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The Corvette In The Barn

Automotive Archeology

Tom Cotter

Author at school Long Island, New York when first Mustangs released. One day, two of them showed up in the staff parking lot - the black convertible belonged to a 6th grade teacher and the green coupe belonged to the school janitor. They had both received their cars on the same day and it was such an exciting event that classes were allowed to go in turns, to the parking lot, escorted by their teachers, to see the new cars.

More books on Cars

"A lot hot rodders I see today have grey hair and they're with young babes. Their wives probably threw them out for spending too much time messing with cars. The young ones don't know any better." (Perhaps, but maybe the girls grew up differently - with fathers who loved hot rods and used to sing along to their Little Deuce Coupe Beach Boys tapes in the car...)

"The Ford wagon (that they towed their race car with) had a souped up Oldsmobile motor it it, so if the race car blew an engine on the track, they would pull the engine out of the wagon and use it in the race car. The after the race they would go to a junkyard and try to find a motor so they could get the tow car back on the road.

Jay Leno, via his show, is offered lots of cars. Old guys keen to sell to him because he'll give them good price, look after them and not just sell them on for a profit. Once he was offered a 1967 Chrysler Imperial, which he didn't particularly want because not particularly special car. But this thing came with a story. When the guy bought it new, he was afraid he'd have an accident, so he bought (two) spares of everything - bumpers, grilles, headlights, wiper motors - basically everything you'd ever need to replace in 50 years. And it had dual air con for front and back seats. They were built like a tank so many of them got used in demolition derbies, and few around today.

Guy who went to Middle East after a divorce and found he could pick up great cars when shieks got tired of them. So built up interesting little collection of unique Porsches etc, but then Iraqi army invaded Kuwait and helped themselves to the lot. And didn't even get insurance, because of 'war zone' exclusion clauses. (Don't get too attached to your possessions!)

More books on Collecting

Guy looking for a huge Dodge D-700 race car transporter he'd owned new in late 60's. He still had original papers with a VIN number on it. From that he was able to get an address where it was last registered in mid-90's. Figured it was too big to be stored in a shed, so used Google Earth to search the address, and there, right in the backyard, was his truck.

Matching numbers are a big deal in the collector's market. Guy bought a Porsche from a junk yard who told him that they'd got it from a couple who'd planned to restore it but let it deteriorate too far and had given up. But they had bought a Carrera Speedster motor with a thrown conrod. So guy paid them $7500 for the Speedster motor, and tracked down the guy who had the Speedster, but with the "wrong" numbered engine, and offered him the "right" motor for $90,000. Hasn't bought it yet, but seller is confident he will, because Speedsters with all matching numbers go for over a quarter of a mill.

(Author has edited a whole series of these books - fairly repetitive, but one or two stories worth keeping)

The Cobra In The Barn
Woodies a specialty that many lust after. Guy found a 1940 Ford standard grille and was stunned to find it actually ran and was currently registered. Gave the owner the $3000 he wanted for it and stuck it on trailer, but had an eventful trip home. Guy flagged them down and said he knew there was a woody in the area that he'd been searching for for years, and offered them $5000 on the spot. Refused. Then when stopped for gas, two guys stopped their car and ran over. They were on their way to a vintage car auction in SF where they were hoping to buy a woody. When they heard he'd turned down $5000 they offered him 10, but still refused. Took two years to fully restore. Then one day driving near his home when saw a 39 Ford woody pushed out in the yard. At first the owner refused to sell but eventually realized he was never going to get round to restoring it, so agreed to sell. Guy called a friend who had been searching for a woody and told him he'd found a 39 right by his house .... there was a pause and guy suddenly found himself talking to his friend's wife. He asked where his buddy was. His wife said "He's out in the garage hooking up his trailer."

The Hemi In The Barn
What was probably the ultimate barn find. A guy, who never married and who became increasingly reclusive as he got older. During the oil crisis of the 1970's he had a business pulling big block V8's out of cars and fitting small block cheaper-to-run replacement engines. He's also gone round Chevy dealers buying up old inventory, mainly high performance parts and, every so often, a performance car. Such as a Yenko Camaro for which he paid $1250 in 1970. He soon ran out of shed room so started filling up 40' containers. As each one filled he'd weld the door shut and back another box up against the door so no-one could get in. Eventually he dies, and his daughter called a local collector. So they go through the shed (two early Corvettes) and the house (every room packed to the ceiling with motors and parts. They agree on a price for all that. The collector is rapt - he's got a life time supply of projects and bits. Then the daughter goes "OK do you want to see the rest of the collection?" There's more?

Lots more. Twenty-one containers more. They found another 14 cars - two 1970 Chevelles, two 1957 fuel-injected Corvettes, a 1963 split-window Corvette coupe, a 1964 fuel-injected Corvette roadster, a 1967 435hp Corvette, a 1967 RS/SS Camaro and a 1972 Z28 Corvette. And the 1969 Yenko Camaro, by itself worth $200,000.

The owner of this beautiful Ford hotrod (which he'd owned as a teenager, then bought it back 40 years later)sums up part of the appeal for these guys:

"I'm having more fun than I've ever had in my life," he said. "I may have a 64 yo body but I'm 17 yo in my mind."

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