“Barn Finds” Prove the Lasting Value of Classic Cars


Imagine you’re a Ford dealer, and one day a guy walks into your dealership and says he would like to spend about a million dollars or so and buy a few Ford vehicles. Imagine, once you pick yourself up from the floor, that you pretty much sell him your entire lot. Then, the 40 vehicles get locked away in a barn and forgotten. Years later, they get found again, untouched (if a bit dusty and full of mice). True story.

It’s a story known as the ultimate Canadian Barn Find, and you can still find the headlines on auto blogs and vehicle sites across the net. For the lucky finder, Lawayne Musselwhite, the collection yielded rare Ford collectibles, including Harley Davidson Special Edition Ford trucks and Ford GTs. In fact, he found three GTs. Some of the vehicles were so new, the story goes, they were still wrapped up with price stickers in their windows. One of the Ford GTs from this barn find was a heritage edition; only 400 of them had ever been built. It had racked up less than 11 driving miles before getting tucked away into barn storage for a few decades. Some of the Mustangs and GTs can demand hefty prices, as much as $700,000 for such a rare discovery. And that’s what makes barn finds so much fun—you never know what you’ll find.

Another barn find, maybe more a shed find, really, was a single 1916 Ford Model T Roadster. When the lucky collectors made their discovery, the Model T had been hidden away for more than 50 years. The VIN on the last title, issued in California in 1939, still showed a match to the 1916 Roadster’s motor. Now that’s a barn find.

The World’s Greatest Barn Find

It was touted as the world’s latest greatest car barn find last year when 60 rare vehicles were found on a remote farm in rural France where they’d sat rusting for more than 50 years. Many of the vehicles uncovered in 2014 were legendary, and not only for the rareness of the manufacturer. Some of the so-called “coachbuilders” were celebrity designers in their time, and the vehicles—because of their exorbitant price tags—were affordable only by extremely wealthy people and a few notorious ones.

Car of Kings

The Talbot Lago T26 Cabriolet, once owned by ex-King Farouk, the last king of Saudi Arabia, was one of the cars found on the French farm. Its value still hasn’t been established, but some of the other cars have sold for millions. Other notable cars in the find included a Ferrari (250) that was used in a 1964 film starring Shirley MacLaine and Jane Fonda.

Businessman Roger Baillon bought the cars over 20 years, from the 1950s to 1970s, with the hope of restoring them and putting them in a museum. His plans went awry, and when Baillon died, he left his cars to his son, who didn’t realize their value. Only when the son died, and the property was inherited by a number of family members, did the value of the vehicles come to light. Early estimates for this barn find were about $20M US dollars. A recent sale of one of the Ferraris from the property blew that estimate out of the water when the buyer paid the highest known price for any car, $23M US dollars.

The Great Portuguese Barn Find Hoax

Everyone likes a good myth, and barn find hunters are no exception. For many years, pictures of a collection of 200 dusty looking cars circulated on the net. The story was that a New Yorker bought a parcel of land in Portugal that contained a barn with its doors welded shut. Upon his arrival, the new owner supposedly opened the garage to discover 200 classics. Not so fast, says Autoblog, an online site for anything that has wheels. The real scoop is that the pics came from a dealer who’d been collecting the cars for some time. He finally sent the pics to another dealer to find out their worth, and the photos got picked up on the net and shared from there. Still, it’s nice to believe . . .

How to Find Your Barn Find

You might think that barn finds are really found in barns. And, yes, the ones here were. But today, with eBay, Craigslist, and online magazines that specialize in old cars and trucks, you may be as likely to find your prize that way as driving into the country and stumbling across an abandoned barn loaded with Ford memorabilia. Still, you never know.


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