An auto tragedy: Cash for clunkers junked some classic cars


As the CARS program -- a.k.a. "cash for clunkers" -- helped an estimated 700,000 cars find new homes, it was sometimes easy to forget the opposite end of the process. For every car that was purchased, another car was traded in, and these unwanted heaps were, allegedly, put to death with a nasty process that involved shredding the engine with liquid glass. Even when it only involves a car, capital punishment is never an attractive situation, and many of us reassured ourselves with the notion that the cars being destroyed were unattractive gas-guzzlers, like Ford (F) Explorers, Jeep Grand Cherokees, and Chevy Blazers.

This was largely true: as the final listing of destroyed vehicles demonstrates, six of the top ten trade-ins were "Fraud Exploders" from the late 1990's, and most of the cars that met their ends were the sorts of generic models that tend to give Detroit a bad name. Still, numerous beautiful or exceedingly valuable cars managed to find their way onto automobile death row. Some of these, like the 1990 LaForza SUV were valuable because they were rare. The same goes for the GMC Typhoon, which originally numbered only 4,697 cars, and is now down to 4,696, at most. Others, like the Bentley Continental-R and the Maserati Quattroporte that found their way to the wrecking yard were not particularly beautiful, but represented the output of super-premium brands.