A bright orange Ford pickup sits wrapped around a tree. The truck dips in the center from the force of impact, its headlights shoved around either side of its arboreal lover. Surprise though! The tree embraced by 1978 chrome isn’t the one that did the damage. Automotive artists Gary and Alice Corns sat the crumpled Ford against the tree in their wrecking yard as a visual joke, and visitors to Colorado Auto and Parts enjoyed it so much it’s become a permanent installation. “We moved it once and people asked us where it was, so we had to put it back,” said company president Alice. It’s just one of the quirky presentations you’ll find in in the parts yard’s 38-acre recycling facility.
Alice Corns’s parents started the auto-recycling business in 1959. Now she runs it with her husband and sons, Eric and Adam. “Back then it was called a wrecking yard or junkyard,” she told us, “but now I get mad at my kids for calling it a junkyard. They still do though.” With that in mind, we’ll go with wrecking yard for the rest of this post, but bear in mind that the Corns’s business involves much more than simply crushing metal. The majority of the land is a self-service parts yard, like it was when Alice’s dad ran the business, but there’s a section to the side that will blow your mind. See, Alice’s pop was a car collector, and when an interesting classic or muscle car came in during the 40 or so years that he ran the place, he’d stick it off to the side. He restored some, but most just sat there. “I don’t really know why he kept them,” said Alice. “Maybe just to say he had them?”
About a decade ago Alice and Gary moved all the classics out of the self-service yard. “People will destroy a perfect door to get a door handle,” she said. “We didn’t know what we were going to do with the cars, but we knew we didn’t want them crushed.”
Walking through the rusting rows for a car person is like visiting your local animal shelter. “Take us home,” begs a row of crumpled Cougars. A DeSoto grins hopefully at you through a row of broken chrome teeth. A cute, blue Corvair still looks perky, even with a wrinkled hood and shattered windshield. A sleepy-eyed Packard gazes up with double headlights and perfect Dagmars. There are some rare machines tucked behind the Mustang-lined fence. Bullet-grilled Cadillacs and Mach 1 Mustangs are interspersed with Rolls-Royces, Mercedes, and Buick Rivieras. You want classic trucks? Metro vans? A Studebaker? Here, here, and here. How we left without a full load on a flatbed is a triumph of willpower. Oh, speaking of which, here is a Triumph.
So can you buy these cars? The Corns had been selling some of the nicer, titled cars on eBay while deciding what to do with the rest, but as of our visit a few years ago, they were ready to find new homes for the Mustangs, Chryslers, Buicks, Lincolns, and Caddys you see in these photos. “There’s no reason for these cars to sit,” said Alice. “If someone buys them or the parts, they can get a brand-new life. I’m pretty big on recycle, renew, and reuse, and making old cars into hot rods and customs—that is recycling.”