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Proctor's preservation: Antique cars more than just rust

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Photo by Justin Criado A look at some of the cars in Orval's collection.

One man's trash is another man's treasure. We've all heard the moniker before, but Orval Proctor, of Delta, is proof of what such a motto entails.

Proctor's car collection began as a noble quest. He is the owner of Orval's Used Cars at the corner of Main Street and Eaton Avenue (as well as Taco Time across the way).

"I've worked all my life collecting these. Mainly, I started out trying to save these cars from the crushers (in junkyards)," he said.

Currently, he has about 400 cars in his possession, which is down from the 1,000-plus he owned not even 10 years ago. (Proctor held auctions in 2008 and 2012 to cut down his stock.)

"Meanwhile, time is flying by, so I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do with them," he said.

Proctor started working at the "Texacorner" (the current home of his car lot) while he was still in high school. After graduating in 1969, he left Delta, but was back in town and bought the gas station in 1973. In 1980, he opened the Taco Time location, and was out of the car biz for good in 1984. (He's confessed in previous interviews with the Delta County Independent that there's more money in tacos than tires.)

But old habits die hard, and Proctor bought back the corner car lot in 1987. Since then, he's been operating both businesses. He admits, though, he hasn't sold many cars recently.

"The market's been pretty quiet," he said. "There have been a lot of lookers. People enjoy looking at them. You just never know."

A dirt lot across from his corner shop serves as a graveyard, or memorial, of sorts as old rides without titles (you can't legally sell a car without a title) rest and rust.

However, that's OK with Proctor, because he plans to turn the lot into a motor-vehicle museum.

"Mainly, I have them over there so people can look at them. There's just people over there all the time taking pictures. Just going nuts over there," he said. "I'm trying to wait until I get a fence along the back of the lot before I bring anymore in. I'm going to pretty much just fill it up." (He has more cars at his permanent residence.)

There is a 1959 and '60 Impala, a 1958 Oldsmobile and Buick, 1947 Oldsmobile 98, and a 1936 Dodge Humpback Panel Truck, just to name a handful.

In 1936, Dodge only made 150 Humpbacks, Proctor said, and just 500 more during the next two years before production ceased.

"That's only 650 cars in three years of production," he added.

At one point, Proctor owned two of 35 or 40 1942 Oldsmobiles still in existence. He sold one, but still has the other. What's unique about a '42 Oldsmobile is not one had any chrome accessories due to the nation's World War II effort.

"After Dec. 7, 1941, (the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), they just finished what they had," he explained. "Some of them went out of the factory with no bumpers on them."

It's evident in talking with Proctor that he loves the untold tales of his automobiles just as much as the sleek lines and old-school American ingenuity.

"If you get something that you know the history of, it makes it a little more interesting to have it," he said.

Proctor prefers the natural-patina look to a fresh paint job, too.

"You go to these cars shows and you see the same old thing all the time. Some of these cars are just immaculate," he said.

He added getting an old ride running and keeping it in its current state of decay is what he enjoys, especially since such vehicles were everyday drivers.

"They're cars that everyone drove. It's just what everybody used. It's more realistic," he said.

Local Ray Lamont, who has worked for Proctor in the past, still smiles as he walks around the corner lot. There's a Ford Ranchero off to the side, and a collection of older pickup trucks in another area.

"He has so much stuff, he doesn't even know what he has," Lamont laughed.

The cars have served as nostalgic touchstones for many and a source of awe for others.

A YouTube channel called Rodder Files chronicles travels around the country in search of hot rods and the ilk. In 2016, Orval's Used Cars was featured in a 14-plus minute video.

The narrator, simply identified as "just a car guy in Las Vegas transplanted from LA," stumbled upon Orval's while driving back home to Nevada, according to the video.

"Anyone need any parts?" he joked as he approached the dirt lot on the east side of Main Street.

The curious motorhead made sure to get each and every vehicle in Orval's lots on film, calling the automobile accumulation an "awesome collection."

The video has over 137,000 views and 800 likes to date.

Proctor himself points to the video as a point of pride when someone asks about his collection, but there's been more pieces added to the lot since the video went live.

Recently, Proctor salvaged on old shed building. The previous owner wanted to give it away for wood, but Proctor had other plans; he placed it over in his dirt lot in hopes of turning it into a replica general store.

It's that sense of preservation that drives Proctor's vision of a museum.

Newer additions to the collection include Mesa County's paddy wagon, which was used in the 1920s and '30s, and Charlie Todd's farm equipment from the 1930s.

Proctor's friend Todd grew up in the Paonia area, but Proctor met him during the latter part of his life while he was living in a nursing home. Todd passed away this year. Like Todd, Proctor mentioned several other old timers who helped him learn the lay of the land. Now, he feels it's his turn.

"Now it's up to us to learn it and pass it on. Just like Charlie's stuff. I'm hoping that what I learned from him I'll be able to pass on to other people."

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