My Car Quest

November 21, 2019

A Porsche In The Driveway – Or How To Find A Barn Find

A barn finder reveals his trailside tracking tips

by Wallace Wyss –

A colleague of mine, but only an enthusiast who doesn’t full time write about them like me, was telling me how recently he was accosted by a man when he was driving his Porsche 928 and asked if the car was for sale?

He told the guy to get lost, in not such a polite way, affronted at the idea that, just because he was driving an old car that needed work, he would want to sell it.

I replied “Well, this is America. Everything’s for sale.”

He still took umbrage, saying that just because he is driving some snazzy car, doesn’t mean he wants to entertain offers to sell it.

And yet he owns half a dozen sports cars, some beautiful enough to stop you in your tracks. I say one reason people buy sports cars, deep down is that they want someone to talk to them. To notice they are indeed alive and breathing on this earth.

(I say if you’re lonely get a dog but that’s another story…)

Brings to mind the time when I was driving an Iso Grifo coupe and a lady at Malibu Beach approached me and said “I don’t know what it is but I like it.” Moments to live for, I say.

THE DRIVEWAY DISCOVERY

So recently I am driving though a town in the Inland Empire (a misnomer if there ever was one, there is nothing “empire-ish” about it..) and I see a Porsche in a driveway. Now I have been driving through that area for years and had seen the car a few times before the owner got a car cover.

Porsche 911 Carerra

I passed this house 20 or 30 times over a years time. When the car cover wasn’t on it yet I saw it was a Porsche Targa. It says “Carrera” on the tail. I neglected to check if it was a manual, which could make a big difference in value. Now if I lift the tarp to check that I’d be crossing the line. But I note it hasn’t moved.

I know it’s a 911 body style, that it’s a targa and that it says “Carrera” on it but sometimes owners of lesser Porsches buy that Carrera nameplate and stick it on. I didn’t see if it has a manual shift but now that it has a car cover on it I am hesitant to lift the cover to check that out.

Now I say just the fact the car is in the driveway means I have every right to write the guy a postcard and ask if, perchance it is for sale. He can never answer. Or answer and say “no.” Or say “As a matter of fact…” and open a dialog.

I am presuming it is for sale because it has out of state plates, which have been on the car for months and he or she doesn’t seem to be getting it California registered. Also it is parked on the right, where sometimes I see a daily driver parked on the left. And it has cobwebs on the tires, signs of not much use.

My cohort would say I got no right to disturb the man’s sanctity. After all, there is no “for sale” sign on it. And it’s not parked out at the curb. According to him I am supposed to pretend I don’t see it. That’s like asking a deer hunter not to notice that 14-point buck in front of him.

Porsche barn find

Sometimes they out in the open

THE BEHIND THE FENCE CAR

Now I am in a little bit of trouble with my co-hort on the car in the driveway but he goes bananas when I tell about the Corvette behind a fence, in someone’s back yard, I spotted in a nearby town. This car is also covered. I can see from its general lines it is a ’63 through ’67 Stingray. Now the values of those cars can vary widely according to not only condition but rarity.

They can be bought for a few thousand if it’s a base car, or damaged. But when you considered that 20 L88 ‘67s were made and they sell for a million dollars restored, then it becomes more imperative for a barn finder to find out how rare this car is. If it’s an L88 it is as good as gold. If it is a one time race car, a documented race car (that can be tied into entrance in a certain big league race like Sebring) then you can ratchet up the estimated value.

Now I shot a picture of this Stingray from out on the side street. I didn’t write the postcard, but filed the picture away along with a picture of the front of the house with the address, and a picture of the street sign so I won’t forget where it is.

If I meet a heavy buyer of Corvettes I might say “I know where there’s an old Stingray,” and see if that piques their interest (usually I don’t bother with such common cars but since I know there are million dollar Stingrays, every one is worth a preliminary looksee…).

SELLING INFO

I think I already outraged my co-hort with these peek-a-book forays looking for barnfinds.

But if I want to see more alarm I have only to mention a sub-area of this that infuriates my co-host—selling information on what is where. He thinks a barn finder’s discoveries should not be for sale. That divulging it violates civil rights, or property rights or privacy. I say if the guy with the Corvette wanted not to be bothered by offers, he should disguise the shape of the car under the tarp so guys like me, driving by at 30 mph, won’t say “Oh, there’s a Stingray under that tarp.”

Another barn finding tip. Celebrities die but their cars live on. Even though Liberace's Rolls Royce Phantom V is in the Museum in Vegas the Museum is closed so maybe now's the time to bid on it. Take some time to get all the  crystals off of it...

Another barn finding tip. Celebrities die but their cars live on. Even though Liberace’s Rolls Royce Phantom V is in the Museum in Vegas the Museum is closed so maybe now’s the time to bid on it. Take some time to get all the crystals off of it…

THE DRONE

Now recently I had occasion to retain the services of a drone operator while filming a road test of a convertible. I could see it would be duck soup for a drone (this one costs $1,200) to go up and photograph a car parked in a back yard. And this could be done while still standing out in the street.

Now I know my co-hort will be nearly apoplectic at this possibility. His argument is that knowledge of where a rare car is invites parts thieves. They might come over one night with a wrench and take something off your car. In the case of a rare European car, the lack of the chassis plate could be disastrous to your resale value and worse yet if the thief clones a car using your chassis plate!

And yet there’s circumstances where the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is sufficiently large where I would feel justified in going the drone route. For instance, some years ago there was a GT40, a real one, parked in a field, well into the property.

Back at that time they were worth at least $10,000 but are now worth a million or more. Wouldn’t it be worth it, if you heard a rumor like “Hey, I heard there’s a GT40 parked out at the Hayes ranch. But I can’t get close to it, they won’t let me on the Ranch.”

1955 XK140 FHC-SE

This 1955 Jaguar XK140 FHC-SE was pulled out of a barn in Volcano, California by Geoffrey Horton

Of course in this case, since the target is well into the property, you can’t photograph it from a drone flying out in the public road, but if you have a cheaper drone, say a $100 one, it might be worth a quick flyby. You’d be come and gone before they saw it coming (say, on the net I saw a model SR71 with real jet engines, I wonder if that has a camera on it?).

I’ll give you another car-parked-in-a-field story—the Ferrari 250 GTO that was parked in a field in Ohio some decades ago. It was parked outside, exposed to rain, wind, snow and hail for ten years. That was before drones existed, but that was one that would have been worth checking out, seeing as how GTOs, last time I checked, were going for $38 million.

Imagine how sick some Ohio Ferrari enthusiast felt when he heard it was bought by someone who–egad–contacted the farmer who owned it. How dare he contact someone who didn’t have a For Sale sign on his car! I guarantee you that barn finder is sitting on his balcony of his condo in Monaco right now, glad he took the plunge.

Suffice to say that when you hear a rumor of a rare car being mistreated, lying fallow as it were, you might investigate it and if it’s too far off the road to shoot a picture of, consider the drone route.

Barn Find Jaguar

Sometimes they have a sign on them

A no-cost way is to go Google satellite. Didja know that you have merely to type an address into Google and they offer you a satellite view? Now I saw a sports car in a driveway, way way back about 100 yards but when I went to the satellite view, damn if the satellite picture was taken prior to the car being there so I wasn’t able to see more of the car. And those satellite pictures are damn fuzzy.

But it’s worth a shot.

IN SUM

My cohort has bought lots of exotic cars but says his barn-finding days are long behind him, and I’d have to say it’s too bad that he’s lost the Thrill of the Hunt.

On the other hand, he’s a dignified sort, who doesn’t want to be blamed with violating anybody’s privacy. Me, not so much….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of the Incredible Barn Finds series of books which can be ordered direct from the publisher at (715)381 9755.

 

 

Barn find

Another barn find sitting outside

Jaguar XK120 Drophead Coupe

They did not have time to clean this barn find before the auction

Summary
A Porsche In The Driveway - Or How To Find A Barn Find
Article Name
A Porsche In The Driveway - Or How To Find A Barn Find
Description
Some techniques from a barn find searcher.
Author

Comments

  1. Rob Maselko says

    I think you should always explore what’s out there, and as you say, keep that information tucked away, only to share if and when the time is right. In 1974, I spied while passing by from the road, a vertical, ovoid taillight peeking out from behind a house. I stopped to investigate. Sure enough, it was a 750 series Alfa Giulietta Spider. It had some surface rust, but no rot. It was missing a few things, but was mostly there. It turned out the owner wanted it removed. My five dollar purchase price included a valid New Jersey title! I thought I was smart re-selling it to a fellow college student for $50.00. If only I had kept it, but there are other fish in the sea…or cars in the barn. Currently I know where there’s a well cared for, early ’70s Alfa Spider that rarely gets used. No, they’re not worth much, but that may change. The postcard will soon be in the mail. Keep looking.

  2. wallace wyss says

    I think, having been an ad copywriter on multi-million dollar accounts, that wording of the postcard is crucial.
    First of all, DON’T print them in advance, that would tip them off that you are a serial barn find hunter, no, write it out by hand, rather offish. And then act like you were just passin’ by, not staking their place out. And be a long range interested party, saying something like “If you ever take a mind to selling, give me a shout”. One case that stands out , in my Incredible Barn Finds books, is the British buyer, Martin Eyears who wrote the lady who had the Cobra Daytona coupe in storage. The car owner didn’t answer but when she committed suicide (I say she was murdered but that’s another story…) her 80-plus year old mother finds the letter, calls Mr. Eyears, the deal was done and he bought the car fro around $3 million and sold it the next day for close to $4 million. So that was a million dollar letter!

  3. The drone flight open a real question about privacy violation ….

  4. I just prefer to sneak in at night, under the cover of dark, so no one bothers me.

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