My Car Quest

June 20, 2024

“The Car Has Layers Of Dust And Dirt Intact” – A Jaguar XK 120 At Auctions America

by Mike –

I am sorry to say that Auctions America has caught the “dirt is patina” syndrome. They recently auctioned off this 1954 Jaguar XK 120SE Drop Head Coupe for $45,100 at their Auburn Spring auction – car wash not included.

Jaguar XK 120

Jaguar XK 120

Here is their full description,

The example offered here is a very desirable “barn find” Jaguar XK 120SE (Special Equipment) that has been stored in a Georgian barn since the 1970s. The XK 120SE is equipped with factory steel wheels in body color, an upgraded suspension, dual exhaust pipes, and a high performance engine and carburetors. The XK is finished in factory correct Jaguar Red and its interior is dark brown. Additional equipment includes rollup windows, burl wood dash and rear fender spats. The car indicates that is (sic) has just over 60,000 original miles. The car has layers of dust and dirt intact, but the car has been gone through mechanically and it runs and drives. The Jaguar is ready for a new home and the glory that can return to this magnificent car.

It is not clear to me what makes a very desirable “barn find”. The worse the condition the better I guess with the way Auctions America describes this dirty Jaguar.

Dr. Fred A. Simeone said,

Dirt is not patination. …dirt is added to the object by an unfavorable environment or simply poor care.

I recommend that all auction company executives read, The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles by The Simeone Automotive Foundation.

Jaguar XK 120

Sell your classic car on My Car Quest – click here. Clean cars preferred.

Why did the auction company leave the dirt on this Jaguar? Because they think that dirt is patina.


  1. Thomas Ollinger says

    Did they go back to the barn for more dirt after going through it mechanically and then driving it?

  2. Richard Truesdell says

    What’s worse? Some owner allowing a car like this to be neglected like this for so long or auction houses perpetuating this myth? What’s next? Sellers buying or renting barns, throwing dirt on their car, then making a “discovery?” And what comes after that, a staged reality show called “Chasing Classic Barn Finds?”

    This whole barn find phenomenon is reprehensible. Smells a lot like the late 1980s bubble to me. What happens when the bubble bursts?

  3. Thomas Potts says

    It’s like the wrapping on a Christmas present. You pay your money then take the car home and hose it off. The patina is what’s left under the dirt. By leaving it on they allow the thrill of discovery to the new owner. Sort of like scratching off the lottery ticket.

  4. Georgeg20 says

    I agree with mr. Potts. Barn finds are very in. People acquiring these cars probably have no intention of restoring these. It’s enough to just park them inside a controlled environment in their current condition and have a very cool conversation piece. I can also understand someone’s desire to handle (control) the restoration from A-Z and that would be another great conversation piece. This particular car allows for a 3rd option of driving it as is (at events only) in its current barn find condition.

    Mike, I understand your frustration with the whole barn find phenomena, but it is not the auction houses that created this trend. Rather, they picked up on it and are milking it to the max. I can’t fault them for finding ways of making profit as long as it is legit. Sure they contribute to the hype, but really they are just playing up to what the public wants. I’m not a huge fan of horror flics, so I usually don’t go to the movies around Halloween. The theaters are packed with crowds, but as they say in England – it’s not my cuppa. Same anology applies here. I strongly sided with you and our entire audience when auction houses blatantly tried to pass off bogus cars, despite your stern warnings. Here I don’t see anything criminal. The buyer is king, and as long his/her highness is willing to pay the auction houses will keep dishing it out.

  5. They actually have the balls to use the phrase “The car has layers of dust and dirt intact” as a selling point! This is just a pathetic marketing strategy for a car, as somehow the layers of dirt and dust have preserved and protected the car underneath. To participate in something like this is folly, and I am hoping that marketplace will wise up and show these charlatans for what they are. Glenn in the Bronx, NY.

  6. This cars consignor felt that with the recent barn find craze the dirt on this car from years of storage would create more interest. It sold for the same money that an older restored DHC with a non matching numbers engine would sell for. The consignors marketing approach may not have helped him realize a stronger sale price.

    • Donnie,

      I appreciate your addressing this issue here.

      You can read some reader opinions in the Comments. Below is part of a a private email from a My Car Quest reader, Dan R., about this Post,

      “The (auction) houses which choose to respect the cars and the buyers by not stooping for the easy money probably should be aware that their reputations are something most of us would rather not see them allow to be compromised.

      I would imagine that most of us are attracted to these cars because they remind us of a “more graceful age”. I suppose, though, that those in the business of returning the cars to that former glory have that responsibility to be sure the best choices are made restoring them. Seems that the best auction houses should be aware of that. Lately it seems they have lost respect for all of that.”

      I could not have said it any better and I add that I am surprised that you would allow this type of fake hype at your auction.

  7. Robb Northrup says

    Amazing…I can understand an historically significant racing car left in last-raced condition (with flies and dirt intact). That’s understandable. But layers of dirt from neglect, as if it adds any value?

    Just another ploy to create added value where there is none.

    Just glad there weren’t any horses or pigs in the barn…


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