By on July 13, 2012

That AMC Matador Barcelona we saw last week was quite a Junkyard Find, but it represents approximately 0.01% of the staggeringly tempting potential Hell Projects in this particular Colorado yard. Located not far from Pikes Peak (which I couldn’t see because of all the wildfire smoke), this not-open-to-the-public junkyard/open-air automotive museum is owned by a man with an eye for interesting Detroit iron and all the land he needs to store what he finds. After all my years of junkyard crawling, I think this may well be the Greatest Yard of Them All, and that includes the now-defunct Seven Sons yard and this 70-year-old yard north of Denver. Let’s take a little tour, shall we?
I got an invitation to this exclusive venue from a couple of friends who were picking up a pair of scrap-ready VW Rabbits that had been stored there for a decade. In the un-air-conditioned cab of the bad-gas-contaminated big-block ’75 Chevy Scottsdale are me and a pair of LeMons racers who like to build weird projects. That mission was an adventure in itself.
The air was a wildfire-smoky 100 degrees on the Great Plains when we got to our destination, and I couldn’t quite comprehend the size of the place. As far as I could see in all directions were rows of old and interesting vehicles.
The proprietor of this collection has been accumulating vehicles for several decades. There’s a little of everything, but several themes stand out. First, Chevrolet Corvairs and International Harvester Travelalls are everywhere.
I can’t tell you how many Corvairs— cars and vans— I saw as I staggered among the prickly-pears, but the total must be better than 100.
Travelalls, Scouts, and IHC pickups are also present in large quantities.
Once my shock over the Corvairs and IHCs had subsided, I began to notice the clusters of old school buses and vintage step vans. Can anybody put a rough model-year date on this hyper-cool GMC? Plenty more nearby!
Ever seen an Olds Cutlass coupe with diesel engine and factory four-on-the-floor? Yes, GM built at least one.
Speaking of diesels, oil-burning (and gasoline-fueled) Chevettes are also present in large quantities. Here’s a very rare Diesel Chevette Limited Edition.
I was looking for parts for my ’66 Dodge A100, though after picking this junkyard example clean over the winter my shopping list is down to a few rare trim bits.
This toy Trans Am has been baking on an A100 dash for decades. I am going to frame this image and hang it up in my office, for inspiration.
In addition to several A100s, the other members of the 1960s forward-control van clan are well-represented in this yard.
I may have to make another visit just to chronicle the dozens of FC vans to be seen in this magical place.
Another theme of this yard is the GM H Platform; I didn’t see many Vegas, but this must be the heaviest concentration of H-Body Monzas, Starfires, Skyhawks, and Sunbirds in the Western Hemisphere.
AMCs? Of course! In addition to several Marlins and the Matador we saw earlier, Pacers and Gremlins lurk in the tall grass.
I am profoundly tempted to adopt this (proto-AMC) Nash Ambassador as my next project. How hard could it be?
The really old stuff got me the most hypnotized. Much of the 1950s and 1960s Big Three machinery is now being shipped to restorers in Europe, leaving behind a lot of 1940s and off-brand stuff.
DeSotos, Willys, Kaisers, Nashes. Firedomes, Airflytes, Aeros.
Even Crosleys!
A photographer with more skill than I have could probably make a career out of nothing but closeups of patinas in this yard.
Even though Rich of Rocket Surgery Racing has an overwhelming number of projects going on, he took a look at the many Willys Aeros here and decided that he needed to drop one of his small-block Chevy engines in one. Sounds like a fine idea to me!
Finally, the Rabbits were loaded on the flatbed, we were all exhausted, and even the junkyard cat needed a rest. I’ll be focusing on some individual cars and trucks from this expedition in future Junkyard Finds, so you haven’t seen the end of this collection yet. For now, check out the even older stuff at this Colorado yard.

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83 Comments on “Corvairs, Kaisers, and Cadillacs: Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard Is a Mile High… and a Mile Wide...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Wow! Thanks for the tour. Loved that trip into nostalgia. And…I really wish that Corvair (specifically, the gen II model) was still around. It was a shame that GM fired both of their engineers and replaced them with MBAs.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Damn! What blew me out of my complacency while reading were the Crosleys (the only ones I’ve ever seen in the metal are at the top of tall poles functioning as auto parts business signs) and the Aero Willys (please, don’t put a SBC into it – just restore it to original, they’re rare enough as is).

  • avatar
    Ted Grant

    Amazing find!…Glad to see someone has the foresight to honor and preserve our automotive past on a large scale…I could spend days going thru that yard. Thanks for sharing…

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    There looks like some real gold in there. It’s nice that they are generally stacked together.

    Is that pinto breadvan a factory car?

    The Gremlin looks mint

    • 0 avatar
      gessvt

      That’s a Pinto Cruising Wagon. I’ll take that along with the Maxima wagon, and the Malaise Cougar. Dad had one of those.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        I’d take that Pinto cruising wagon too – and the Vega GT wagon as well, but make my Vega a ’76 though.

        That Pinto looks to be complete most likely as those are the factory rims.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I love the shot of the amber light pouring into the carpeted interior of the “shaggin’ wagon.”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    What, no Google Earth screen grab?

    When the old guy who owns this stuff dies, the estate sale will auction off the few pieces that have any actual value, and the rest will head to the crusher. Enjoy it while you can.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    WOW! What a place to be able to get into. I question just what the owner intends to do with all this. I think it’s great that there’s a repository for this old iron, but for what purpose? To just sit and take in the elements and eventually disintegrate appears to be a waste to me, but they’re his, not mine.

    Oh, what once was and will most likely never be again…

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Agreed. Seems like a hoarding obsession to noone’s benefit.

    • 0 avatar

      He’s selling plenty of cars and parts, but only to people he knows. There’s an outfit in Sweden that ships container-loads of parts back to the old country, for sale to the thousands of Detroit-car freaks in Scandinavia.

      • 0 avatar
        Ron B.

        it looks like a good place to keep cars too, the climate is kind to metal and the cars are all parked neatly. There is a huge market here in Australia for old US cars too with containers ariving every month with even more. REminds me of new Zealands Horopito motors in it’s hey day.

      • 0 avatar
        Ron B.

        it looks like a good place to keep cars too, the climate is kind to metal and the cars are all parked neatly. There is a huge market here in Australia for old US cars too with containers ariving every month with even more. REminds me of new Zealands Horopito motors in it’s hey day.

      • 0 avatar
        and003

        Murilee, do you know if he’s sold any cars to hot rod builders in the United States or overseas, whether they were private individuals or professional shops?

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I like the fact that a place like this can even still exist. Back in the late ’70s a friend took to me a similar place south of Chicago. The owner (who I never met) had been collecting orphan brands on several acres of land. Hudsons, Packards, Nashes, DeSotos and the like, many of them eminently restorable. My friend had access because he had picked up some side work moving the better vehicles into pole buildings. The owner was being forced by the local authorities to clean up his property as suburban development made his collection an eyesore to the new neighbors.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Wow, what a place, keep em coming. Someone please save that Olds behind the green corvair.

  • avatar
    gmrn

    Re: the diesel Cutlass. IIRC that should be a 5-speed vs. the 4-speed you stated. If it is a stock 4-speed, then that is indeed quite rare.

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      What are those two levers under the steering column for? The 79 Cutlass I owned had an air vent there.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        This Olds probably didn’t have A/C–those are for opening the fresh-air vents.

        (I’ve seen a picture of a Cutlass Supreme Diesel 4-speed stick from C&D, I think. Not the original, though–I was 8 or 9 years-old when that would have come out.) Yes, these ARE rare, and this one looks like it wouldn’t even need a complete frame-off resto!

        AFAIK, NOS and restoration parts for ’78-’87 GM A/G-Body are plentiful and reasonably-priced. Even the infamous GM Diesel, especially if this one has the 5.7 (versus the Olds-based 4.3) V8, can be cured of the problems that plagued these motors by upgrading the head bolts and adding a water sepatator into the fuel filter; supposedly, the last couple years of these engines are bulletproof, but by then (’81, ’82), the damage had been done. Not sure if the 4.3 had these issues; I assume they did, since the design was basically thrown together in the same way as the 5.7. Furthermore, the 4.3 was dog-slow even in gas format–my first car, a ’78 Cutlass Salon Coupe (called the “Aeroback” style) had that motor, with worse performance than the Buick 3.8L V6 with the economy of a larger V8; mind you, the car was kind of tired by the time I got it in 1988, mostly from spotty maintenance. The Buick 6s sounded coarse, but could get out of their own way well enough, IMHO; lack of power at 16, 17, 18 y/o isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (My parents also had a 1980 Cutlass Sedan (Salon-level base trim in the new notchback style for that year) and a 1983 Buick Regal Custom Sedan, both with the Buick motors–the Regal, with the Computer Command Control carburator, had an occasional stumble when cold, but otherwise, both of these cars did what they had to, so between the three, I can say I grew up with this platform! First got behind the wheel (with nervous Dad to my right) in the Regal, took my driver’s test and had my first “solo” in the Cutlass.

        Wish I could find I loaded-to-the-gills last-year-of-production Cutlass Supreme Brougham Sedan with the 307 V8 and 4-speed overdrive tranny in good enough condition to bring it to close to show-spec w/o a lot of effort; they exist, but sadly have likely all been “donked” by a certain demographic with a penchant for cars which ride around on wheels that could fit on a 747, and with sound systems which will rattle fillings from three blocks away. (The rest have been crushed and might have made their way back from China in some other metal-based object, perhaps after being beaten to death in a demo derby.)

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I could spend my summer vacation there.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      Agreed. 100%. Still a resident of Colorado and now have found where I’m retiring when I separate from the military.

      Please save that Monza for me. Hard to find one that hasn’t rusted away.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    What is the black convertible in the photo after the white Chevy Monza? This photo is around number 21 in the slide show.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Do you have a wallpaper sized picture of the cat laying on the hood?

    • 0 avatar

      No, but that would be a good idea. That shot plus the one of the Hot Wheels Trans Am.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        That’s not a Hot Wheels, it’s a Tyco HP-2 slot car!

        It could also be an HP-7, but I’m thinking it’s a 2.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        I figured out how to get to the full size images on your server.

        Here’s a wallpaper sized image of the cat on the hood.

        http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/76-Colorado-Junkyard-Expedition-Picture-courtesy-of-Murilee-Martin.jpg

        If you, or other users want to see larger pictures in this series, then simply follow the numbers of the thumbnails in the gallery below the article and change the number in the row accordingly.

        Example:

        Changing the 2012/07/76 to 2012/07/11 in the image name takes you to the full size image of the Olds with the diesel and the 4 speed manual.

        http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/11-Colorado-Junkyard-Expedition-Picture-courtesy-of-Murilee-Martin.jpg

        If you hover over each image, it’ll even tell you which number it is in the gallery.

        You’re welcome.

        Also, thanks for the new desktop image!

      • 0 avatar
        Rollo Grande

        The yellow A-100 has a 1978 or so Bonneville bumper on the front; looks like it’s wearing a fake mustache from a cheap disguise kit!

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        There is or was a yard similar to this a few hundred miles to the east in Wilroads Garden Kansas (Dodge City). Stapleton salvage. If Elmer is still alive he is probably still selling cars. It was still there 5 years ago.

        When I walked through I was able to recognize some cars from my boyhood (1950′s) he had them for so long. If you run out of material you might waste a dime to see if he is still going. Same type stuff with the oldest being in the 1920′s but mostly 40′s and 50′s.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        @Rollo.

        Good eye. I kind of like the look of the indicator lights right below the headlights though. Actually, that’d make two sets of indicator lights, or turn signals, or whatever they are or were.

        ’60s flair meets ’70s(?) bumper safety laws.

        EDIT:

        For largey size image of bumper weirdness.

        http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/28-Colorado-Junkyard-Expedition-Picture-courtesy-of-Murilee-Martin.jpg

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    Murilee-

    I’m VERY interested in the mid-60′s Monterey parked next to the malaise-era Montego in pic #56.

    How much does he want for it?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear –
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

    Percy Bysshe Shelley

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    No fastback Olds Cutlass 4 door? I used to like those, can’t find any still running for sale

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I remember seeing one of these being used as a runner someplace (in the same color as my first car, a 2-door ’78 Salon, in Pastel Blue–no snark, I inherited the car), on this site or at CC. Those have got to be rarer than the 2-door Aerobacks–didn’t see a lot of them around.

      If you want rare, I’m sure that a ’78 or ’79 Buick Century is just about impossible to find! (Both Aerobacks–the Chevy Malibu and Pontiac LeMans were notchbacks in ’78 and ’79, both 2 and 4-door variants.) I remember seeing a two-door Buick Century totaled on one of the various “world’s craziest car chases” shows and thinking “one less!”

  • avatar

    Murilee… the next time you’re in North Texas at Eagles Canyon, take a side trip a few miles to the east and spend a half-a-day at the CTC Auto Ranch, just north of Denton. I think you’ll like it. Very eclectic mix of both old and unusual.

    http://caughtatthecurb.blogspot.com/2011/03/i-love-junkyards.html

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    absolutely cool opening shot. love it.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Neat: the last time I saw those headlight bezels, they were on a pair of A-line International pickups awaiting a bit of restoration work. They were next in line, just after the fabricator finished his stretched hood Scout pickup, the better to fit a homebrew twin-six in there.

    While you were out there, did you get a chance to visit the shooting range? “Entertaining” is far too weak a word to describe the driveway leading up to the shop and registration area.

  • avatar
    5keptic

    I am totally smitten with the crew cab IH

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    This Creeps Me Out!

    I used to have several Corvairs.
    I even had a Kaiser.

    Before long I’m going to start carving a replica of Pikes Peak in my mashed potatoes..somebody stop me…

  • avatar
    sco

    Love the cars but i was left thinking what a great job junkyard cat would be and what a great place to be the junkyard cat, wide open spaces, your choice of great cars to curl up in, varmints all over nesting in said great cars. Maybe in my next life

  • avatar
    davhud

    Reminds me of a day I spent wandering around the back lot of the Georgia Railroad museum. It was somehow one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever done. Talk about patina! We’re talking 60 to 80 year old rolling stock baked by the Georgia and parts unknown sun.
    Great stuff sir. Oh, and please do get the Ambassador.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    @ felix,
    tried to replicate the 4 notes but the editor reformatted them.
    Where’s my fork?

  • avatar

    There is a similar place in Benton CA. I know the owner well, and there are more corvairs than you can shake a stick at. There is also some serious Detroit iron. How about a 1965 New Yorker Coupe with a 413 and a 4 speed on the floor. There is one there. And many other things. It can be seen by the satellite on Google maps, but I would not just drop by there, the owner is a nice guy but the place is -not- open to the public.

    Highway 6 just up from the station on the left. Cant miss it.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Nice pics and well worded.

    Having been in the Pikes Peak area for almost 20 years but not knowing this yard I’m guessing near Fountain?

  • avatar
    Neb

    Do I see some sort of ’50 side-loading hearse in one of these shots?

    Also, that Convair van(?) with the home-built roof is awful. Wonderful, but awful.

  • avatar
    carnick

    This… is… absolutely… amazing… This may be the largest collection of unrestored old cars left in the universe. There are so many things there that just have to be preserved.

    Many of them look very restorable – is that the case? Should we all be getting on planes and running over there with a bag of cash? I want some Corvairs and a Marlin for myself.

    Thank you Murilee!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Pure unadulterated car porn. Bowing with arms out stretched, I’m not worthy.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I see so much I want, from IH parts to the cruising wagon that is still wearing it’s factory Ford slots.

  • avatar
    Nick

    That DeSoto may have had a hemi under the hood. If it did, grab it! DeSoto hemis are very hard to find…and make awesome hotrod engines.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Very cool. There’s some cool ones in western MN too

  • avatar

    I knew I’ve seen that Cutlass before: http://jalopnik.com/1979-oldsmobile-cutlass-diesel/

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Good eye..you can see the sticker on the area where the rear-window defogger switch and the clock would have gone.

      The paint looked pretty good in the Jalopnik pix, as did the engine–wonder if everything was Photochopped.

      Whatever–this one needs to be saved. Like my comment above, same thing: decent head bolts, water separation in the fuel system, a few NOS parts here and there, strip to the metal, zinc-prime and respray, and you’ve got an instant collector’s item.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    What is the rusty roadster featured in image 23? I’ve been waiting for someone else to comment on it.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Love the G bodies! THe Cutlass is begging for a gas powered Olds 350.

    BTW, the ‘Special Edition’ sticker on the Chevette door handle is as factory as curb feelers and fuzzy dice!

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Not this one–upgrade the Diesel properly, and with the proper documentation (per the Jalopnik motor replacement reference), this thing’s a collector’s item!!!

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    A day late but hey…

    A very cool post there Murilee. This was so awesome to view while waking up.

    Speaking of Chevettes, spotted a bright yellow Chevette go past me in the opposite direction on the Kitsap Peninsula on July 4th. It was heading towards the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to points west, be it Tacoma or I-5 to elsewhere and due to the distance, thanks to the highway being divided and with a grassy median between the two ribbons of asphalt, I could only discern it was from the 80′s due to the squarer nature of the rear. I think it may have been a 2 door.

    Those GMC buses look to be from the 70′s. My old school district once had 2 of them, from about 1972 and they had the truck series 6′s in them and by 1980 or so, they had to be rebuilt or replaced as they could not haul themselves up the hills anymore.

    Overall, lots of great finds there!

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    The real question is how is he getting these cars? It looks like a whole lot of them probably were driven in there. Many of them still have fully inflated tires, for heaven’s sake.

    And someone needs to rescue that high-top Corvan. Whatever it takes. From the looks of the area around the bottom of the front doors, always a problem area, and there being no bad rust where the high-top joins the factory sheet metal, the van probably has a super-solid structure.

  • avatar
    Broo

    Man, this is parts paradise !

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    To my jaded eyes that looks more like a car collection than a junkyard. By the time they hit the yards down here in Mississippi, there are run into the ground or go straight to the crusher.

    Love seeing yards like this are still around. Saddens me to think that whenever the owner passes on this stuff will likely be summarily crushed by the heirs for a quick buck as has happened too many times in the recent past.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    That Buick grill looks very much like the front end of the ’49 Buick my parents owned way, way back in the early 50′s, down even to the color. I don’t have the picture handy to tell if it is, indeed, a ’49, but it’s darned close. It’s the first car I remember.

  • avatar

    Now that is an amazing collection. By far the toughest part of our monthly features is our Fallen Stars section, which is a photo collection of bush and field cars in advanced states of disrepair. Modern tree-hugging policies have made most of these kind of yards disappear up here, so this article is like a cooking show when you are hungry-very intense. Great look at a dying part of the old car culture.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    I think this yard could be the basis for a very nice story (short or novel-length), and I think the movie made from it would star Johnny Depp.

  • avatar
    Alfasaab99

    I’m a HUGE H-Body fan! I’m interested in all of them but would still like to know prices, mileage, if they run or not, and which ones are sold.

  • avatar

    the…greatest…place…in…the…universe…

  • avatar
    50merc

    Spotted several Studebakers. And many other great cars.

    The Studebaker Drivers Club’s big 2013 meet is at Colorado Springs. How wonderful it would be if the property owner would open the yard for those people, many of whom will be coming great distances.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    SWEET ! . I remember going through High Plains Junkyards like this in the late 1960′s…..

    It’s hard to choose one favorite but the I-H A Series
    Shortie School Bus would be very nice indeed .
    -Nate

  • avatar

    That Maxima Wagon is badged as a diesel. You can’t read it, but you can see that the front quarter panel has the black badge, and that only came on the Maxima diesels.

    Gen 1 810/Maximas were produced 1981-84, but only available with the 2.8l LD28 straight-Six diesel in ’81-83.

    From the grill & hood ornament, it looks to be an ’81. Pics of the three different hood ornaments are here: http://nissandiesel.dyndns.org/viewtopic.php?p=8772#8772

    Those are Nissan factory alloys on it, too.

    1981 was the only year where the tailgate was badged both “810″ & “Maxima”.

  • avatar
    blah4321

    I didn’t Know the cars stayed so solid in Colorado Southern Americans would laugh at the cars I have put back togethere. Canada ehh.

  • avatar
    Rvinyl

    Whenever I see junkyards of this size I get depressed just thinking about how much order is sitting out there unused and how much damage and pollution has been caused. Still, I’m in the aftermarket industry so I’m as much a part of the problem as anyone.

  • avatar
    Muttley Alfa Barker

    Does the Oldsmobile Starfire in pic# 25 have a 231 C.I./3.8 L/3800 V6 and a Borg-Warner/Tremec T-5 in it? If so, is it for sale? I WAANT IT!!!


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