MILEPOSTS Garage - The Online Classic Car Magazine 2005 Thunderbird: Is this a CLUNKER?
Image: 2005 Ford Thunderbird
Is it...REALLY?
Everything from Hood Ornaments to Tail Lamps
Return to Index

Vol. 4, No. 11
September 25, 2009

CARS/Cash For Clunkers Death List
by Andrew Angove

Image: MILEPOSTS Garage

Thankfully, the CARS/Cash For Clunkers program has come to an end. Preliminary figures indicate that 690,114 vouchers were submitted by dealers. Each voucher represents an automobile that was traded in and disabled under the program. The total bill for this fiasco came to about $2.9 billion. Under the CARS program, which began on July 24, 2009, new vehicles purchased after July 1 would be eligible for refund vouchers worth either $3,500 or $4,500 if the cars traded in on those new vehicles were 1984 models or newer, with fuel economy ratings of 18 miles per gallon or less.

Under the CARS program, Toyota—a foreign company—sold the most cars, with about 19.4% of all "clunker" sales. So...let me make sure I have this right...the American automobile manufacturing business is on life support from the government with millions of American jobs hanging by a thread, and people went out and bought foreign cars under this program. Great. Is it any wonder that our economy is so bad? Are people really that stupid?

OK,'s how it works: we must have jobs HERE IN THE UNITED STATES in order to have a good economy. Period. Got it? Our economy is based mostly on consumption. We don't make much anymore, we just consume. So when most of the things we consume come from overseas, we're doing more to support the economy over there than we are here. And that means American jobs go bye-bye. And with them, the economy. An economy based on consumption evaporates when people stop consuming, and that's what we've done. People have lost jobs, which pretty much stops spending for anything other than necessities, and sometimes even those go by the wayside. And that creates a domino effect, since other jobs that depend on people buying things are lost because people aren't buying things. A vicious circle is created.

So this wonderful program is rolled out that is supposed to do all good things. It will help the ailing automobile industry by spurring sales of new cars, it will help people get rid of their older vehicles that don't get good fuel economy, it will save American jobs, and it will give an economic boost to our ailing economy. Sounds pretty good, but then you realize there are more negatives than we've been told.

First of all, the disgraceful disabling of "clunkers." I mentioned that in my previous article, Why CARS/Cash For Clunkers Is a Bad Deal, and I still believe those things to be true. Perfectly good, safe vehicles were disabled under this program. Vehicles that used natural resources during the manufacturing process, and were wasted by disabling them ahead of their time. Then more natural resources will be wasted by the unnecessary additional miles driven to tow them around since they no longer operate under their own power. That means a waste of gasoline, a natural resource that we should be preserving. Do the math, folks: 690,114 disabled cars being towed around from the dealership to the salvage yard. Since most salvages aren't located in the middle of town, we can assume a one way traveling distance of 15 miles at least, possibly more. So, if you take 15 miles of towing for each of the 690,114 clunkers, that's an additional 10,351,710 miles driven! I'll be generous and estimate fuel "economy" of a tow truck towing a vehicle at 10 miles per gallon. That means 1,035,171 gallons of fuel will be used just to tow the disabled vehicles around!

Want to talk about wasteful? Want to talk about an environmental impact? It would appear that Toyota benefitted the most from this program, and the oil companies as well since they're going to sell all that gas to the tow trucks to haul the disabled cars around. Yes, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler were also helped by the program, but it's ironic that people don't seem to understand why we're in the mess we're in. I've said it before: Americans are literally shopping themselves out of jobs, and they're so self-centered they can't or don't want to see it. Which is why the parking lot at your local [insert name of insanely large discount store known for selling cheap overseas goods to stupid American consumers here] is full of foreign cars.

If Americans buy mostly overseas products, whether they be clothes, electronics, or automobiles, how are they supporting jobs here in their own country? About the only company profiting from such selfish actions is that big discount chain, which certainly doesn't have many wealthy employees working for it. In fact, those employees are doing well just to get by on what they're paid. If you spend every penny you make on necessities, the economy here doesn't grow, it stagnates.

At any rate, it will take more than me griping on a classic car site to change anything. I suppose if enough people lose their jobs and everything they own, the rest of the American populace will eventually "get it."

And now, I would like to call attention to some of the fine vehicles that were branded as clunkers under this program. They are now statistics, never to be driven again. Are we all better off that these junk cars are off the roads?

Our sympathies and condolences go out to:

1 - 2005 Thunderbird (yeah, a real pile of junk, I'm sure...a 4 year old classic!)
1 - 2007 Lincoln Town Car
8 - 2004 Lincoln Town Cars
1 - 2006 Lincoln Zephyr
5 - 1989 Corvette Convertibles
5 - 1995 Corvettes
58 - 2001 Cadillac Sevilles
1 - 2006 Cadillac STS
4 - 1984 Cadillac Eldorado Convertibles (WHAT?!?)
22 - 1985 Cadillac Eldorado Convertibles (proof that people are CRAZY! What a disgrace!!)
9 - 2001 Cadillac Eldorados
52 - 1987-1993 Cadillac Allante Convertibles (a big time collectible)
1 - 1984 Buick Riviera Convertible
19 - 1985 Buick Riviera Convertibles (what were you thinking, people?)
120 - 1998 Lincoln Continental Mark VIIIs
4 - 2003 Oldsmobile Auroras
36 - 1985 Oldsmobile Toronados

The rest of the gruesome Death List is here: if you're interested in seeing it. In typical fashion, it's difficult to read as the make is listed at the BOTTOM of the list, as are all the various models. So, you sometimes have to scroll to the next page to see which specific vehicles are being listed. You'll figure it out pretty quickly, but it could have been configured a little better.

I was a bit surprised to see so many late model vehicles listed. Since many of them would have a book value of more than $4,500, I'm guessing they were high mileage vehicles that would never even come close to getting wholesale prices due to the miles they'd been driven. But, considering the other stupid things people do, I have to wonder about that person who traded in the 2005 Thunderbird Convertible for $4,500. I'll bet they have a nice grayish-beigeish foreign sedan sitting in their driveway right now! They should be so proud! (Not.)

Personally, I feel very proud to drive my American-made car past the discount chain stores to shop at locally owned businesses. Yes, it may cost a bit more and take a little more time, but I know that I am not contributing to the further destruction of the economy, and I am doing what I can to preserve my neighbor's jobs so they can care for their families.

To those of you reading this who have foreign cars in your driveway or garage, and to those of you who shop at the big discount chain stores that support a big chunk of China's economy, you need to understand you are part of the problem. You need to look past the local car salesman's commission, or the job the checker has at the mega-store, or the folks who work at the assembly plant here in the United States that built your foreign car. Yes, you are helping them to keep their jobs. But there's a bigger issue at hand, and that's the ongoing erosion of American jobs. The United States can't continue to compete in a free trade market, as all things aren't equal among the countries participating. The loss of jobs in this country is staggering, and should be enough to cause concern for everyone. What is replacing those millions of jobs lost? Obviously, new jobs aren't replacing those lost. So where will the millions who've lost jobs find new ones? And what will they do? Work at the mega-store for minimum wage? Figure out what it costs an average family to live each month. Then tell me how that family survives on minimum wage.

No job is safe in America right now. And that includes your job.

Thank goodness the CARS/Cash For Clunkers program was limited to models newer than 1983. If it hadn't been, I suspect many of us would be sick right now at the list of classic cars destroyed needlessly by such a program. And in case you haven't noticed, there are still a lot of clunkers on the road. And that is perhaps the biggest flaw with this program: IT DIDN'T REMOVE CLUNKERS FROM THE ROADS. It removed a lot of late model, fully functional, safe vehicles. It was a temporary fix to a long term problem. Sales will not continue now that this program has ended, they are going to drop again.

And in memory of that sole 2005 Thunderbird cast aside by its uncaring owner, I'd like to say that it will forever be flying high on the highways in our thoughts, with its top down, great tunes playing through its sound system, and always plenty of cool, sunny days and scenic miles ahead. RIP, Little Bird.

If you have advice, tips, technical ability, or just know a secret or two about old cars, and you'd like to contribute, click here and tell us about it. We'll help you write it, and give you the credit for it! It's the perfect way to help out your fellow enthusiasts in the old car hobby.
MILEPOSTS Garage Index | Automotive Mileposts

Recent Updates | Main Contents | AUTOPOSTS Forum

Vintage Car Care | Auto Parts | Automotive Books | Car Magazines | Auto Brevity