Most people when looking for a special car would consult the classifieds or attend an auction or talk to a dealer with a yard full of ‘classics’.
Only the most dedicated or adventurous will set out into the dusty distance with a pocketful of cash and a car trailer, searching out that abandoned chunk of automotive glory that has come to be known as a ‘barn find’.
Australia isn’t big on the term ‘barn’ to describe its large rural sheds and yes, the term did have its origins in the USA. With literally hundreds of millions of cars sold, that country is also a major source of quite amazing and well-preserved treasures.
The US barn-finder goes out looking for high-value local products from the 1920s and ‘30s or perhaps rare-spec 1960s muscle cars. Exotic competition cars are keenly sought as well, with recent finds including a Ferrari 250GTO left abandoned in a paddock and the original Shelby Daytona coupe that had indeed spent 40+ years hidden in a North American barn.
European and British ‘barn’ treasures have included several Ferraris and Aston-Martins and numerous cars showing extraordinary low mileages. Recent UK discoveries have included a one-off coachbuilt Jaguar XK140 needing full restoration that still sold at auction for more than A$500,000.
While not strictly ‘barn finds’, Australia is dotted with significant accumulations of cars that have been hidden from public view for many years. They include collections built up by car dealers in rural towns, largely comprised of good-quality trade-ins that were never resold.
These cars have not always been stored in conditions that were ideal, however buyers at auction seem not to mind. When paying often-extraordinary money for cars that haven’t moved in decades they have looked right past the dust and crumbling door rubbers to see vehicles that are absolutely ‘authentic’ right down to their original (perished) tyres and batteries.
Vehicles that have been kept dry and, in the dark, will normally suffer far less from rust, mould and fading than those exposed to road hazards and sunlight. However, they may be suffering other age-related issues. Engines and transmissions need to have old lubricants and coolant removed, the system flushed and new fluids added before attempting to start or drive the car.
Brakes may be seized or simply won’t work due to rotted rubber seals and absence of hydraulic fluid. Repairing failed brakes isn’t a job to be undertaken away from a proper workshop so be aware of the hazards of loading a car with no brakes onto a trailer.
If sharing space with creatures that scuttle, slither or squeak is a concern to you, get hold of a decent air-compressor or oxygen cylinder before heading off to inspect a barn find. Open the doors, bonnet and boot and, while wearing proper protective clothing, blast the engine bay, under the dash and seats, in the boot and even behind door trims to dislodge any creepy-crawlies that you don’t want to be taking home along with the car.
Remember when attaching a battery and trying to start a car that has been decommissioned for a long time that old wiring and cracked insulation represent major fire hazards. Have an extinguisher handy (CO2 is cleaner than dry powder) and disconnect the power source at the first whiff of smoke.
Even when out in the wilds, and providing you can find a spot with internet access, Enthusiast Insurance www.enthusiast.com.au is right there with you all week long and 24 hours a day, providing instant cover for your ‘barn find’.
Even if the car isn’t a runner and needs to be taken home on a trailer, Enthusiast’s Laid Up cover will protect the car while in transit and storage. This cover extends to a repairer’s premises where your acquisition might need to go to have those cobwebs (literally) blown out.