By on June 10, 2011


Most of my junkyard-prowling experience has taken place at the modern-day self-service yards, where the inventory turns over fast, prices are standardized, and 90% of the cars on the yard tend to be 15 to 20 years old. Now that I’m in a constant search for parts for a 45-year-old Dodge van, I’ve been venturing out to the more traditional wrecking yards, where you haggle for every part and the inventory sits for decades while each and every salable part gets picked. A couple weeks back, I went on a quest for A100 parts at a breathtakingly vintage junkyard located about halfway between Denver and Cheyenne.

This is the first REO I’ve ever seen in a junkyard. Sadly, it’s not an REO Speed Wagon; I believe this is an late-30s REO 19AS.

You know the inventory has been sitting for a while when the junked work trucks have four- and five-digit phone numbers painted on the doors.

The searing high-altitude sun in Colorado has a way of stripping paint down to bare metal over the decades. In the case of this truck, the sun has exposed layers of old business names.

This much-bleached “Goddess of the Rockies” emblem is painted on the door of a 1940s dairy truck.

I was tempted to buy the Goddess of the Rockies truck door, to hang on my garage wall… but then I saw this. Flames, a Viking ship, and a berserker. I may have to steal this design for my van’s paint job.

There’s something sad about an abandoned flathead V8 sitting in the dirt for 50 years.

Looking for parts for your 1955 Nash Statesman project? This one seems just about totally complete.

Just like the MGB-GT and Ferrari 308, the Statesman featured Pininfarina design.

And a “Double Strength” unit body.

Not to mention Weather Eye climate control.

Let’s jump forward a decade to a later AMC product.

Shift Command!

IHC Scouts galore here, including this one that was victimized by a shotgun.

I’ve always loved the old Plymouth sailing-ship hood ornaments, ever since I fell in love with this semi-rat-rodded ’47.

No A100s here, but I know where to go if I ever get a Corvair Greenbrier.

I could spend all day just photographing patina-with-emblem-ghosts.

In fact, I believe I’ll return and do just that. These shots are just scratching the surface.

Even though I left empty-handed (other than these photographs), my friends scored some parts for their 40s Ford pickup projects, off a ’43 military Ford truck with all sorts of cool war-wagon-only goodies, inlcuding a super-rare flip-up windshield.

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19 Comments on “Down On The Junkyard: Time Stops At Ancient Colorado Yard...”


  • avatar
    roger628

    I like how the Nash’s radio delete dash still includes the dial numbers, as if to eternally mock the owner of his tight-fisted ways.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Looks like the same deal with the clock.

      I wonder if the “air conditioner” is thermostatically controlled heat only? It would be odd to see factory air on a car of this vintage with with no radio…

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        My grandmother’s old ’69 Falcon had A/C but no radio as well. It was also a V8 with a 3 on the tree. If it didn’t have a clutch pedal, she didn’t like it.

  • avatar
    N Number

    Somewhere near Greeley, perhaps? I’ll have to look for this place when I’m buzzing around 1000 ft above the prairie in this area.

  • avatar
    OhioPilot09

    Though most of these cars were around even before my PARENTS were born, these pictures are really awesome! The style of these old cars is something we truly are missing in the current automotive era. Thanks Murilee!

  • avatar
    cfclark

    I could spend all day there with a camera. Bring the Pentax 6×7, tripod, a dozen rolls of film…and get tossed by the management, probably. So I’d have to bring a wrench and be “looking for a part”.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      A bit lumpy the 6×7 – I’d stick to something more handheld (35mm or digital) so I could get into all the cars and photograph the interiors.
      Great photos Mr Martin!

  • avatar

    Murilee,

    You can see one of those Plymouth sailing ship ornaments here.

    I shot it at the Walter P. Chrysler museum, so it’s in a bit better shape.
    http://www.carsindepth.com/?p=2177

    Next time you’re at that junkyard find out how much they want for the Farina badging? That’s before Pinin Farina combined his two names.

  • avatar

    Incomparably awesome shots, Murilee.
    In my misspent youth there was a junkyard here in Orlando that was a treasure trove of nothing but old Mopars, including a couple 413-powered 300s, and loads of Chargers, Cudas, Challengers, Coronets, and V8 Darts. My dad knew the original owner (a woman, a rare thing to find in a junkyard in those days) and we’d go walk around there looking for emblems and other neat stuff.
    She sold her inventory to another yard about 20 years ago, and they moved it to their facility up the road, where it is still at least partially intact, but now is surrounded by 6-foot weeds and infested with rattlesnakes and wasps. Also, there’s a lot more rust in there, now that they’re sitting on the grass instead of the nice gravel the old place had.

  • avatar
    oldguy

    The highlight of [my life] and our trip to Albuquerque NM last year was a side trip to Moriarty, about an hour east. A gentleman has been collecting cars and toys for the last fifty years or so and has most on display, some of which were dragged in off Route 66 over the years. For the price of a donation, we spent the afternoon exploring. Some restored, many not, but what a collection of early trucks and cars. Any gearhead would love to spend time, and it’s just off I-40. Archie Lewis Antique Toy & Auto Museum. Stop & have a look, you can thank me later. Loved your photo’s, Murilee!

  • avatar
    obbop

    I visited a small yard in Richmond, CA.

    The owner had heard of my achievements in Concord via the “junkyard grapevine” within the “junkyard society,” akin to the long-haul truckers “secret society,” carnies, military special forces, nuclear physicists, those involved in high-level nuclear government-backed research and a HORDE of other careers, groups, etc.

    The yard was around 75 percent cars in rather decent condition and hardly touched from the 1940s and 1950s with the remainder from the 1960s (some muscle cars in the flock) and the rest 1930s and earlier.

    The owner had recently bought the yard that must have not been active for years due to the number of untouched cars.

    It was a bizarre experience wandering the muddy yard unprepared in any way to operate in a modern manner.

    I sat down and talked to the owner who was prepared to computerize and prepare for USA-wide connectivity via the various in-place options.

    A requirement due to relatively low demand, in general, for most but not all of the inventory.

    BUT…. the demand does exist and there are more buyers than sellers foe many of the parts in that yard.

    Buyer meeting seller is the hard part but modern connectivity makes that finding MUCH easier at relatively low cost.

    The yard was a potential gold mine that would please many re-builders/restorers/etc.

    He was ready to convert or add-on to the small existing office to create an acceptable living quarters for me (living quarters in the area were mainly high to very0high crime areas and the San Fran bay area commute is dreadful… and the Bay area IS a high-cost area to live and there are other reasons I did not want to commute.

    He seemed eager and declared he had adequate financial backing.

    I tried to determine if the yard was to be part of a money laundering scheme for possible drug smuggling/sales/etc.

    An oft-used usage of wrecking yards by the Mafia (for MANY years) and other organized criminal gangs. The IRS and other agencies are well-aware of ho criminal elements use wrecking yards and monitor them. never heard of that, did you. There is MUCH occurring within the USA the mass media will never tell you; even stuff that is not patently illegal to inform the public about.

    What made me decline?

    That portion of the Bay area had and has an incredible high crime rate.

    Why the parts had remained untouched by thieves MAY have been due to lack of knowledge regarding rare to extremely rare parts AND a lack of a source to obtain anything even close to the parts real value.

    That and the physical effort involved with removing the parts, etc.

    However, the presence of a rather isolated human living there would attract the horde of criminally-minded scum akin to flame/moth.

    I guesstimated that sooner or later sheer survival would require shotgun usage and even when used in self-defense California bureaucrats would make my life miserable and make revenge-seekers target me.

    Thus I declined.

    An intelligent decision, I believe.

    If only the opportunity had not been based smack dab in the middle of the many vile scum vermin infesting the USA.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    This is wonderful Muralee,

    Junk yard dogging is something I used to do a lot more of when younger and the last time I did so was about a year ago when I replaced the turn signal stalk in my 1992 Ford Ranger truck in thinking it’d gone bad when the turn signals stopped working.

    Turned out it was the stoopid blinker canister that was at fault.

  • avatar
    AlienProbe

    The Scout is amazing! Wow. Looks can probably be deceiving but it looks like a little air in the tire and it is good to go! Makes me want to fly over and drive it back to Vermont.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    I’ve got a ’49 Plymouth with that nifty hood ornament. Bought it about 2 years ago, on my first date with my now-fiance. We ran a 5k in the morning, then drove up to NC to grab this car and trailer it home. We’ve finally begun working on it- the flathead 6 ran, but needs help, and the bdy is “well-patina’d”. Basically, the car needs everything, but the ’49 is such a beautiful design I couldn’t bear to let it get crushed.

    We may be making a pilgrimmage to this yard…

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Love old yards like these Theres a wrecking yard locally that has a 38 Chevvy just inside the fence a good place to find old car parts They actually have a Hillman pile I got a good brake mastercyl for my project cheap THere was a 46 Chevvy on the hoist getting an exhaust I was told it had been there 20 years but was going back on the road it looked very tidy from what I could see.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    Despite the missing bits that Javelin looks salvageable. If I had the room and the $$$ I’d purchase all three of them and piece together one good car.

    What that blue and white car next to the Nash? Is that an Ambassador?


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