL history. The VW was faster.

Where is it now? This car was a hazard when we bought it and a national disaster when we were done. So what did we do? Gave it to a friend! It was that or the junkyard.

Behind the Scenes: The guys at Lowrider magazine (at our company, The Enthusiast Network) said this car was complete garbage and nothing like the modern, high-quality lowriders. They were pretty irked that we depicted their market segment this way. If you want to see what lowriders are really capable of, go over to Lowrider.com. It’s impressive.

LEGACY Lowriders enjoy a long history alongside hot rods, having come out of Los Angeles in the late 1950s and early ’60s as spinoffs of the custom-car cruising scene.


The Ramp Truck

Hooptie: ’73 Chevy C30 Car Hauler
Episode: 19, 20, 25

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Backgrounder: This was our best score ever. It’s really unusual to score an old ramp truck in a crew-cab, and this one has low miles and a 454 big-block. The air-conditioning even works, as does the cruise control. Very not Roadkill. But the truck does have issues, such as a bomb-load of gasoline in three huge tanks, none of which fail to leak. It’s like playing a shell game to figure out the maze of switches and hoses that might eventually send fuel to the engine. Last time this was driven—and stranded at the side of the freeway—was the same day the Gremmie gave up the ghost. Two vintage rides Roadkilled on the same day. Who could have seen that coming?

Where is it now? Still in the family! We keep threatening to sell it, but we really don’t want to. It’s too good. The main thing stopping us from using it is that the Bonneville Camaro fell through the wood deck and left a big hole.

Fun story: We’ve probably only driven it 5,000 miles total, but we’ve put three sets of tires on the ramp truck because, on camera or off, people keep locking up the brakes and flat-spotting the rubber.

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BECAUSE SPEED!
In California, the trailer speed limit is 55 mph. With the ramp truck—and its same-day stopping distance—we can run the full 65 to 75 mph!


The Wronco

Hooptie: ’79 Ford Bronco
Episode: 3

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Backgrounder: Our earliest on-screen collaboration with Fred Williams, who later launched “Dirt Every Day” as our sister show, was the Cheap Truck Challenge. This is a staple event of Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, of which Fred is the editor. Fred never names an overall winner (preferring to use all the trucks involved as examples of what a beginner can do to be successful), and he’s still mad at us for naming ourselves the champion. Our rig was a full-size Bronco with a 400M engine, C6 trans, Dana 44 front axle, and 9-inch in the rear. It’s probably the best factory 4×4 package of the ’70s, though ’66-’77 Bronco fans will whine that the full-size model has a flimsy frame.

Where is it now? After disgracing our parking lot for a few months, it left the family for a mere $700. We regret that now; we can barely recall the damage when Finnegan jumped it and stuffed the front axle into the crankshaft.

More In Stock: Freiburger has a ’79 Bronco that’s often confused with the Wronco. It’s a tan one with a 533-cubic-inch big-block and 37-inch rubber.


Who Owns This Junk?

Fans often ask who the owner is of the cars on the show. The answer is one of three: 1) Our company, 2) Freiburger, 3) Finnegan. We’re smarter than Roadkilling someone else’s car—usually. The ’53 Merc in episode 21 belonged to a friend of a friend. In the rat-rod versus Lambo episode, the Model A belonged to Sailor Jerry rum (though HOT ROD had it built) and the Aventador was rented for more than $7,000 for a day. Of course, when we went to Australia, the 727-cubic-inch Holden we drove was owned by Gup. (Just Gup.) All the other cars come down to that list of three. Including, yes, those brand-new Hellcats and the Viper we thrashed on. We own those … now.

Something to Say?

4 thoughts on “Backstories of Abandoned Roadkill Cars

  1. The bug body is around a ’69 (post September ’67 anyway), but then so is the floorpan from what we can see – four bolt wheels came out in Sept ’67 for the ’68 model year.
    The body is an early 12v car, no vent behind the rear side windows that appeared in 71 or so.

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