Journal: What’s The Best Barn Find You’ve Ever Heard Of?

What’s The Best Barn Find You’ve Ever Heard Of?

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
October 15, 2015
18 comments

Story by Jonathan Ward, photography by Mark Adams

As a designer and builder of classic cars, I am a sucker for a good story. The personal history of each and every vehicle found is an integral element of its perceived value, in my opinion. All of us car geeks have stepped into a old car, and even just the smell can be exciting, and consider romantic questions (OK, sometimes they just stink…) about where the car has been, what it has seen.

So I have been chasing rumors and scanning classified ads (remember The Recycler?) for decades, sometimes in predawn light sitting in my truck with a wad of cash and a cell phone, trying to be the early bird. With the advent of the internet, the dynamics of finding has changed immensely, but the hunt continues.

I use social media to solicit leads, and I chase down images I see posted as well. I run RSS feeds, search notifications, but most importantly, I have hunters. They know my taste and style, and I also send them “APB” emails when a client needs a specific vehicle for my projects. The following is one of the many stories that ensue.

As a rabid car geek and fan of this era of Streamline Moderne design, I have always lusted after the 1937 Zephyr Coupe. I have seen maybe five in person, and perhaps a total of eight for sale over the years. So imagine my excitement when one of my classic car hunters gave me a lead about one that may be for sale in Northern California. All we had to go one was an expired Craigslist ad and a few comments on online forums about a cagey owner and the fact that no one had been able to make a deal. 

After some creative sleuthing, I tracked him down and we discussed the car. His dad had bought it in the ’40s, and it had been sitting in his barn since 1952, untouched. The seller was not really a car guy, and he had been struggling with what was a fair price to sell it for. CL buyers had pitched offers up to about $35,000 for the car. His friends had been telling him to take the money and run, and he was not sure. I was quick to gain his trust when I told him his friends were wrong, and the car was worth more.

When we could not settle on a number, I was disappointed to see him list it on eBay. Now, the cat was out of the bag. Fortunately for me, his listing was vague and his photos sucked, so after the bids ran up to $50,000 with reserve not met, we were able to settle on a price and close a deal the next morning.

Once he had the money and was feeling a bit more comfortable, he explained that the car would be difficult to extract from the barn. It was sitting up on tree stumps with neither wheels nor tires, in a dilapidated barn, surrounded by old water tanks and a ’60s cargo container. We also mentioned that this was just one of the cars in his deceased father’s hoard.

I smelled a story…so I told him to not touch, wash nor move the car. I contacted a rock star photographer friend in San Francisco, Mark Adams, and arranged for him to visit and photo document the car and the entire hoard, plus the process of freeing the car from its tomb.

In the end, we ended up having to disassemble the barn plank by plank. In the process, we found the keys, fender covers, wheels and hubcaps. The only reason the roof had not caved in yet was the ’40s-era semi truck parked in front of it had held up the roof! After a solid day of work, the car sat in the sun for the first time in more than sixty years, a sight to behold.

This collection will now be sold piece by piece, except for the 1945 Harley that his dad drove once through South America. He and his brother have plans to restore it. At ICON, we have big plans for the Zephyr. We will be restoring it as part of our ICON Reformer line. More soon….. 

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Tony WoodRobert Lujan WrightJohn William SalevurakisOingo .BoingoOrin Adamthwaite Recent comment authors
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Tony Wood
Tony Wood

Two barn finds in my home town, but they’re not for sale. A 39 Ford coupe, under cover, rusty but repairable, and all original, in a lean to just out of town. And a 53 Dodge coupe parked up the side of the house in the weeds between the house and the fence, about two streets over from my place. Neither are visible from the street, and neither of them are for sale.

Robert Lujan Wright

Heard about a 65 Porsche 356 from a young kid. Said his dad had it and it used to be his grandfathers. I called his dad for over 8 years trying to buy the car, finally picked it up a couple months ago! All matching numbers.

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John William Salevurakis
John William Salevurakis

Just a few years ago an acquaintance found and purchased one of two 300SL Gullwings originally brought to Egypt in the mid 1950s. He found it in Aswan I believe and has been restoring it ever since….one piece at a time!

Oingo .Boingo
Oingo .Boingo

This one, one because he paid less than \%1 of the estimated value, but more because it was hidden under the bodywork of a kit? car, that he bought it off eBay and knew what it was by looking at the pictures when nobody else did. Cool guy doubled his finders fee. http://barnfinds.com/rare-ferrari-chassis-found/

Orin Adamthwaite
Orin Adamthwaite

I remember an email I had years ago. In Europe. Someone bought some land and it had this huge barn on it. The doors were welded shut. They opened it and inside were close to 100 prestige cars from the 50’s and 60’s. Was good just to have a gander. That to me would have to be the best Barn yard find!

Derelict
Derelict

This is how I got my MGA. The car was owned by a Naval airman and after he passed, parked in a garage and used as a shelf until it saw the light of day and I purchased it. It was last registered in 1972. Threw a rod (not uncommon for the 3 main B motor) sometime before it was parked, but other than that, complete and, more importantly, completely rust free. A few interesting stories about that car.

Jon Ulrich
Jon Ulrich

Nice story. Most of the “barn finds” that I’ve come across were, in fact, derelicts sinking into their own rust. The owners had very unrealistic ideas about values and wouldn’t consider selling the vehicles for any price. They were the hoarders who were mentally unable to part with their “collections”. In 1978 I did come across a 1963 Lincoln Continental that was sitting under a lean-to shed with about an inch of dust and rotting tires. While I was looking at it a young man came out of the weathered house and asked me what I was doing. I told… Read more »

Francisco Villa-Lobos
Francisco Villa-Lobos

April 2008, freezing cold; as the crew prepared to shoot another scene of the horror movie I was producing at that XVI century villa, I took a stroll inside the enormous, apparently abandoned barn, looking for some sets to the film.
Suddenly, there she was, complete but disassembled for some restoration that never really had took off some twenty years before.
She still lies there…

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Scott Allen
Scott Allen

This successful racing 1953 Ferrari was somewhat “buried” in a shipping container for nearly 40 yrs….just about 5 miles from my house. My friend put it there to preserve his past with his father. Later, it was sold for several million and restored. A very long and very interesting story.

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo

Lagos, Nigeria, 1995. We were lost inside a labyrinth of narrow streets when we came upon a house with the hulk of some majestic-looking pre-war Mercedes that neighborhood kids had turned into a playground. We just kept going, bent on finding our way back to a main road. I left Lagos the following morning. Every once in a while I remember that day and regret not trying to at least find out what model of Mercedes that was and the exact GPS location of the house.

Matt Henry
Matt Henry

Back in 1993, my wife and I were in Mountain Home, Arkansas. We were visiting her parents, who retired there a few years before, and we saw an ad in the local rag, The Baxter Bulletin, for a Packard Super 8 for $6500. I had to check it out, so I call the gentleman who placed the ad and set a time for later that day. As we pulled into his property, we noticed several old Hudsons, late 30’s Packard’s, and other assorted cars of various states of decay. We pulled to where his house should have been, and he… Read more »

geelongvic
geelongvic

Ah, derelict cars. In Strongsville, Ohio, the owner of a defunct exotic car rental business in the sixties and seventies had several fascinating cars all of which were stored in dubious ways, and became a local legend. Sitting on the asphalt foreground of a Sunoco filling station,sitting for years seemingly abandoned, at the intersection of I 71 and route 82 he had a Lamborghini Miura sitting with the right front tire off and the rusting right front disc rotor sitting, resting flush on the Campagnolo wheel. I made several unsuccessful offers to the owner for the Miura. The owner also… Read more »

João Vilabril
João Vilabril

One of biggest… Maybe not in value, but maybe one of largest in numbers.

Shane Elliott
Shane Elliott

The Aristotle Onassis Miura. Oh boy.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

First off .. the false assumption here is that every so called ‘ barn find ‘ is a derelict Second .. the best barn find I’ve ever found by far was a pristine pair [ yes a pair ] of Ferrari 330 GTC’s in a very derelict barn in rural VT . One… a runner .. the other .. complete but in the process of being reassembled . And when i say pristine .. I don’t mean over restored pristine … I mean original and lovingly cared for over the years as they should be pristine .

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Hey ! Is that you Mr Weiss ? As in ICON Mr Weiss ? I been trying to get ahold of y’all to inquire about your leather supplier that makes the great ‘ Man Bags ‘ you mentioned [ I’m a hard core ‘ man bag ‘ user/advocate ] in a recent R&T article but your system keeps crashing out when ever I try . BTW … y’all make some Killer rides good sir . Now if only you’d create a slightly more ‘ budget ‘ and sensible range for those of us wanting your wares but being a bit… Read more »

Jonathan Ward
Jonathan Ward

Don’t have a Mr. Weiss here, but this is Jonathan from ICON. The Bison supplier is Parabellum Collection here in LA. Best- JW

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Apologies for the mix up .. and thanks for the name