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By Russell Purcell

As a car guy, I tend to keep my eyes and ears open as I make my way through life, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of my dream cars or overhear a tip that might land me an undiscovered automotive bargain. The term “barn find” refers to the enviable situation where a lucky individual discovers a vehicle that was long forgotten, tucked away due to its need of repairs or a lack of space in the driveway. While many of these cars may just be average cars big on character due to age or period styling, some of these cars can be very rare and desirable.

The Cobra in the Barn
The Cobra in the Barn.

Noted auto writer and car collector Tom Cotter has now compiled two books of “barn find” tales, and with each turn of the page you become more engrossed in this automotive fantasy. The first book, The Cobra in the Barn: Great Stories of Automotive Archaeology, includes forty-five stories largely collected from his close friends and colleagues. There is the story of a 289 Cobra that was discovered stored in a spare bedroom! We learn that noted car collector Don Oresco once managed to wheel-and-deal his way to a purchase of fifty-eight cars for $1,500 in 1972. The author reveals the extent of his thirty-five year quest for rare cars in chapter nine with finds such as an A.C. Cobra and a 1965 Austin-Healey Sprite Le Mans prototype. The book is divided into ten chapters that help organize the barn cars by vehicle type and/or method of discovery.

The second book, The Hemi in the Barn: More Great Stories of Automotive Archaeology, features thirty-nine more “barn” stories, including tales of cars once owned by royalty, mobsters, dignitaries, and Hollywood legends, but some of the most intriguing tales were sent in by readers of the first book. The good news is that in his introduction, Tom Cotter has once again put out the call for contributions, meaning we will no doubt see a continuation of this series of books for some time to come.

Proud to be an Automotive Archaeologist

Tom Cotter refers to individuals suffering from this affliction as automotive archaeologists, and his two “…in the barn” books reveal that there are a lot of people out there scouring the countryside, old storage facilities and back lanes in search of their automotive dreams. After reading these books I found myself daydreaming about making a big find, and I must admit that I am more alert to my surroundings during my daily commute. I now have two barn finds that I am currently savouring – an original, numbers matching 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, and a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette split window.

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