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Barn finds out there for a reason

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It seems everywhere you go, barn finds are coming out of the woodwork.

Plastered in magazines and online, there you’ll find a variety of newly re-discovered vehicles, supposedly just saved from the scrapper.

Barn find is one of those overused terms that are trendy now, like “replica” (even worse, “replicar”) or “re-creation” (instead of “clone”) that were fashionable and peaked a decade ago.

Maybe I’m a little jaded, due to the fact that I know just how much work these cars take to get back on the road. Cars hate sitting, especially when stored improperly. And these barn finds are rarely, if ever, stored with future owners in mind.

What irks me, though, is the incessant marketing of barn finds. Let’s face it, most of these cars are being flipped, and far too many are being touted as easy restoration candidates. Most know there is no such thing as an easy resto, especially when it comes to vehicles neglected for years on end. Still, some enthusiasts are easily swayed by barn find fever. And smart sellers know just how to make that inch-thick crud sprinkled across the hood seem as if it's icing on the cake.

Many of these finders are more interested in how much their find is worth, come auction time. They could care less about the vintage tin. I have nothing against making a buck, but lately sticker prices on most barn finds are ridiculously inflated and unrealistic. I suspect that most sellers tend to realize their find is worth considerably less, especially after a few prospective buyers inspect and quickly walk away (covering their noses).

Barn finds are exciting and good for the hobby. Their stories are what really make them so special and keep the hobby young. The thrill of the hunt, the chase, and the discovery are all compelling experiences for the car enthusiast. But too many times, it’s never just about the car.

There’s no way a trashed-out shell of a ‘69 Camaro – with mice still on board – is worth more than a restored model. After the dust settles – or more fittingly, is blown off the roof – what is left, at best, is a project car. Not a classic layered with “patina” (again, another grossly overused term.)

I think most enthusiasts are smart enough to realize that barn finds are usually more trouble than they're worth. After all, that’s not new-car-smell, circa 1969. It’s vermin eau natural. No amount of cleaning or bleach will make that stank dissipate, save for a new (expensive) interior.

Yes, barn finds are out there. But they are still out there for a reason. Probably because many a buyer passed on it, long ago. Usually because they were already trashed to begin with. Most certainly because someone never did a thing to preserve it.

And that’s the sad part. You're not doing the vehicle any favors by pushing it into a barn, especially after it's already been rusting outside for 20 years. Just because barn finds are unearthed 30 years later – in all their soiled and tattered glory – were supposed to forget the car was left for dead? Sorry, no amount of fancy terminology can re-define or explain why it’s acceptable to be so neglectful.

Normally I subscribe to being optimistic when it comes to seeing so many “new” cars finding the light of day. Like many car nuts, a junkyard holds endless potential to me. I can visualize the potential of parts cars, which can usually be re-purposed or even brought back to life with a “little” work. At least in a junkyard these barn finds could rest surrounded by their sisters and brothers with frequent visitors toting tools.

I suppose barn cars – correction, barn finds – serve a higher purpose in the overall scheme of things: They remind us of our responsibilities, especially as classic car owners.

Perhaps we should be demanding more from classic car owners, be it daily drivers or project shells. Instead of commending those who stockpile a few, if not dozens, of classics and do nothing with them, let’s hold them accountable. Keep pestering and let them know they should, for the sake of the car, give someone else a try.

Then, after purchasing said vehicle – barn find or whatever you call it – do something unheard of: build it up and drive the wheels off. Don’t sell it.

Let’s try to get these cars out on the road while they still have some life in them. And I’m not talking about the mice…

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