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The 10 Best Barn Finds of All Time

The 10 Best Barn Finds of All Time

When it comes to classic rides, barn finds are the holy grail. Anyone with a wallet and an eBay account can find the car of their dreams, but barn finds are a special kind of magic—the search for the perfect car, left untouched for years (maybe decades?!), abandoned and disregarded by a negligent previous owner. In the auto world, barn finds come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing remains constant: They make all the effort and painstaking hours of searching worthwhile. Here are the 10 best:

Mercedes-Benz 190SL

Michael Potiker was on a neighborhood stroll with his father one afternoon when he spotted a shiny piece of chrome gleaming out from under a car cover in a garage. Potiker went to inspect, politely poked and prodded around, and wound up walking away with an incredibly valuable and modestly rare Mercedes-Benz 190SL, complete with years upon years of dust, clay dirt, rodent droppings, dog fur, and even some asbestos tiles for good measure. Talk about a barn find! Link

Image Credit: Petrolicious

1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona

The Shelby Cobra Daytona story is truly one of the best underdog stories in automobile history, and a paragraph here simply won’t do it justice. Carroll Shelby produced just six of these piston-crushing monsters, and after lapping Ferrari GTO’s and setting speed records at Le Mans, the short-lived legends were illegally flown back to the states, where they were sold off for a mind-boggling $5,000 per piece (Ford stopped paying them mind after the advent of the famous fire-breathing Ford GT40). All but one of the Daytona’s had been tracked down, and when it did pop up—in the dusty old storage shed of a clueless woman named Donna O’Hara—the automobile world rejoiced. Heralded as “the greatest barn find in the history of car collecting,” O’Hara’s Daytona was valued at a staggering $4 million. Link

Image Credit: Jalopnik

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

A kid’s parents scoop him up an extremely rare (1 of only 29) 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Alloy Gullwing.” The kid tools around in it until 1971, when the transmission gives out. Rather than get it fixed, he decides to leave it in a garage—for 40 years (ugh!)—until he sells it to an enthusiast who “discovered” it painfully rotting away under a tarp in a garage. In decent condition, regular SL’s fetch upward of a million dollars. But the rare alloy-bodied Benzes routinely go for over $4 million. Link

Image Credit: Hemmings Daily

1950 Ferrari 166MM

Over 50 years ago, an American living in Europe—presumably serving in the military—came across a Ferrari 166MM in a Swiss showroom. He called his friend, Reg. Lee Litton, all the way back in Scottsdale, Ariz., and asked if he was interested. Litton asked him to scoop it up and ship it back to California. And he did. When it got to port in California, Litton was there waiting with some gas and a toolbox. He got it running, and then jammed all the way back to Arizona, where he and his friends spent countless days tearing up and down the valley. That is, until one fateful day when the Ferrari broke. And just like that, Litton covered the car in various pieces of rug, black plastic, and wood, until years later, when his kids decided to sell it—for over a million bucks. We hope the rugs were at least Persian. Link

1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS

More than a barn find, this 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS was discovered by two kids, playing around in the dirt (at least, that’s what the cops say). What was a beautiful and exotic Italian sports car doing in buried in the middle of someone’s yard? Well, it was stolen. Or was it insurance fraud? Eh, the story varies, depending on who you talk to about it. Anyway, the buried treasure was recovered in 1978, sold to an LA business owner through the insurance company, and then purchased by one of the cops who helped discover it. Valued at nearly half a million bucks, it certainly wasn’t a bad investment. Especially not for a guy on a cop salary! Link

Image Credit: Larry Sharkey / LA Times Archive

Three Citroen 2CV Prototypes

The Citroen 2CV was one of the most popular and legendary cars in Citroen’s lineup, and was produced for over 50 years. A variety of prototypes were made before the company settled on the original styling, and most of them were destroyed throughout the 1950s. That is, until three were found in a French barn in 1995, stored decades prior by a defiant group of workers who wanted to preserve them for their historical significance. Link

1970 Chevelle SS Vert

Every American Muscle collector’s dream, this rare ’70 Chevelle SS Vert was found up for sale on Craigslist. The owner scooped it up and then, in 1978, parked it in a barn, where it stayed—completely original and unmolested—until it went up on Craigslist. But that’s not where the story ends. The guy who snagged it on Craigslist decided to flip it. The new owner rebuilt the carburetor, and then took it to the track—original top, AM radio and all—where it banged a 14.66 at 93 MPH. Not too shabby! Link

Image Credit: Barn Find Autos

1957 Corvette AIRBOX Racer

If ever there was a barn find story to convince you that there are hidden gems in unsuspecting garages all over the world, the story behind this exceptionally rare 1957 Corvette AIRBOX racer is it. It was stored in a rural Ohio barn in the 1970s and left there ever since, waiting for the right person to come and snatch it up. The rumors winding down the grapevine about this once-in-a-lifetime and insanely rare Corvette eventually made their way to the ears of famous ‘Vette restoration artist Joel Lauman. Lauman was on the case. After a considerable time searching, Lauman was able to track down the owner and convince him to part with it (for a pretty penny, we’re sure) under one condition: It was to be restored to show condition. Link

Image Credit: Corvette Blogger

60 Extremely Rare Cars

One rare car in a barn is enough excitement for any enthusiast, so what happens when someone finds 60 beautiful and extremely rare cars in one spot? Well, that’s exactly what happened a few years ago, when an estate manager reached out to the folks from Artcurial, a leading French art and antiques auction house. The heirs of the estate had no clue what they were sitting on, and when the two representatives from Artcurial showed up to check everything out, they found what has been described as the Tutankhamen’s Tomb of car finds. Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti, Delage, Million & Guiet, Talbot-Lago—all the rare heavy hitters. Just two of the cars—a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider and an extremely rare Maserati A6G 2000 Berlinetta Grand Sport Frua—were valued at an estimated $17 million. Link

Image Credit: Gizmag

Texas Jack’s Incredible Stash

Not necessarily a barn fined per se, but this story is incredible. Jack moved from Wisconsin to Texas in 1972, and with him brought some really incredible rare cars to store in his new barn: A 1932 Cadillac 370B V12 Victoria Vert (one of only four, and the only one on the planet with a V12 motor!), a 1938 Cadillac Series 90 V16 Fleetwood Limo (once owned by the Wrigley family—yes, the chewing gum people), a 1908 REO Model G Boattail Roadster/Sedan, a 1923 Milburn Electric Model 27L, and a mint 1937 Kozy Coach Travel Trailer worth upwards of $100K. Jack “forgot” about these beautiful specimens soon after relocating, and they sat there for literal decades, patiently waiting to be dug out of the barn.

That is, until Antonio Brunet of Motostalgia Auctions in Austin, Texas, got wind of Jack’s incredible stash, and approached him about moving them. All told, the cars are estimated to be worth well over a half million dollars. Link

Image Credit: Hagerty

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