Thanks to televised auctions and shows like “Chasing Classic Cars,” it seems like there are a legion of collectors out finding forgotten classic cars to satisfy the recent demand for survivors. At this rate, it seems like these “barn finds” will eventually run out. Or will they?
Barn finds are usually unfinished projects: The owner quits driving, doesn’t complete a restoration or simply moves on to another car.
Like any collectible, the most desirable cars are usually ones that become rare because they were once seen as disposable. Years or decades ago, the owner purchased such a car but ended up putting it in storage when it needed a repair. Over time, the model disappeared from the roads and tastes shifted, making the car desirable. It’s then rediscovered by word of mouth or put up for sale when the owner dies or needs some money.
There will always be barn finds, but the cars in those finds will change to reflect what’s current or valuable in the market. For example, vintage racing organizations have made old race cars usable again, and the craze for “survivor” cars has added value to vehicles that would be uneconomical to restore. Even a boring vehicle like a straight-six equipped pony car can become desirable by serving as a base for a restomod.
Lambrecht Chevrolet: the Mother of All Barn Finds
To see how this works, one only needs to look at the recent liquidation of Lambrecht Chevrolet. When this small Nebraska dealer couldn’t sell a car, the owners simply put it in storage. This went on for more than 20 years, resulting in a collection of 50 new vehicles dating back to the late 1950s.
Because of long-term storage in buildings without climate control, the seals and gas fuel systems of these cars will require full restorations to be drivable. However, the Lambrecht Chevrolet liquidation was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for collectors to buy new cars like the 1958 Cameo, a luxury truck experiment that was a major flop back in the late ’50s but has become a styling icon over the decades. It’s this cycle of undesirable cars becoming valuable with age that ensures that there will be barn finds as long as there are car collectors.
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