How to Discover the Perfect Barn-Find Car

An old pickup truck in need of restoration

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They’re our favorite stories — a car, hidden away in a barn for years, is discovered by a car collector and is a rare collectible that was missing from the world. From a $10 million Mercedes found in a junkyard in Los Angeles to the original Citroen 2CV prototypes, people discover some of the most amazing barn-find cars.

If you’re on the hunt for a barn-find car, what can you do to ensure that you find the perfect one?

Asking Around About Barn-Find Cars

There is a certain type of person who tends to have barn cars on their property — older individuals who, at some point, had a lot of disposable income to purchase notable cars. When times get tight, these notable cars are stored in barns, warehouses and other buildings for what is supposed to be months and ends up staying there for years.

These cars eventually end up forgotten and once that happens, they become prime barn-find cars — you just need to know where to look.

Barn-Find Cars Are Not Just in Barns

They’re called barn-find cars, but they aren’t necessarily just found in barns. Warehouses, old aircraft hangers — basically anything that is big enough to hold a car and stand the test of time can hide a barn-find car.

That said, though, there’s something irresistible about spotting an old barn on a hilltop with the sun setting behind it. The trick is to make sure it’s an old barn — a new barn, or one that’s still in use, probably won’t hide any secrets and you may end up getting chased off someone’s property with a pitchfork.

Take some time to research the history of barns in your area because they can vary based on location. On the East Coast, you may find barns that date back to the 1600s — though you’re more likely to find a horse and buggy in there than a car. In the Midwest, most really old barns will only date back to the 1800s.

Tax records, which are all public record, may give you a more definitive date. The older the barn, and the less the owner used it, the more likely that you’ll find something awesome hidden within.

Make an Offer

Chances are if you find a good barn car, you’re not going to deal with the person who originally owned the car. You may find yourself talking to their spouse, their children or the executor of their estate — and they may not even know the value of the car.

This can work to your advantage, but don’t be a miser since you don’t want to screw over the people who are selling you the car — especially on the off chance that this purchase might become a barn car that your children end up selling in the distant future. Make a good offer, and you might find that they jump at the chance to make some money from selling this forgotten treasure.

Get to Work

One of the things that’s great about barn-finds is that they’re great project cars. Years spent neglected in a barn that isn’t climate-controlled will leave the car in need of some serious work — but that’s okay because that’s half the fun of finding a barn car. Once you get it towed home, take some time to assess the amount of work that it’s going to need — then just dive in.

Don’t Stop Looking

You might never find that one-in-a-million, super rare barn-find car, but that doesn’t mean you should stop looking — the joy of the discovery is worth it.

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