Chrome bumpers and hood ornaments glimmer in the midwinter sunshine between Peyton and Calhan near U.S. Highway 24.
Faded paint in hues of green, yellow and blue intermingle with the reddish brown of rust, sometimes peeking from behind overgrown weeds.
Duane Hayes walked among the collection of extinct autos including Nash Airflights, Kaisers, Chevrolet Corvairs, Frazers and Oldsmobiles, enthusiastically sharing his knowledge of vehicles from decades past.
The 59-year-old owns almost a thousand vehicles on 45 acres off Log Road. Most are cars built before 1970.
“A lot of people would just call this a junkyard,” Hayes said earlier this month as he paused for moment, smiled and looked across his sea of metal. “But I feel I’m the curator of a museum.”
Hayes’ “museum” lies a few hundred yards from Highway 24, but is easily seen by anyone cruising through the plains east of Colorado Springs.
The collection began in 1977 when Hayes and other Front Range members of the Kaiser-Frazer Owners Club were looking for some land to store their antique cars. The Kaiser-Frazer club began in 1959 in Chicago and has about 1,900 members today, according to kfclub.com.
Kaiser cars roared on the automotive scene after World War II, but never gained the popularity of Detroit’s Big Three brands and the brand was eventually folded into American Motors.
The group of local Kaiser-Frazer enthusiasts began stockpiling vehicles it bought at junkyards and various other places, Hayes said.
Club member Fred Walker found the plot of 300 acres and talked the rest of the collectors into buying the land and forming a corporation. The group, and the land, has since been divided.
“Some of the people passed away, including Fred,” Hayes said as he walked on one of the other member’s plots just to the south of his.
He admired a group of rusty Nash vehicles, including several Ramblers that the company made during the early 1950s.
According to Hayes, a fellow club member named Stan who lives in Golden still owns that plot and “just collected Nash’s because he loves them.”
Nash eventually merged with the Hudson Motor Car Company and formed American Motors, which continued to make the Rambler and added other vehicles like the Wasp, Hornet, Gremlin, Jeep and Pacer to its stable. The remains of American motors, most notably Jeep were bought by Chrysler in 1987.
Hayes said his love for cars began when he was in high school in Denver. He worked part-time jobs and bought cast off cars that he tinkered with in his parents backyard.
The man attributes that hobby to helping him “stay out of trouble.”
That love for saving old cars carried over into his adult years, when he joined the Kaiser-Frazer club and formed a love for the lesser-known manufacturers.
Hayes and a friend began driving to Cheyenne, Wyo. in 1989 and buying antiques from a salvage yard, sometimes just moments before the vehicles were to be crushed.
“It was a noble cause,” Hayes said while surveying a 1948 Pontiac Silver Streak, a car notable for massive amounts of chrome, that came from Cheyenne. “I couldn’t bear to see them destroyed.”
Hayes spent about five years making the trips north to save antiques. He estimates about 100 vehicles at his “museum” came from those expeditions.
Now, Hayes occasionally welcomes guests to the lot that he has dubbed “Classic Motors.” Photographers have done photo shoots of the vehicles and Hayes has a friend from Sweden who visits once in a while to take some parts back to Europe for his own collection.
Hayes sells a few parts here and there on eBay.com to pay bills, but the collector is not motivated by money. He simply wants to preserve the history and distinction of the antique vehicles.
“I love the beauty of the styling, the chrome and the art-deco trim,” Hayes said. “It’s said that cars today lack any pizzazz. People just love to see these old cars.”
Contact Matt Steiner at 636-0362 or follow him on Twitter @gazsteiner.