Gear: Book Review: 50 Shades of Rust

Book Review: 50 Shades of Rust

By Benjamin Shahrabani
December 10, 2014

The book: 50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered

Author: Tom Cotter

Pages: 192, hardcover

Purchase: Click here

There has apparently been such a critical mass of books and television shows about “barn finds” recently that the subject has its own genre now–automotive rescue. 50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered is one of the latest, and was written by Tom Cotter, a regular contributor to Road & Track magazine. Cotter is also the author of four other automotive-rescue tomes including The Cobra in the Barn and The Hemi in the Barn, but not every car mentioned in this 192-page hardback was actually discovered hiding out in a proverbial barn, so it appears that Cotter may have indeed taken some liberties with the definition of “barn find”. No matter, none of this should affect a potential reader’s enjoyment of these “automotive archaeology” stories. If you’re a reader of other books in the genre, or television shows like Chasing Classic Cars (Wayne Carini writes the foreword), Dessert Car Kings, and Counting Cars, you’ll likely appreciate the stories told in 50 Shades of Rust.

Cotter assembles over ninety of the most amazing barn find stories that have come to his attention. Photographs accompany each from the scene of the crime as it were, because leaving some of these automotive treasures out to rot in a field should be classified as criminal. Cotter writes about a wide swath of finds, from the more banal and ordinary to racecars and the truly collectable. All of these have one thing in common, and that is for one reason or another, they were discarded or forgotten sometime in their lives, only to be discovered years or decades later. Each of Cotter’s chapters is the story on the life and death of a car, and its possible resurrection. Cotter does his best to answer the five W’s–who, what, when, where, why–through interviews with anybody who may have touched the car. This includes the builders, previous owners, the people who found it. The text is very accessible, and Cotter casts a wide net as there’s a car or two in this book to satisfy all automotive appetites, and you may discover a marque you didn’t know about to boot: a Porsche 914 squirreled away after its owner passed away with only 5,020 miles, a Holman-Moody Ford Torino that once powered Bobby Allison to a third place finish at the Daytona 500 and then left in a field to rust away, a Shelby Cobra crashed on a test drive, and still sitting on a repair jig till this day, and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Orbitron are just a few of the stories that caught my eye.

If you’re into collector cars and love the thrill of the hunt, you’ll find the interesting, the entertaining, and sometimes-sad stories behind the ninety-four road and racing cars spotlighted here. The presentation of the book is very good, and while heavily illustrated with photographs, a few of the subject cars were a bit sparse–I would have enjoyed their tales with more pictures of the derelicts, and resuscitation attempts, but perhaps that wasn’t possible or too ambitious for the scope of a single book. You wouldn’t think it, but cars continue coming out of the woodwork every day, and should you want to live your barn-find dreams vicariously, there are worse places to do it then by wiling away an afternoon or two reading the pleasurable 50 Shades of Rust.

Purchase 50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered.

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Richard Propper
Richard Propper
8 years ago

This book should be retitled “Advances Even Pay Well for C+ Work”

I’ve purchased all the “…in the Barn” books Tom Cotter has written. Enjoyed them immensely. “50 Shades of Rust” is not his finest work, far from it. While an assembly of Barn Stories, they aren’t well written nor even well edited, some stories seem to stop mid-way through their retelling. There are some messy typos which further confirm this. An obvious sign that the publisher was rushing to get it to market. A few of the stories were previously used in Tom’s other books.

Overall, its got a great title, a great cover photo, and a forward by Wayne Carini, but the book itself seems to have been “phoned in” to capture our dollars for a fascinating subject. Too bad Tom put his name to this one, its not worthy.

Francesco Morackini
Francesco Morackini
8 years ago

No article about the discovery of the Baillon collection????????

What’s up petrolicious?

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
8 years ago

There are actually four ‘in the Barn’ books by Cotter, as there is also the Corvette in the Barn and the bike based Harley in the Barn. I loved Corvette in the Barn and will be adding this to my Christmas list if it’s not too late.