A barn is, by definition, an agricultural building usually on farms and used for various purposes. It’s a structure that houses livestock as well as equipment and fodder, and often grain. But for us car enthusiasts, a barn usually resembles something entirely different. It’s a place where every once in a while, the holy grail equivalent of classic car goodness has been known to emerge from. A place where rusty and dusty classics reappear after decades of hibernation. It’s a place with mystique that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in the automotive world. In short: barns are the unlikely keepers of classic car history and barn finds cars are that history coming alive.
Of course, the car doesn’t need to be found in a barn – nor does it need to be a car, for that matter. Trucks can be barn finds as well as motorcycles. The vehicle can be tucked away in an attic, a basement, a garage, or even under an old cover, or by that tree in the corner of the yard. Collectively, however, they’re still all referred to as barn finds and there are precious few things better than old barn finds cars.
“There are many vehicles still buried in garages and barns,” said Lauren Fix – the car coach. “A few years ago we found a 1965 Shelby GT350 that looked more like a regular Mustang. Convincing people to let go of their connection is the hardest part,” Fix shared one of her “barn find moments.”
In her experience, people are sometimes so attached to their cars that they’d rather see them rot away than sell them. This is one of the reasons barn find cars still appear on a regular basis – often after their owners have already passed away as their inheritors don’t share the same sentiment as the original owners and are, hence, more willing to let them go.
“I think it has a lot to do with the allure of finding lost treasure, and that allure has a big price tag attached,” said Jim Pickering, Managing Editor of American Car Collector and Sports Car Market magazines. “In most cases, a rational, reasonable person would see a barn find for what it is: a car that needs everything and should be priced accordingly. But time and time again, we see bidders pay up for dingy, dirty examples because they’re barn-fresh preserved relics,” he noted.
Pickering argues that old vehicles unearthed from under a heap of dirt and scrap oftentimes tend to have an added value – as if their owners expect you to pay extra for that very dirt and whatnot covering most of the car’s surface, disregarding the fact they’re usually in extremely poor mechanical condition. “That X-factor of lost treasure is a valuable addition to a seller’s bottom line — but as a buyer, what do you do with a car that needs everything and can’t be washed because the value is in the dirt,” he concluded. Pickering also concurs with Fix, believing that the barn finds trend won’t die anytime soon.
With all of the above said in mind, here’s a prolonged list of prime examples unearthed in a barn, garage, or backyard after years or even decades of slumber from under a heap of dirt and all kinds of clutter.
10. 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396
The Chevy Chevelle has earned itself an iconic status among the muscle car enthusiasts over the years, and the first-gen SS396 is certainly one of the best iterations of the intermediate ever produced.
This particular specimen was unearthed from a Claudville, Virginia hay shed a few years back after sitting there unattended since 1980. It’s a piece of local racing history having been a regular on Highway 103, also known as the Claudville Highway, after 11 PM pretty much every Saturday. Just imagine how badass it could look given a proper resto mod!
09. 1971 Dodge Charger R/T
Although this might seem like an ordinary old barn find car, the Charger in question was actually found in a barn in Finland, of all places! Nobody appears to know how this all-American classic ended up gathering dust in a Finnish barn, some 5,000 miles away from home, but who cares as long as it gets the loving treatment it requires to bring it back to its former glory?!
Although the exterior looks reasonably good for a neglected car of this age, it’s fair to say there are some major issues to be overcome here. The interior is pretty much shot to bits, but that’s not the end of the world. However, if you’re salivating at the thought of restoring a ‘matching numbers’ ‘71 Charger R/T, you can stop right here, as this one has no engine and no transmission. While both the engine and transmission have been absent for “who knows?” how long, at least the 440 Magnum badges are still intact on the side of the cowl.
08. 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
Purchased with the intention of restoring the car with his two sons, the owner stashed this 1970 Mustang Boss 302 in the barn after his sons passed away.
After years of neglect, he finally decided it was time to transfer the project along to someone else. A father and son responded to a Craigslist ad, purchased the car, and are in the process of restoring it. It’s both a heartbreaking and heartwarming story in one, and goes a long way of showcasing the importance of old barn find cars.
07. 1955 Mercedes 300SL Alloy Body “Gullwing”
Mercedes-Benz produced a limited run of 29 alloy-bodied 300SLs for competition but only 28 had been accounted for until a 300SL specialist restorer from British Columbia went on a quest to locate the missing car going under the number of 21. It was given as a college graduation gift (gee, and I didn’t even get a pen) in 1955 to a Southern Californian who drove it for almost 20 years until the transmission seized.
As is so often the case, after partially disassembling the car with every intention of repairing it, the owner let it slide, all the while burying it in redundant computer equipment left over from his job. So much so it took three people two days to free the car from the Santa Monica lockup. When they finally did free it, they got their hands on a genuine holy grail of barn finds.
06. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Split-Window
Life would have been much better had this 1963 Corvette Stingray been stored in a barn. Instead, it was left sitting in the constant drizzle of coastal Washington State since 1975.
Originally spotted on Google Earth, this highly desirable car – due both to its one-year-only split rear window as well as the original fuel injected 360-horsepower, 11.25:1 compression motor, making it a matching numbers car – has been rescued and is now undergoing a sympathetic restoration back to its original condition. It’s deserved nothing less after being exposed to the elements for 40 years.
05. 1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
There’s hardly a Mustang that embodies the raw performance demeanor of the sixties more than the ’69 Shelby GT500. When you happen to stumble upon one in a random barn in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania, then you should buy it – no questions asked. That’s exactly what Gary Morgan had done thanks to his good friend Fred Gimble who showed him the car.
Prior to restoration, however, this iconic Ford model was in pretty rough shape. It lacked a few parts here and there, including tail-lights removed in order to keep potential buyers away, but overall, it was a complete car, more or less. Nowadays, it’s a fully restored 1969 Shelby GT500 in original Black Jade paint with white stripes. It made its debut at the SAAC-33 concours car show in August 2008, and it’s been on the roads ever since.
04. 1961 Jaguar E-type “Flat Floor” roadster
A 1961 Jaguar E-type “flat floor” roadster which had been hidden away in a garage for more than 30 years was determined to be the 60th to leave the production line and is one of the earliest 3.8-litre right-hand-drive E-types still alive today. The car, which was unrestored and has 65,000 miles on the clock, is thought to be one of the most original examples of its kind left. These early E-types were labelled “flat floor” due to the lack of a dropped floor area that increased the leg room and was added in later models.
It was sold at auction in the condition in which it was removed from the garage for $168,000. The E-Type has since been turned over to a Jaguar restoration specialist CMC where it will be undergoing a full nut-and-bolt restoration to factory condition.
03. 1952 Cunningham C3
Briggs Cunningham was a wealthy sportsman who announced he would build his own cars to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright. Cunningham built just 20 coupes and five convertibles in 1952 and 1953 to comply with eligibility requirements at Le Mans. Based partly on Cunningham’s C-2R race vehicles, the C3 was designed by Giovanni Michelotti and bodied by Vignale, but built in Cunningham’s facility in Palm Beach, Florida.
This particular car #5209 is the fourth coupe built and had been missing for 30 years until it was tracked down by a Cunningham expert and collector. The car was found to still be in the hands of the family of its second owner, who had died and left the coupe sitting outside his barn in Connecticut. After numerous offers to purchase the car, the family has finally caved in and the coupe went to the auction block and a full restoration shortly after.
02. 1964-1/2 Ford Mustang Convertible
This one was found by Brian and Steve Nicklas in their uncle’s barn in northwest Alabama. At first, the car lacked most of its bodywork as most of the entire front end was stripped away. The hood was actually the only part of this Mustang’s front that was still there, but even the hood itself wasn’t the original sixty-four and a half’s – not to mention all the rust. After countless checks had been written on account of the bodyshop that took the car under its wing, this fine early Mustang was finally fully restored.
Brothers nicknamed the convertible “The Flying Squirrel” in order to honor the furry little rascal which sprang out of the trunk when they first opened it. “The Flying Squirrel” is returning on the initial investment since it’s already made a few movie appearances – most notably in 2007 film “Talk to Me” starring Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
01. 1934 Plymouth Coupe
After 30 years in the basement, Charles Berry’s Plymouth coupe is coming into daylight. While the exact day escapes him, he remembers buying the body when he was 16. Since there was only a body to work with, he had to do all the labor and source parts himself. These he had scraped from numerous American classics, and not only Plymouths at that.
After all these years, the red oxide that went over a flat black primer still looks great. While it originally had a Chevy small block, Charles couldn’t resist upgrading to a 392 Hemi. However, after debuting at the Covington Georgia’s Yellow River Drag Strip where he ran low 13’s, Charles enlisted in the Navy and was wounded in the Vietnam War. Upon return, The engine was again swapped to a Chevy 283 cu in which had been bored out to be a 301 cu in. You can guess the rest.
The rat rod got a one-way ticket to the basement after Charles settled down in a new home in 1985. The good thing is – it’s out in the open again and is undergoing a rejuvenation of sorts that’ll help to further restore the glory of this old war veteran in the process.
Bonus: Billy Eubanks’s Car Collection
As is often the case, one of the largest and most impressive collections of restored cars unknown to the general population can be found deep in the woods at the end of a dead end road somewhere in the Carolinas. They all belong to Billy Eubanks – a friendly old-timer who’s spent last 50 years collecting and restoring them. Among dozens of remarkable cars, you’ll find three Dodge Charger Daytonas, a Superbird, a Talladega, and a Mercury Cyclone Spoiler Dan Gurney Special.
He also owns a 1980 L82 Corvette with fewer than 10 miles on the odometer, a Dodge Charger RT, and a number of big-block Chevy’s. One DeTomaso Pantera is also part of his collection, and so are a 1960 Rolls-Royce, a 1957 Dodge D500, a 1968 Corvette with the Tri-Power 427 engine, a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, a number of Jags and dozens of other noteworthy cars that I simply can’t fit in this paragraph. Credit for finding this classic car paradise goes to the Barn Find Hunter.