Its probably academic at this point, but I’m not sure I agree titles must be surrendered. A mechanics lien allows the holding of a vehicle and sale regardless of who holds the title. In Minneapolis cars are impounded all the time in the winter for parking violations, and sold in 60-90 days if the towing and fees aren’t paid. Doesn’t matter if a bank has the lien or a clear title. Treated the same as a Sheriffs sale so I suppose that could be seen as a “tax sale”. Really, once a car is impounded, the only thing the title provides for you is the opportunity to pay all the costs to get it back. If a car is illegally parked, it can be impounded. (Also if transporting drugs or ducks out of season, best to do it in an old car.)
I suspect what happened is the cars were eyesores and the city ordered them moved. When they weren’t moved, the city or property owner had them moved, and no one ever bailed them out again.