Whenever we do a barn find issue like this one, invariably I will hear a comment about the magazine to the effect of, “Wow! You’d think all those cars would have been found by now.”
Nope. Far from it. We didn’t have room in this issue to run all the found-muscle stories that came our way over the past few months. And that’s just in this magazine. Coincidentally, we are also producing a barn find issue of my other magazine, Hot Rod Deluxe. That niche of the hobby is still finding historic old hot rods too, like the 1932 roadster that will be on the cover. Yep, much like the Yenko Chevelle on this cover, that issue will feature the Holy Grail of hot rodding, a Deuce roadster that had been moldering in a Northern California barn (yes, a literal barn find) since 1955.
Why does this trend show no signs of slowing? A few things are at work here.
First is the obvious allure of buried treasure, the idea that anyone who’s observant and alert (and lucky) enough will stumble across a neglected piece of automotive history just waiting for a new lease on life.
Second is a certain amount of push from the other side of the equation. With all the magazine stories, books, and TV shows devoted to “pickin’s” of all kinds, just about anyone with an attic, garage, or storage unit full of old stuff believes he or she may be sitting on a small fortune. A version of that very thing happened to me. While cleaning out some closets, I came across a box of WWII memorabilia that had been collecting dust for years—medals, a couple helmets, small stuff. A quick internet search turned up an outfit that would sell these things online for me. Even after paying their commission, I wound up with nearly $1,000. So now you can believe I’m taking a closer look around the house to see what other “junk” might be worth something to the right buyer.
Correlated to the “this may be worth something” notion is a broadening of what we consider barn finds. The literal term still applies (see Hot Rod Deluxe’s July 2018 issue), but it has also grown to include those cars hibernating anywhere else you could park one. A lot of what we’re seeing these days are cars that aren’t real finds but just subjects of long-term storage, typically in someone’s garage. They’re still dusty, musty time capsules, but not necessarily forgotten.
In fact, as is the case with the Yenko Chevelle on our cover and the 427-powered Cougar GT-E that Jerry Heasley writes about in this month’s Rare Finds, these cars aren’t forgotten at all. They’re beloved by their owners but have, for various reasons, sat neglected for years, if not decades.
This is the kind of “find” we’re seeing more and more these days, and it will be the kind that fuels our passion for hidden gems for years to come. Why? Because time marches on. Because those fortunate enough to have lived through the heyday of classic muscle are in their 60s, 70s, maybe even 80s now, and the “someday” they were waiting for to fix up the car in the garage is proving elusive.
Burnice Robie, who with her husband Turner bought the Rare Finds Cougar when it was new in 1968, put it this way: “I’m 80 and he’s 85. What are we gonna do with it?”
What they did was find someone who will love and appreciate the car as much as they did. This scenario will repeat itself over and over as these muscle car owners come to the hard realization that they aren’t getting any younger and the car in the garage isn’t, either. If their kids, or some other family member, doesn’t want it, they’ll have to find a good home for it.
So now’s the time, folks. Be alert to possibilities. Talk to friends, friends of friends, your parents’ friends. Ask about that car under the cover in the garage, or whatever happened to your grandpa’s old fill-in-the-blank.
Do it gently, respectfully, without violating their privacy or seeming like you want to take advantage. Because that’s not what this is about. You read this magazine because you love these cars, and that makes you the most qualified to provide them with that good home, the new lease on life. Not some flipper out for the quick buck.
When you make the find, we’d love to hear about it.
“They’ll have to find a good home for it”
n Despite its condition, this wasn’t some lost or forgotten car. The opposite was true. It was so beloved by its owner that he refused to sell it.