For guys of the gear-head persuasion, discovering an old car is a very special occasion. Perhaps there is an endorphin release, similar to the “high” that distance runners experience when going on a long run. For hard-core, truly addicted barnfinders, “the search” is at least as exciting as “the find,” and many times more so.
It’s been said that finding that car in a barn and making it run again are as close as most car buffs will ever get to God. For some inside tips on how you might be able to make the big score, we checked in with Barn Find Road Trip by Tom Cotter.
1. You Can Go Home Again
If you knew of older car guys when you were a kid in your hometown, go back and check in on them today. Even if it’s been decades, and you live on the other side of the country, scan through your old neighborhood next time you’re home for the holidays or attending a class reunion. Several years ago I purchased a rare Abarth coupe by going past a house where I remembered a bunch of neat sports cars when I passed on the school bus. And a friend told me he visited his high school class reunion and discovered the 1932 Ford roadster he saw as a student, still hibernating in a garage. He was able to buy it.
2. Embrace Dead Ends
These are the roads less traveled. Think about it: when you get the end of a dead-end street, you have to make an awkward U-turn to reverse direction. People avoid these roads like the plague. So guess what—the old cars that are parked in yards on those roads are only seen by a small number of people. In this book, we were told of a Plymouth Superbird that was on a dead-end street off an interstate exit. Nobody would go down that road unless they had a reason. We had a reason and found not a Superbird, but a Dodge Super Bee that was purchased new by Charles Grant. Great find and great story.
3. Hunt in the Winter
When the leaves are off the trees. This plan doesn’t work so well if you live in Phoenix, but if you live in New England, your eyesight will double in the winter because all those leaves won’t be blocking your view.
4. Befriend a Lawyer
Lawyers often settle estates, handle bankruptcies, and know “people’s private business” that is not meant to go public. If you ask lawyers to keep you in mind in the event that interesting old cars need to be liquidated, you might just score an interesting treasure.
5. Google Earth, Ultralight, or Drone
I hadn’t actually done this until this road trip, but, I mean, why not? If you suspect cars may be hidden out of sight behind a building or landscaping, how about searching from above? We tried this on our first day, discovering Snowball Bishop’s field of 60 or so old Fords via Google Earth. I once heard from a Blimp pilot who would hover low over interesting farms when commuting back and forth along the East Coast, looking for cars. Now with drones available for less than $1,000, you can attach your GoPro camera and take off for the heavens!
Great collector cars are still out there–just waiting to be found!
Sadly, there is very little reality in reality TV. That wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that these shows are the only TV shows for the barn-find collector car aficionado.
Barn Find Road Trip is the antidote to all the manufactured collector “reality” shows. It’s a real-world, barn-find banzai run in which auto archaeologist Tom Cotter, his car collector pal Brian Barr, and photographer Michael Alan Ross embarked on a 14-day collector-car-seeking adventure with no predetermined destinations. It’s barn-find freestyle! Roaming the Southeast, they documented their day-to-day car search in photos and through stories and interviews. This trip is absolutely real and the same kind of junket any gearhead with the skills, knowledge, and time can undertake.
Cotter and company hit the road in Cotter’s 1939 Ford Woody, the kind of car that opened doors and started the conversations that revealed where interesting cars were squirreled away. The result? The discovery of over 1,000 collector cars and some of the most amazing barn-find stories Cotter has yet unearthed, all accompanied by Ross’ evocative photography. If you love stories of automotive adventure, this is the book for you!