Junk Yard Tours
Woller Auto Parts, Lamar Colorado.
Woller Auto Parts is an 85 acre collection of 2500 classic cars located on the desert plains of Lamar Colorado. If you're coming from Denver, you'll get there in about 2 1/2 hours. Take I-70 east of Denver to 287 south towards Hugo and Kit carson. Stay on 287 through Eads and turn left onto County road SS just past mile marker 92. Take county road SS about 6 miles and you can't miss it. Their address is 8227 county road SS, Lamar Co. You can call them at (719) 336-2108.
There is no sign on the left side of the road where you need to turn onto County Road SS. You will see the street sign on the right side.
A passion for classic cars
Woller Auto Parts is the result of Don Woller's passion for classic cars. When you ask him about his collection of classic cars he will tell you that most people say they wish they never sold the 64 Impala SS or the 56 Buick Special their father left them when they were young. Well, he's kept them all. Their all right here at Woller Auto Parts.
It's refreshing to see a man of principles too. He refuses to part out his project cars. There are quite a few that he once drove, some of them he raced, some of them he bought decades ago, drove them in here and parked them. It's not that he is going to restore them, but he's keeping them for the next person who will restore one or more to the spendor of their glory days. They're for sale, but remember that Don Woller won't let them go cause he needs the money. They'd have been sold years ago if that were the case. He wants to see them go to a good home.
Even though his cars are technically in a junk yard, he doesn't treat them like junk. He understands that each of them are a source of future income to him and the find of a lifetime for someone who needs a hard to find part. For this reason he keeps his cars off the ground, entire rows of them are propped up on old wheels or stands so they aren't sitting flat on the ground. Most of the rows are elevated just like we do with a vegetable garden, any moisture will run off down the middle between each row. I really don't think they get much rain though, after all they're in the desert.
Preserving the quality of the parts cars.
This is not a U-Pick junk yard either. No-one is allowed to roam the yard. You tell them what you want and they remove the part for you. They once allowed customers to pull parts but they found the customers were damaging some parts just to get another part off the car. I guess the customer didn't understand that the damaged part would have been saleable too. Woller Auto Parts will only sell complete parts. Don cited an example where a past customer went to remove a small part and came back with a handful of dash knobs they wanted as well. Now they had a bunch of dash switches left in the car with missing knobs.
His selection of cars is broad. He has rust free classic cars here that have long since disintegrated on the east coast. He has entire rows of Chevy Vegas, Ford Pintos, Chevy II's, Corvairs, Ford Comets, and Ford Falcons.
There were a lot of classic car project cars, I only took pictures of about 20 some. There are more than that though, and he has a story to tell about how he came to own most of them. This Edsel for example came from a family that needed to get rid of some clutter in their garage. Their son was planning on restoring it, he tore the dash out of it and then got shipped overseas after enlisting in the service. The dash and all the parts are in the trunk. Don has kept the car as you see it here ever since.
Remember I said earlier how Don Woller takes extra care in making sure his classic cars stay in good shape? When I walked up to this 57 chevy to cite an observation I made earlier about the beautiful condition of the chrome on his cars, he was surprised the window was down and promptly opened the door to wind it up.
Rust free parts and chrome
Clean unpitted chrome seems native to Colorado. I've seen beautiful 40 and 50 year old classic cars and trucks with chrome and aluminum trim in the kind of condition you would only see as NOS, New Old Stock, on the east coast. Even junk yard classic cars have nice chrome just like the few classic cars I've seen on the street around here. This seems to me like it's a well kept secret. I think you're safe to put Woller Auto Parts on your list of rust free (and unpitted chrome) classic car sources.
Have a look at the left front parking lamp with the lens missing on the white 64 Impala above. You might need your reading glasses. See how, even with the lens missing, it still has the factory white paint. Even this part isn't rusty. Here on the east coast you'd be lucky to find one without rust holes in it. You can forget about finding one of these with factory white paint on it.
Classic car engines in storage
Don Woller had the forethought to preserve the hearts of his classic cars. Most, if not all of his classic cars have had the engine yanked out and he stores them in a special hiding place. You're getting a rare look at classic car engines he's been hiding for quite some time. With these classic car engines all in one place he can spend a day every 6 months or so and turn them over to preserve them. He marks the dampers each time he does. The classics that were driven in and parked still have the motors in them. He does the same for any newer cars as well. Here you can see the ocean of engines on the right. Don thought that remark was pretty funny.
He has even built a hiding spot for windshields and rear windows. He uses his very first shop space to store them on racks he built himself. In fact there isn't much on these 85 acres that Don Woller hasn't built himself including the buildings his business is in. He's very resourceful. The majority of this auto glass is out of 60's chevrolets.
The lack of moisture in the air, or evaporating out of the ground is evident just to look at these classic cars regardless of their state of disassembly. Nothing here seems to rust any more than surface rust. Look at the floor pans in this 64 Impala SS to the right. This car is missing the windshield and the floor pans have not rusted out. Even engines preserve well. While Don was talking to a customer about a dodge engine the customer was interested in, I overheard a story about the motor out of a 69 Camaro they started after it was sitting for decades. He said they pulled the spark plugs, oiled the cylinders and let it sit overnight. They changed the oil, put a battery in the car and it fired right up and ran just as well as the day it was parked. They laughed about how a bunch of mice came running out the tailpipe. Later that day, Don's Son Andy told me the same story while we were pulling a 64 Impala power brake booster that I wanted to take home.
Classic and old trucks too
Don Woller seems to love the classic cars and old cars first but he is not stuck on them. He has quite a selection of trucks for parts, and for restoration projects too. Considering most trucks get seriously abused it's amazing that these 60's chevy trucks still exist. This is especially true if these are rural trucks where they see a lot of countryside potholes, mud, and heavy loads being thrown into the truck bed. Mud can be the worst source of rust since it gets into the body and frame cavities and holds moisture for long periods of time.
Classic chrysler products too!
Junk yards with classic Dodge and Chrysler products are becoming nearly impossible to find. Woller Auto Parts still has a few though and they don't have much rust either. Don Woller seems to like Superbees cause he has a few in his yard. Even though some of these are what most people would consider a parts car, when you look at them up close you realize these would be good project cars. They have parts missing, but the chassis are really solid. These would make nice replacement shells for anyone with a rusty car they want to restore.
Sorry, but the 74 Challenger has been sold.
Woller Auto Parts crushes cars too!
Woller Auto Parts does scrap metal processing too. A lot what you see here used to be newer cars. Once the valuable parts have been removed there's no reason to hang onto them so they go to the crusher they have onsite. Since the price of scrap steal fell recently Don isn't going to give the metal away so he's building a wall with the crushed metal and old cars. When the price goes back up, he'll cash them in. Common knowledge in the salvage business seems to be that when China reduced manufacturing before the olympics to help reduce air pollution, the glut of scrap steal drove the market value way down. That's good news for classic car buffs since the junk yards are less likely to crush them by the hundreds now.
If you look at the pictures real close, can you tell what cars these used to be?
The history of Woller Auto Parts
Woller auto parts started out of rather humble beginnings. Don and Gloria were originally from Michigan where Don worked as an autobody man. In 1968 Don was off work for a disability and was visiting friends in the southwest. He spent a bit of time in both California and Colorado. Of course he noticed how cars in Colorado didn't rust here and thought Lamar, Co would be the ideal place for a new start.
With that in mind , when he got back home to Michigan, he decided he was tired of doing rust repair work on rusty northern cars. He and Gloria soon moved to Lamar, Co and bought a couple of acres of land, he got a local job at first and did auto repairs on the side. The auto repair work became an auto parts business when people in the area started giving him their old cars. The classic cars became a backyard collection that didn't stop growing. While continuing to work the parts business he and Gloria saved their pennies, bought more land as it became available and eventually bought up to 85 acres.
While I was in the front showroom at some point during the day I made the comment that Don is a good parts guy since he had a good memory for cars and parts. A customer who obviously knew Don, better than I had come to know him in 4 hours, corrected me saying, "No, Don is a great stock car racer". After that comment Don took me to his office to show me something he rarely shows anyone.
It seems Don Woller is a very creative and resourceful person. In the early 90's he made a gigantic car out of scrap metal in about 4 months, probably as a promotion for the speedway he also built. He has a large picture of it on his wall. When you look at this picture of a real Camaro next to the replica he built you realize just how big it really is. Top speed is 65 MPH!
Don was a stock car racer, and I guess he liked demolition derby too. What's left of this car seems like it's returning to the block of steel it was made out of decades ago. He told me what is was, but ya know...I didn't write it down and I'm not sure I can tell what is was now. Hmm, hey is that a moon buggy in the background? No, it looks like an AMC Pacer, a rust free AMC Pacer too!
So it looks like Don Woller has had a lot of fun with classic cars over the years and has been very successful with them in business too. He credits a lot of his success to his wife. He says she could have complained about the long hours he worked for both the business and his play time, but she was behind him pushing all the way. He's greatful.
Now he's semi retired. His son Andy and his wife Gloria run the shop and he spends as much time as possible building their next house. He gave me a tour. It seems more like a castle though. He's done an incredible job of every room with tiered ceilings, bent/curved drywall around long flowing walls, and made use of subterrainium cooling for air conditioning. He's been working on it or 8 years so far and it should be ready to move in soon.
This was probably the most memorable of Junk Yard Tours I've done so far. The Woller's are definitely successful at the automotive and salvage business because they love what they do. They have a handful of nice pets too that are well behaved. That says a lot about a pet's owners. I'm especially greatful for Don taking 5 hours out of his day to show me around. You don't get this kind of hospitality everywhere.
Like I said earlier, they have a lot more to offer the classic car buff than I was able to take pictures of. Give them a call to find out if they have what you're looking for. You can call them at (719) 336-2108
December 3rd, 2008.