Salvage Yard Ron

Project Heaven

Family-run Colorado yard is the place for complete cars

Postcard picture perfect is this scene with a 1952 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe Bel Air hardtop with colorful brush growing alongside and the Rocky Mountains in the background.


Story and photos by Ron Kowalke

Taking the road less traveled often leads to great discoveries. While that sounds like a phrase found in a fortune cookie, it sums up a recent road trip to Colorado where I discovered Ernest and Sons Auto Wrecking, after a meandering drive on unpaved State Highway 15. Based at the tip of the eastern shadows of the Rocky Mountains near the small town of Capulin, this salvage yard offers one of the largest collections of complete, rust-free vintage cars and trucks I’ve come across in all my years of yard tours. According to the yard’s owner, Ernie Quintana, it’s also the largest salvage yard in Colorado.

Quintana, along with his brothers Chris and Mike, operate the yard, which was originally established by their father, Ernest.

“Dad started the yard in 1958, about two miles from this [current] location,” Quintana said. “He started with half an acre and outgrew that, so he bought this property in 1974.”
Ernest passed away in 2008, but while working with his sons in the yard as they grew up, he instilled in them a drive to work hard to get ahead, as well as a passion for preserving vintage iron. The sons’ business education at the hands of their father has allowed them to expand the yard into a 40-acre, 4,000-vehicle collection of mostly complete cars and trucks. One of the yard’s added benefits, according to Quintana, is that “most of our vehicles have titles. We also embalm their engines with transmission fluid to make sure they run after they get parked.”

Quintana said he has two uncles who also operate salvage yards in Colorado, adding, “If we don’t have it, we know someone who does.”

Equipped with a fully functional boom, this 1957 Chevrolet wrecker appears as if it could restart towing disabled vehicles on a moment’s notice.

Looking back

Ernest Quintana clearly made a positive and lasting impression on each of his sons. Their reverence toward their father came out in several stories about his life.

“Dad was always into cars,” Ernie reminisced. “He liked the drag races, and he drove a 1957 Imperial, which I still have.” Another interesting car in Quintana’s vehicular inheritance from his father is the ’49 Ford formerly owned by Jim Nabors of “Gomer Pyle” TV series fame and longtime singer of “Back Home Again in Indiana” prior to each year’s running of the Indianapolis 500.

In addition to maintaining his father’s beloved Imperial, Quintana learned some important lessons on how to successfully operate a yard business through good times and bad. To supplement income during slow periods, Quintana said, “Dad was a truck driver for a while. He would see (old cars and trucks) from up in the cab and he’d bring them back to the yard.”

The brothers also marveled at their father’s ingenuity to make due with equipment on hand.

“Dad had a 1965 Ford tandem flatbed to haul and crush cars,” Quintana said. “He constructed an A-frame, and used a weight anchored to the truck bed [that looped over the top bar of the A-frame]. He’d park a car under the A-frame, put the truck in neutral and the weight would fall and flatten the car.” While this clever device worked both inexpensively and well, Quintana winced as he recalled many of the cars his father crushed were from the 1930s through ’50s.

Prior to being parked in the yard, someone with a shotgun used this 1947 Hudson Commodore coupe as target practice. Beyond the prevalent bullet holes, the car’s body panels remain solid.

Working both sides of the road

Ernest and Sons Auto Wrecking is actually two salvage yards in one location. The 40 acres that comprise the business are split into north and south yards bisected by State Highway 15. Old Cars Weekly toured only the south yard, the inventory of which spans the 1930s through ’70s, with emphasis on cars and pickups of the ’50s and ’60s. Another category that had surprising depth within the south yard was vintage buses. The north yard houses vehicles from the 1970s and newer.

Among the interesting and complete or near-complete cars parked in the south yard were rarities such as a 1960 Chrysler New Yorker station wagon, ’57 Ford Courier sedan delivery, ’57 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer hardtop equipped with a Hemi V-8, ’41 Ford “shorty” school bus, ’68 Dodge Charger, ’56 Mercury Monterey “woodie” station wagon and ’67 AMC Rambler Rogue hardtop.

The terrain of the south yard is level with wide aisles and a dirt base that is punctuated by scrub and brush growing around many of the vehicles. There are pockets of similarly grouped manufacturers. However, there are enough random gatherings of brands and decades to offer constant “wow” moments.

While “true” woodies were no longer produced by the mid 1950s, this ’56 Mercury Monterey station wagon remains eye-catching in its design and faux “wood” finish. Cosmetically rough, the Merc is near complete and somewhat rare as only 13,280 were produced.


Whole or parts

The majority of the vintage vehicles in the yard have been preserved in as complete a state as possible, and Quintana stressed that this is how they are sold, with no exceptions.

Whole vehicles, many still retaining titles and many that ran when parked, require customers to “buy it all” or admire it and walk away. However, parts hunters need not be discouraged, as Quintana added, “We have lots of loose parts available,” and what’s available is well known among the brothers. While currently no computerized inventory of cars or parts exists, Quintana said he and his brothers will photograph asked-for items and e-mail images to anyone requesting them.

Customers entering either section of the yard will be supervised at all times. Tool boxes are allowed into the yard, but parts removal will only be allowed with the help of a yard employee. During Old Cars Weekly’s visit, Mike acted as tour guide.

In 1960, Chrysler Corp. produced only 1,295 New Yorker station wagons in both six- and nine-passenger configurations. This example needs little beyond cosmetic attention and likely mechanical work to return to the road.

When and Where

Ernest and Sons Auto Wrecking is open year-round. Summer hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., also Monday through Friday. Saturday hours year round are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Yard tours by clubs or groups are available, and can be scheduled by appointment.

To contact the yard, use postal mailing address: Ernest and Sons Auto Wrecking, 6262 State Hwy. 15, Capulin, CO 81124, or phone 719-274-5224 or FAX 719-274-5235.

Quintana’s four daughters are too young to know whether or not they share their father’s and grandfather’s passion for older vehicles. But the time may come when the business’ name has to be expanded to Ernest and Sons and Granddaughters Auto Wrecking. It would only be proper to keep it in the family.

More “scenery” for you to enjoy…

A luxury liner with “get up and go!,” this complete 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire hardtop is in too nice of shape to be idled in a salvage yard.

Muscle cars have all but disappeared from salvage yards, so it was a treat to find this 1968 Dodge Charger squirreled away among buses, trucks and various machinery. The Charger is complete, but in need of restoration.

In almost survivor-class condition, this 1938 Ford Fordor is complete down to its hubcaps and accessory bumper guards.

Believed to be a mid-1930s Chrysler Corp. product, this five-window coupe is picked over, but offers solid body panels and frame. Ernest and Sons Auto Wrecking has several coupes in inventory, in both three- and five-window configurations.

Only 15,494 Pontiac Super Chief Catalina hardtops were built in 1957, and this example would make a desirable restoration project. It has missing glass, but is otherwise complete.

A car that makes a statement, this 1959 Cadillac 62 six-window four-door hardtop has missing glass and lenses, but with restoration help, could be transformed into a sweet boulevard cruiser.

Another finned looker from the 1950s, this ’59 Plymouth Belvedere hardtop is also a prime candidate for restoration.

Ernest and Sons Auto Wrecking contains quite a few vintage buses in its inventory. This 1941 Ford "shorty" example, with some restoration, would make a fun driver to ferry friends to local car shows.

Still equipped with wide whitewall tires, this 1957 Ford Courier sedan delivery has a damaged tailgate, but is near complete and rust free. Ford build just 6,178 of this model in '57, so getting this one back on the road would make a unique project for someone.

Yeah, it's got a Hemi! This performance-oriented 1957 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer hardtop has the desirable finned rear quarter styling so popular among today's collectors.

Another rare model, AMC produced just 4,129 of these Rambler Rogue hardtops in 1967. This example is as solid and complete as they come. The Quintana family's pet dog, whose name I did not get, wanted the limelight while I was photographing cars, so I thought it was appropriate to pose him with a car named "Rogue."

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12 thoughts on “Project Heaven

  1. Kenny Anderson

    WOW, It’s real nice to see a yard with rust-free complete cars. I didn’t know that Colorado had the dry climate. I think of Colorado and automatically think of snow and cold but this looks like the desert of Arizona.This yard looks like everything is perfectly preserved. I’m really curious as to how high his prices are. Too many yards have cars with not much left for picking and very few with complete cars plus a lot of yards are crushing our automotive heritage because of the high scrap metal prices lately so this is a real refreshing site, especially if he has clear titles for the cars as well.. I’ve got a friend in Colorado so I’ll have to check this place out tomorrow and give them a call to see if they have any ’69-70 Ford LTD and/or Galaxies.
    Kenny.. .

  2. gaines wissel

    i’m lookin for a parts car for a 77 chrysler newyorker. not a normal restoring project. but i love this car. if u have any with the front end in good shape please call me at 1-937-205-3082. not had any luck for years now.

  3. Noah Perry

    I am in the need of a hood grill and cab for a 1974 dodge power wagon custom 200 . If you have anything like this please email me . or if you know were I could get this stuff . Thanks again Noah

  4. John Rowell

    What a top wrecking parts car yard . It is good to know where to look to get projects from . Also i was wondering if you had any buick 1978 rivieras in stock Thankyou John Rowell

  5. Pingback: Cars from the 50s Postcard Book | Workshop Manuals


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