Junkyard Build Quality Challenge, Speedometer Edition: USA vs Germany vs Japan!

Illustration for article titled Junkyard Build Quality Challenge, Speedometer Edition: USA vs Germany vs Japan!

Many of our readers were shocked by Germany's big win in the Door Panel Edition of the Junkyard Build Quality challenge, with an Audi 80 beating a Lexus ES250 and a Buick LeSabre. Today's challenge: Speedometers!

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Illustration for article titled Junkyard Build Quality Challenge, Speedometer Edition: USA vs Germany vs Japan!
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This series originated due to the stark contrast between an easy Honda junkyard parts-pulling experience and a hellish Ford junkyard parts-pulling experience. The junkyard offers an opportunity to see where automakers cut corners and where they didn't; sure, you tend to get a snapshot from 10-15 years ago, but corporate culture changes slowly and the lessons learned from a 1997 car have plenty of meaning in 2010.

Illustration for article titled Junkyard Build Quality Challenge, Speedometer Edition: USA vs Germany vs Japan!

Once again, I've lured Ghost Ride The Whip Box designer, VW Rabbit sedan 24 Hours Of LeMons racer, '76 Audi Fox driver, and all-around junkyard dog Casadelshawn to an East Bay wrecking yard with promises of a 10,000-calorie taco-truck meal, and he'll be providing most of the brains, muscle, and general wrenchitude for this competition.

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Illustration for article titled Junkyard Build Quality Challenge, Speedometer Edition: USA vs Germany vs Japan!

With door panels, we learned a lot about finicky, easily-broken fasteners, knuckle-slicing electrical connectors, and the pieces that lurk out of sight of car passengers. Today we'll be learning about fragile trim pieces, headache-inducing ribbon cables, and the miracle of component outsourcing, because we'll be pulling speedometers from some upscale mid-90s machines:

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1993 BMW E36


We started with Germany last time, so let's stick with that tradition. Here we have a 1993 BMW E36; these things are showing up in large numbers in 24 Hours of LeMons racing, which means depreciation has reduced the value of non-perfect examples down to junkyard prices. Click the first image below to see what happened when Shawn went for the speedometer.

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1993 Infiniti J30


We'll try to stick with roughly the same price range as the E36 for our Japanese competitor, so this upscale Infiniti J30 fits the bill. How much will that snazzy speedometer resist Shawn's attempts at removal? Click the first image below to find out.

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1995 Buick Riviera


The LeSabre we used for door-panel removal last time didn't make Detroit look so great, so we'll give Buick another shot with this much sportier (and more expensive) Riviera. Click the first image below to see how the US of A fares this time around.

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DISCUSSION

When I look at how Germans have put together a car I'm impressed by all the creativity. At the same time, I'm frustrated by the unnecessary complexity. It's like some damn engineer decided to design something a certain way simply because it was cool. And it doesn't help that they seem to like using, at least in more recent vehicles, particularly brittle plastic. Those damn wiring harnesses require too much effort to disconnect and always feel like they're about the break.

And don't get me started on the goddamn engine cover which features a built-in air filter. I've considered getting an aftermarket intake just so that I can get rid of that crap.

Japanese are the most consistent. Relatively straightforward to work on, but every so often something is tucked away in a hard to reach place. Like on my old 5th-gen Prelude when Honda decided to place both the crankshaft sensor of top-dead-center sensor on one harness, plugged in between the firewall and engine block. Or how the damn oil filter also sat at the back of the engine right over the exhaust pipe.

With American cars it seems to be totally random. Sometimes something is easy to get at, other times it's inexplicably complicated. I'm convinced cars are designed to make assembly easy for factory workers, to hell with anyone who has to service them.