A Look At Some Awesome Classic Cars Destroyed In The California Wildfires

Illustration for article titled A Look At Some Awesome Classic Cars Destroyed In The California Wildfires
Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

Wildfires have recently been roaring along the west coast, so far burning 900,000 acres of forest in Oregon, 2.5 million acres in California, and 480,000 acres in Washington according to the New York Times. Many of those forests were the stomping grounds of some awesome old cars, which are now destroyed. Let’s have a look.

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I’ll begin by saying that human and animal lives, homes, and livelihoods are far more important than cars. That said, this is a car website, so let’s pour a quart of Dexron III/Mercon transmission fluid out as a sign of respect for these lost automobiles.

The incredible photo above, taken by David McNew on Sept. 8 and distributed by Getty Images, shows a Willys CJ-3A with seat cushions and tires that have succumbed to the heat of a wildfire near Shaver Lake, California. Originally sold as farm equipment, the CJ-3A was the slightly-more-comfortable-but-largely-the-same successor to the very first civilian Jeep, the CJ-2A, which itself was an absolute workhorse. With stock 5:38 gears, a torquey and reliable iron-block Go-Devil fleathead inline-four, and a stout T-90 three-speed manual transmission mated to a Spicer Model 18 transfer case and strong Dana axles, the CJ-3A is borderline impossible to kill. This fire managed it, I bet.

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Just behind the CJ-3A is an early Jeep CJ-5. You can tell it’s an early model because it has the short hood, which includes a cutout for a snorkel and a blackout light (you can see the hood cutout for the snorkel on the passenger’s side, just along the fender). The CJ-5 was in production from 1954 to 1983, but models prior to 1972 tend to be most desirable despite not having the more powerful AMC inline-six motor options (in fact, there’s even a forum called EarlyCJ-5.com).

Behind the CJ-5 is either a Dodge Stealth or a Mitsubishi 3000GT (they were essentially the same vehicle). It’s a pretty cool sports car, with an available 300 horsepower twin-turbo V6 engine, all-wheel drive, and a manual transmission. To the left of it in the photo is what looks like a plow-equipped 1970s-era Chevy C/K series pickup, probably outfitted with an awesome bench seat and a big V8.

In the background is what looks like a 1940s-era Dodge pickup. I bet that also had an awesome bench seat, along with a three-speed stick shift on the floor.

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Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)
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This photo above, also by David McNew, shows a 1930s two-door sedan with at least one missing front tire and shattered glass all the way around. It doesn’t appear that the machine was in drivable shape to begin with, given the lack fo hood and engine, but the fire did do some damage, with Getty Image’s caption reading:

A burned car sits completely destroyed after the Creek Fire swept through the area on September 8, 2020 near Shaver Lake, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in five California counties after record heatwave temperatures fueled numerous wildfires over the Labor Day weekend. The state of emergency applies to Fresno, Madera and Mariposa, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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Photo: Josh Edelson (Getty Images)

In the picture above by Josh Edelson, a classic 1980s BMW 6 Series is seen covered in the debris of what looks like some sort of fallen structure. The car’s glass is all gone, as is all plastic, and the interior is nonexistent. In the background sits a 1980s-era quad-cab Chevy dually pickup.

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Here’s another look at the E24-generation 6'er, an inline-six-equipped, rear-wheel drive, comfortable old sports coupe:

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Photo: Josh Edelson (Getty Images)
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The Getty Images caption for the above photo describes the scene:

Burned vehicles smolder at a residence during the Creek fire in an unincorporated area of Fresno County, California on September 08, 2020. - Wildfires in California have torched a record more than two million acres, the state fire department said on September 7, as smoke hampered efforts to airlift dozens of people trapped by an uncontrolled blaze.

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Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

Finally, the photo above shows a first-generation Land Rover Discovery with a trailer hooked up. You can see that any traces of wood or aluminum have melted from that trailer, and if you look closely at the Discovery, not only did all of its glass disappear, but so did the outer body panels, since the first-gen Disco (and all Discos, for that matter) is made largely of aluminum.

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These are powerful shots showing forest-homes in ruins, and cars molten into pools on the dirt floor. True devastation.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

anscoflex-ii
Anscoflex-II

I think the trailer behind the Discovery held an aluminum boat - there’s an outboard motor just lying behind it. It’s astonishing that it just melted away.