‘Barn Find Hunter Secrets’
Tom Cotter has been finding old vehicles in outhouses since he was 12 years old. And despite a long career as a motorsport marketing manager, he is best known for this skill. He stars in a YouTube series and a podcast about it and has published extensively about the process. “I’m working on my 19and book now, but about 11 or 12 of them are barn finds,” he said Car and driver.
A handful of these books compiled stories about individual car and motorcycle brands: The Cobra in the Barn, The Hemi in the Barn, the Corvette in the Barn, The Vincent in the Barnand The Harley in the barn. Another series cataloged findings from various road trips: Route 66 barn finds, Motor City barn finds.
But he says his new book, Secrets of the Barn Find Hunter ($30.00, Motorbooks), was “probably the easiest book I could have written because it’s just based on a lifetime of doing this.”
As the title suggests, this book explains Cotter’s tactics for finding hidden old cars. These include always looking left and right to look behind buildings as you drive, interviewing long-term employees at local gas stations, and not being afraid to stop whenever you see a field of rotten old vehicles, as they might just be the throwaway of pawns in front of hidden bishops, rooks and queens.
The most important thing is to have the right vehicle to start your quest. Cotter’s place is a 1939 Woodie Ford wagon, which he found in a barn when he was 15. (We forgot to ask if he also found his wife, children, job, home, and publisher in a barn.)
“When people see this in the driveway, it doesn’t matter if they’re rude. They see me as genuine. Or at least it continues a relationship that would have ended much faster if I hadn’t had that car. , ” he said. “The lesson is that if you’re looking for an interesting car, it helps to drive an interesting car.”
The larger question posed by this series is, what about the barn finds that compel people, enough to merit a dozen books about them and hundreds of YouTube and podcast episodes? “I think it’s a grown-up version of treasure hunting,” Cotter says.
There is also, apparently, a certain transcendence of fantasy. “It’s honest. It’s real life,” Cotter said. And real people. “It’s also the human interest factor. The car is a catalyst for bringing interesting stories to life,” he adds.
Cotter’s favorite story in the book is about a widow in Texas. Her husband’s death had left her destitute, and her son called her asking for help in selling him a leftover property, so the bank wouldn’t foreclose on his house. “And he said the magic word: Porsche,” Cotter said.
The woman’s husband owned a 1957 Porsche 356 A Speedster when they were dating, but then stopped driving it when he contracted ALS, the disease that eventually killed him, and she had remained in the garage for 40 years. Cotter flew out and met the widow. After talking for a long time, she made him get out of the car. “It was covered in tablecloths, but it was in good condition. Unrestored,” Cotter said.
Because RM Auctions in Hershey specialized in preservation cars, he convinced her to bring the orange bathtub there, and he joined her with the car for sale. “As the car was bidding – $50,000, $75,000, $100,000 – it was literally standing on my arm and crying on my shoulder,” he said. It eventually sold for $341,000. “And at the end she looked up at the ceiling, or the sky, and said, ‘He’s always watching over me,'” Cotter said. “Everyone heard it. People cheered. And now she can live her life in her house, without fear of losing it.”
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