It’s the day every classic car collector dreams of . . . the day they stumble upon their very own barn find. The term “barn find” describes the discovery of a classic automobile that’s been hidden away for several decades collecting dust, or dirt, or animals, or whatever in the possession of a person that likely had good intentions at one point. As the years went by said well-intentioned individual got busy with other concerns and so for one reason or another a now classic piece of machinery has gone completely untouched ever since. That is until the day a weary traveler in search of these rare finds comes calling.
My last barn find was actually in a barn. And I likely wouldn’t have found it if I wasn’t fortunate enough to have been blessed with a family of car nuts that are always on the lookout for classic cars at reasonable prices. The find that is the subject of this particular discussion popped up on an online classified site one day and my brother-in-law just so happened to be the first caller. He knew I had been trying to replace the 1967 Camaro that I had to let go years ago (divorce, single mom).
My advice to you today: do whatever it takes to hang on to your dream car. I regret selling that car every day of my life.
I was at work when the call came in and couldn’t get out there immediately so my BIL stopped by and left the owner with every penny he had in his pocket to hold the car for me. As soon as I could get out of the office, we borrowed a car trailer, stopped by the bank for the requisite cash and headed out into a rural county in southwestern Idaho to score our next project. In my mind this was THE project. One that I had been searching for, for many years. I was giddy with excitement.
We arrived at the barn and began chatting with the owner, an older gentleman who had actually reverse-inherited the car over the years. His son originally purchased the car and somehow blew up two new motors in a very short amount of time. So dad took away the keys and parked the car... For 41 years! And that was it, here it was, just waiting for someone to find and put back on the road. I was already pretty sold on the idea of snagging this beauty before I ever laid eyes on her, but when I heard the story behind this 1967 Camaro, I knew we had to have it. When I say “we”, I mean myself and my husband who is also a fellow car nut.
We paid the owner, signed the paperwork, and pushed that engineless little Camaro onto the trailer. Her first time in the sunlight, moving down the open road in decades.
You might think that this is an amazing find – a low-mileage 1967 Camaro for sale in 2009, and it was. However, every single thing on the car needed repaired or replaced. The body was in pretty good shape (just one fender damaged) but every piece of upholstery, rubber molding, bushings, tires, wiring, dashboard, gauges, and of course, the engine and transmission needed replaced. Time is not a kind partner to things made of rubber and metal that sit idle for so many years.
It’s a daunting task to take an original car and start from scratch and in fact many would not have done much to the car besides dust it off and put it back on the market as a classic “barn find”. We chose the former of course, but that then begged the question: what work do you do first? We dabbled with bits and pieces for the next 5 years (this wasn’t the only barn find we were working on). At that point the Camaro was painted; new tires, gaskets, moldings, bushings, and the upholstery was done; but it still had no engine or transmission. In 2014, my husband and I retired and moved to Arizona, leaving the car with the aforementioned family members, who graciously offered to finish the job in Idaho where we had more ‘vehicular resources’. As you might imagine, it was an incredible day when we finally got the video from Idaho of the car starting up and driving down the street. We immediately negotiated with a family member to load her up and deliver her to her forever home in Arizona. Which is where she is today.
There is still so much work to do. There is no air conditioning, which is not an option in Arizona, and the old race motor that we installed only gets a few miles to the gallon (literally 4 or 5), so we don’t drive her much or very far until we can figure out what to do next. Probably another new motor, which means changing the transmission too, but air conditioning has to happen stat. There is just no way around that fact. Whatever happens next you can be sure it’ll take this classic piece of American Muscle one step closer to timeless perfection and we’ll enjoy it every step of the way.
Buying a car from a field is a daunting undertaking. It is not for the faint of heart, or pocketbook. While the original purchase price was a steal, I’m afraid to add up all the invoices for parts and service work. And family donated so many hours to help us with this project that it would be impossible to put a final cost on the car. Would we do it all over again though? Absolutely.
In the end, it isn’t the money or the time that matters. It’s the love that so many of us share for classic cars and spending time with others who share the same passion while restoring them together. The idea of finding a dusty old overgrown classic car in a barn somewhere and spending way too much time and money just so it can serve as a used car again is just too romantic. Your dream car is out there too, sitting hidden in some farmer’s field or behind the barn with the rusting tractors, buried up to its fenders in weeds, home to a family of field mice. But it’s for sale and it’s for sale cheap.