Ford Cortina MKII

Classic Cars (UK) - - Barn Finds -

One of the most un­usual and dra­matic finds we’ve ever seen came to us from read­ers Sion El­lis and Barry Eveleigh – an aban­doned mine once used by a lo­cal coun­cil for dump­ing old cars. They made the dis­cov­ery near Dol­gel­lau in Snow­do­nia, but Sion is keep­ing the ex­act lo­ca­tion of the site a se­cret – it’s a dan­ger­ous place on pri­vate land, so vis­its are dis­cour­aged.

‘The coun­cil used to own the mine,’ says El­lis. ‘Scrap cars were reg­u­larly wheeled up to the en­trance at the top of the cav­ern dur­ing the Six­ties, Seven­ties and early Eight­ies and sim­ply tipped in. Some of the older peo­ple around here claim that they re­mem­ber mem­bers of the pub­lic dump­ing cars there too.’

The prac­tice was in­creas­ingly frowned upon for en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons as the mine be­gan to fill up and so the coun­cil back- filled the en­trance. The site was then largely for­got­ten but the en­trance at the top has since opened up just enough to ad­mit a nar­row shaft of light; and El­lis re­cently stum­bled upon an­other way into the mine.

‘You can squeeze in through a lit­tle sideen­trance and then wade through to a cathe­dral-sized open­ing.’ he says. ‘There are cars piled right up to the old en­trance from well down into the wa­ter, which is very clear – I once went back with a dinghy and could see a Ford Es­cort MKI with a 40-gal­lon oil drum em­bed­ded in the rear win­dow when I shone a torch down into it.’

Also vis­i­ble are a blue Ford Cortina es­tate MKII, a Ford Capri MKI, a Mini Van and the tail ends of a much-crushed Rover P6 and a Tri­umph 2000 – among many oth­ers. All are bat­tered, rusty and im­pos­si­ble to re­cover, so it’s lucky we have Barry’s su­perb pho­to­graph to il­lus­trate this rather sur­pris­ing use of coun­cil re­sources.

Tan­ta­lis­ingly, El­lis says other mines in the area were used in a sim­i­lar way, but most were bet­ter sealed and so far noth­ing more has come to light.

Jaguar XK120 Roadster, Iso Ri­volta, Fa­cel Vega HK500

The Sil­ver­stone Auc­tions sale at the Prac­ti­cal Clas­sics Restora­tion & Clas­sic Car Show in­cluded sev­eral pro­ject cars, in­clud­ing three barn finds that would make chal­leng­ing restora­tions.

This 1951 Jaguar XK120 Roadster – es­ti­mated at £34-£38k – was turned into a race car in 1959 by its se­cond owner, who swapped the orig­i­nal XK en­gine for a pre-war 4.3-litre ohv Alvis straight-six unit. The rac­ing-spec dry sump sys­tem’s oil tank is still fit­ted to the car but a sub­se­quent owner re­placed the Alvis en­gine with a 1952 XK unit be­fore putting the car into long-term stor­age.

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