Five of the greatest barn finds of all time

Nick Francis

12 Jan 2021

The next time you see a rundown old barn, it’s worth poking your head in to see what’s inside. There could be a forgotten piece of automotive history tucked away.

Where do cars go to die? Well, these days cars are usually scrapped once they are so old and tatty that they are worth nothing, often broken up for the parts which can be salvaged and sold on first. And if they are written off in an accident then it’s off to the knacker’s yard as soon as the insurance company and police say they are done with investigating what happened.

But occasionally, throughout history, cars have been tucked away in a barn or shed for safe keeping and then…forgotten about. As with anything left untouched and uncared for these cars start rotting away until one day someone finds them. Nine times out of ten the discovery is unremarkable, a car which isn’t particularly old or rare which has degraded over time is worthless. But every so often someone stumbles across a car which over the many years it has been hibernating has disappeared from the roads and become a collector’s item. These are called ‘barn finds’ and there has been some astonishing machines uncovered this way.

The motherload

The list of cars found on a farm in the west of France in 2014 is so long it would take forever to cover them: there were over 60 rare models found when the owner died and his estate needed dividing up between his kids. The deceased had in turn inherited the farm from his father, who had started the amazing collection. In there were Maseratis, Ferraris, Bugattis and Bentleys. But the most valuable was a Talbot Lago T26 once owned by King Farouk of Egypt. Collectively, the cars represented the most valuable barn find of all time.

Three Citroen 2CV prototypes

An early Citroen 2CV in good condition fetches a lot of money as it is, so imagine finding the three original prototypes which were made in 1939. It’s thought the cars had been either hidden away from the Nazis when war broke out, or smuggled away from the factory by Citroen employees after the management wanted to abandon the project and scrap the prototypes. They had been hidden so effectively they weren’t discovered until 1995. The 2CV wasn’t officially launched until 1948 and ran until 1990, making it one of the most significant cars in France’s automotive history.

Bugatti Type 57S Atlante Coupe

Only 17 examples were ever made of the Bugatti Type 57S Atlante, which at the time was heralded as one of the most beautiful cars ever made. This particular model was originally owned by Earl Howe, the founder of the British Racing Driver’s Club (BRDC), but in 1955 it was bought by a surgeon named Doctor Harold Carr. The car was put into storage in 1960 and wasn’t found until Carr passed away in 2007. The family who inherited the car auctioned it in 2007 where it fetched £3 million.

Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona

The Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona is one of the rarest Ferraris ever made. With a production run of just 15 it was made as a competition version of the regular Ferrari 365 GTB/4, itself limited to just 1,200 examples. This model was discovered in a barn in Japan where it had been forgotten about and left to rot for 40 years. People had begun to believe this car never existed because while the chassis number 12653 had been listed at the time of production, its whereabouts was never tracked. It went onto sell at RM Sotheby’s for $2.2 million.

Shelby 289 Cobra

Another car which had been in hibernation for 40 years without anyone being aware is this Shelby 289 Cobra, which was discovered in Vermont. After changing hands multiple times the car eventually ended up in the possession of racetrack owner Sy Allen in 1974, who ended up storing the car and forgetting about it. The Shelby 289 Cobra is a legendary car which combined a lightweight chassis built by Britain’s AC Cars and a Ford-supplied V8. Only 579 examples of the 289 were made.

Nick Francis

12 Jan 2021

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