My Car Quest

May 28, 2024

Confessions of a Former Barn Finder

by Wallace Wyss –

I know there’s still the AutoTrader but my short lived career as a barn finder was built on the original newspaper-style Auto Trader that you could get at any liquor store. My method was to not look like a slickster from The Big Apple though I was actually buying for a consortium based in New York City.

I had met my contact while attending a Ferrari national meet in Virginia. The guy I met–my future client–was an apartment house owner, who liked my running commentaries on various & sundry cars that rolled by (“Oh, there’s a first gen Boxer, Avoid those, they blow clutches like crazy!”) He told me he and a group would meet at some eatery once a week in The City and the conversation would go something like this;

Joe: “Hey, gotta Ghibli coming in from the Coast.”

Frank: “What color?”

Joe: “Fly yellow”

Tony: “5-speed”

Joe: “Automatic.”

Bill: “What kind money we talkin’ about?

Joe: “25k, that would take it.”

Bill: “Sold”

Maserati Ghibli

Maserati Ghibli

Now when some guy at the table didn’t live in New York we’d have to call Reliable, the truckers, and they’d have to stop along the way across the country, rent a storage space, store the car and another truck would come along that’s going to where the buyer lives. So some cars took a very zig-zag route across the US.

I didn’t give a damn about condition. This was in the early ’80s as far as I remember, and all the Italian cars were going up like a rocket. My “secret’ was to run as ratty an ad in the AT as possible, showing a tacky old Ferrari and saying something like “Ferrari or other Italian sports car wanted. Blown engine, OK Will take AS IS. Paying cash, yadda yadda”.

Of course I could run a picture of a clean car but why bother? I didn’t want primo. I wanted the cars where the wife has already issued The Order, to whit “Either that car goes or I go.”

Among the ones I remember:

-A white Bizzarrini GT5300 Strada out in the desert North of Los Angeles. I think I paid 60K. I got to drive it for three days, blew the clutch but it was the greatest 3 days of driving I ever had, better than my own Ferrari.

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada

-A Bentley Continental S2 Mulliner Park Ward drophead coupe. Heard that it was parked in a apartment on the beach in Venice. Paid a down and outer $30 a day to ask everyone going in and out who owned the Bentley. Turned out to be some cowboy. The car was indeed registered to a ranch in Texas. It had been parked for 7 years. When they got it back to NY they changed the fluids, put in a new battery and it started right up.

-An Iso Grifo long nose. Not concours but “street resto.” First saw it on used car lot in Santa Monica, found owner’s name and tracked him down when he was retiring to move to the beach in Mexico. He sold it to me for something like 13,000 and I thought it was a great deal when I resold it in the parking lot of the Barrett Jackson auction for $14,000.

Iso Grifo

Iso Grifo

But it all ended when I split from my wife and lost the marry-me-fly-free deal that airline employees use to fullest advantage. I could no longer roam the world looking for great buys.

Plus the internet ruined the ignorance of owners who had bought the car long ago and not kept up. Back then I could offer what I thought it was worth and they had no way to come back with a counter offer. Now a guy types in the model on his Smartphone and finds out what the last three sold for at auction.

Oh, I still keep an eye peeled when I’m driving hither and yon. But it’s no use. Every owner is more educated now, damn it…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is incorporating many of his barn find experiences into the “bio” of his thriller novel Ferrari Hunters. Film rights queries can be directed to him at


Confessions of a Former Barn  Finder
Article Name
Confessions of a Former Barn Finder
This barn finder wanted the cars where the wife had already issued The Order, to whit "Either that car goes or I go."


  1. Trevor Gaunt says

    Wow Wallace, is that your wife in the platforms with 8 inch heels in those pics of the red Grifo? What were you thinking, to let her go?!

  2. wallace wyss says

    No, Mike came up with the pictures, Those aren’t the actual cars I bought—though they could be . My wives have all been Asian. I am not looking for any new wives, or cars for that matter….

  3. Wallace, Do you have an old photo of your long nose Grifo from yesterday?
    I wonder where the car is today? Thanks for the interesting story!

  4. wallace wyss says

    I had a snapshot shot in front of the owner’s garage on the day he sold it but not much of a filing system so I don’t think I can find t. It had what I call the “weddiing cake hood” like the one in the photo here. And was red. Previously it had been displayed at a store called the VIP ToyStore iin West Los Angeles run by friendly giant named Sam Black.

    • Hey Wallace was this a photo of your car? I remember this article from years ago. If this was your car, it was one of the few Series II cars that was prepared for the US market based upon the front markers.
      Cool story!

      • wallace wyss says

        Yeah that was it. I took it to a shop in the Valley that specialized in Fords and they went through it and the bill was under $350. wayne was the guy’s name. I can’ ask him about if he remembers it because he was killed recently in a plane crash. I don’t know what I was thinking selling it when so few Grifos were built…

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