Barn Finds Treasure Hunting: Is It Worth It?

In recent years, exceptional collections of classic cars have been found abandoned. These discoveries have made it possible to resuscitate very original cars that are sometimes not found any more. In this age of “vintage revival”, the press is now regularly reporting on the main barn finds, which fascinate public opinion. Auction houses and the market at large are also paying increasing attention to these “project cars” often in need of major restorations.

collections of classic cars

France, homeland of barn finds

The discovery of the Baillon collection in 2014 by car treasure hunters will be remembered. Imagine… around sixty vintage cars sleeping in a property in the French countryside. Among the cars in the “fabulous Baillon collection”, there is a Ferrari 250 California, which once belonged to the French actor Alain Delon. But also Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Delahaye, Panhard-Levassor, Ferrari … or a Maserati A6G grand sport of 56 and a Talbot-Lago T26 Cabriolet which belonged to the former king of Egypt Farouk.

In total, the Baillon collection was sold for more than 25 million euros. Lot n ° 46, the 1949 Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport bodied by Saoutchik, for example left for nearly 1.45 million euros, despite the importance of the renovation work to be planned.

Baillon collection
fabulous Baillon collection

The discoveries of abandoned collections will follow one another in the following years. We therefore update the Gombert collection in 2016, then in 2019 a collection of 81 cars to Tarbes, and the 51 cars of the Bataille family. These automotive treasures were sold by auction houses such as Orsenat or Artcurial.

Southampton Jaguars

This is another automotive treasure that was found on the Southampton side in 2019. About thirty Jaguars, including the first E-Type, were discovered, covered with simple tarpaulins. Some cars have endured the ravages of the seasons, from the heat of summer to freezing winter.

In New York, a mysterious automotive treasure

Ferrari, Lamborghini, one of the two Bizzarrini P538s produced and other rarities were found in a secret collection of some 300 cars. This collection, no one had been able to see it before Larry Kosilla, the boss of AMMO NYC, a company specializing in the renovation of classic cars in New York, entered the abandoned warehouses that house it.

Among the treasures discovered then, let us mention several Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maseratis and even a French Matra Jet. Some Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros, a Ford GT, a few Ford Mustangs, Dodge Chargers or even several German ones like BMW Z3, ​​BMW 8 Series, Porsche 911s and a Volkswagen Golf GTI. Some models would have belonged to stars, such as a Lamborghini LM002 owned by actor Nicolas Cage.

 

A large part of this collection remains invisible and could therefore reserve surprises in the months to come. The interest of the latter also lies in the mileage of the stored cars. Most have not moved for 30 years, and have very low mileage, between 160 and 1600 kilometers for example for a Shelby GT500 or a BMW Z3. Some have hardly ever seen the light of day –

Barn finds for sale: often risky projects

How to understand this craze for abandoned old cars? There is of course the myth of the well-hidden treasure. An adventurous tale that appeals to the child who lies dormant in us … but there is also a more prosaic reality: the boom in the price of some old ones has given value to machines that were considered yesterday as wrecks. Some people smell great opportunities in these barn finds…

But are these barn finds for sale really of interest to any collector in search of the rare bird? Is this car treasure hunt really worth it?

It should be remembered that the cars that have come out of the barn require restoration work of varying magnitude. The minimum includes an often unavoidable restoration of the brakes and carburetors or injectors, and changing the hoses and tires. Restarting the engine, assuming it is running and does not require seal changes, also usually requires extensive adjustments.

A complete restoration can go as far as the complete dismantling of the car and the renovation of each part. In some cases, it may be necessary to replace – or even recreate – certain parts. Renovation costs can therefore exceed the value of the car.

Project cars are therefore traded in a very specific market, often reserved for professionals or to barn finders themselves. Some Porsche or Ferrari barn finds for sale reach high values. Sometimes it is the restorers themselves who directly buy these automotive treasures. Thus, the myth of barn finds is not accessible to all of us.

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