In an ideal world, every remarkable motor vehicle would be kept and stored with the utmost care in a climate-controlled facility with special attention given to its working parts. Clearly, however, we don’t live in that imaginary place. Rather, in the real world, owners don’t always care for their cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, etc. In fact, sometimes people forget about them altogether.
The thing is, a ride that’s long-forgotten doesn’t have to stay that way. On occasion, those vehicles are rediscovered somewhere down the line. And if they’re especially desirable, they’ll be pulled out of the realm of the long-forgotten and reintroduced to the world at large — often to be restored to their former glory. These barn finds, as they’re called, are captivating to the automotive world much in the same way that Egyptologists are captivated by unearthing a pharaoh’s tomb. And the following 18 are the best of all time.
- What Is A Barn Find?
- The Best Barn Finds Ever
- 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II Coupe
- 1981 BMW M1
- 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupe
- 1939 Citroen 2CV Prototypes
- 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger
- 1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta
- 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Alloy
- 1969 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’
- 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS
- 1968 Ford Mustang ‘Bullitt’
- 1969 Lamborghini Miura S
- Land Rover Series 1 Prototype
- Mercedes-Benz 190SL
- 1957 Porsche 356 A 1500 GS Carrera Coupe
- 1958 Porsche 356 ‘Super’ Speedster
- 1964 Porsche 901
- 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra
- Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe Prototype
- 10 Best American Race Cars In History
What Is A Barn Find?
Lost & Forgotten Vehicles
Over the course of the history of motor vehicles, a lot of cars, trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, etc. have been built. And some of those rides, especially those that are exceptional and/or rare, make their way into the hands of collectors — people who appreciate them beyond their value as mechanical devices that get from point A to point B. However, for every collector with a climate-controlled warehouse full of unique vehicles, there are a dozen or more that don’t take care of the cars they’ve acquired.
There’s a litany of reasons a person might acquire a car, truck, or motorcycle and then put it away in storage and forget about it. Sometimes, it’s simply a function of inattention — people have big collections on large parcels of land and it’s not always possible to keep up with all of it. Other times, it’s because property changes hands (after a death in the family, for instance) and there isn’t proper documentation of the late owner’s belongings. There’s even the possibility that a car may have needed necessary maintenance, but the owner simply didn’t have the means or desire to keep it on the road. Any of these potentialities can lead to what’s known in the automotive world as a “barn find.”
Essentially, what it comes down to is this: when a car or similar vehicle is put into storage, forgotten about, and then rediscovered — usually in poor or derelict condition — this is what is known as a barn find. And it’s called such because, with the greatest amount of frequency, these rides are found in disrepair inside of old barns. However, a barn find can be discovered in any kind of storage — including out in a field, in a garage (public or private), inside a shed, or really anywhere — so long as it is clear that it has been there for a very long time without anyone knowing about it and/or caring for it. While, typically, the term is reserved for vehicles that are now considered classics, any vehicle found in said locales and conditions qualifies as a barn find.
The Best Barn Finds Ever
The Cars & Their Stories
Let it be known that every barn find has a story. Of course, some of those stories are more interesting than others. Similarly, some barn finds are a lot rarer and more desirable than the rest. That being said, the most intriguing barn finds of all sit squarely at the meeting point between the uniqueness of their tales and the overall scarcity of the vehicle in question. And that’s exactly where the following 18 examples of the best barn finds ever fit.
1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II Coupe
The Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II was already an extremely rare vehicle when it was first produced — with only 15 or 16 known examples to ever roll off the factory floor. Of those, only six were marked for export. This particular one had been delivered to a town called Mount Kisko, just north of New York City, to a Mr. Robert Torrence. Eventually, it ended up in the hands of a missile guidance engineer by the name of Marvin Biren who, unfortunately, had to put the vehicle into storage in 1977. After 20 years of operation and 40 years of storage, it was finally unearthed. And, in spite of the apparent disrepair, it ended up heading to auction — where it sold for $293,300 in June of 2018. We can only assume the current owner is caring for it dearly and has, perhaps, restored it to tip-top shape.
1981 BMW M1
Originally produced in 1978, the M1 is credited as being the very first German supercar. As such, classic examples are highly sought-after and held in high esteem — even this one that had been left to rot in a southern Italian garage just a year after it was built. Found under a thick coat of dust and covered in what can only be described as an assortment of garbage, this magnificent steed was brought back into the sunlight after 34 years in its tomb. Following that, it went through a comprehensive restoration that brought it back to showroom condition. It has since been sold — to some lucky so-and-so, no doubt — and is hopefully enjoying the life it was always meant to have on the road.
1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupe
The longer a car is kept in storage, the higher the likelihood that it is lost to history forever. However, that also correlates to a steep rise in the enticement factor in the case that a car is found after an exceptionally long time. That’s exactly the case with this 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupe. Considered one of the most beautiful cars ever built, this particular example (of which only 17 were ever built) was originally owned by Francis Richard Henry Penn Curzon — the man who went on to co-found the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Put into storage with just 26,000 miles on the odometer, it was rediscovered in 1960 only to be put right back into storage. Then, finally, in 2009, it went up for auction through Bonhams and sold for an appropriately high sum of $3,833,751.
1939 Citroen 2CV Prototypes
Although Citroen is a far cry from being a household name in the United States, the company has a long and storied history on the European continent that dates back to 1919. In fact, they produced one of the most popular cars of all time: the 2CV. Originally introduced in 1948, this car remained in production until 1990 — which speaks to its staying power. However, three prototypes of that car (from long before they were officially launched) had been hidden for literal decades under bunches of hay inside the roof of a French barn. Details are hard to come by, but there are two prevailing tales of how these prototypes ended up where they were eventually found. First, it’s said that they were stashed away to save them from the Nazis during WWII. Second, it’s been said that a group of disgruntled Citroen employees hid them from company management after they were ordered to scrap the cars — an attempt at preserving history. Either way, this discovery is certainly a monumental one no matter which way you look at it.
1969 Dodge Daytona Charger
As mentioned, not all vehicles need to be found inside an actual barn in order to be considered a barn find. But there’s something extra special about those that are. That’s the case with this 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger, which was discovered in the middle of Alabama on an actual farm — with cows and everything — in almost entirely original condition with virtually no rust or corrosion of any kind. One of just 503 ever built, this magnificent muscle car was purchased back in 1972 for just $1,800 by an 18-year-old kid who, after driving it around for a bit, got into a bit of a fender bender. With the intention of fixing it up, he put it into storage and promptly forgot about it for over four decades. Eventually, it was rediscovered by Charlie’s Classic Cars and sent to auction at Mecum with an estimated value of $150,000-$180,000.
1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta
Ferrari has a very large catalog of exceptional vehicles — which is probably still an understatement. But they wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for the 166MM. You see, this vehicle was the very first one that Ferrari produced when Enzo Ferrari split off to start building vehicles under his own marque. One in particular (of just 25 that were built) made its way to a Swiss showroom, where it was purchased by an American and shipped to California. For a while, it was driven until it broke — at which point it was left outside in the desert of Arizona until a knowing buyer came along and snatched it up for $1 million, sight unseen. Then, during its restoration, it was discovered that this particular car had actually participated in a number of high-notoriety races — including Le Mans — and had even been driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, a famous Argentinian racing driver.
1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Alloy
Usually, barn finds are solitary vehicles. On occasion, however, they’re a part of a larger collection of vehicles in various states of disorder and disarray. In the case of this 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Alloy, it was discovered after 25 years of collecting dust in a barn beside a 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra. The two exceedingly rare cars were the property of a man who trusted one mechanic and one mechanic alone. Unfortunately, that mechanic was killed in a motorcycle accident and, thus, these cars were left to sit and wait until they were rediscovered and taken to the auction block through Gooding & Company. As a tangible example of the metaphorical goldmine the owner had been sitting upon, this particular car ended up selling for a whopping $2,530,000.
1969 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’
With only 1,200 examples ever manufactured, Ferrari’s 365 GTB/4 was already a rare and sought-after vehicle. Of those 1,200, however, only five were built to the specifications of the 24 Hours of Daytona race. And only a single one of these rare, aluminum-bodied rides was made street legal. This is that vehicle. Stashed in a garage in Japan for over 40 years before its discovery, this fabled car had reached near-mythical status and, in truth, there were people who weren’t even sure it existed at all. Sure enough, however, it was unearthed and found in completely unmolested, original condition along with its Scaglietti body numbers, unused spare tire, and just 22,611 on the odometer. After its discovery, it made its way to the RM Sotheby’s auction block — where it sold for a jaw-dropping sum of $2.2 million.
1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS
Technically speaking, Dinos do not qualify as Ferraris. Still, this “budget” sub-brand produced its fair share of vehicles that some consider the finest of their time — holy grails, you might call them. But none have a story quite as unique and bizarre as this 1974 Dino 246 GTS. Calling this one a barn find is about as far a stretch as you can get, as it was actually found buried in the front yard of a Los Angeles home back in 1978. Obviously, that’s a bit too close to the build date to be a proper barn find, but it deserves a spot here no less — if only for the novelty. Apparently, this car had actually been stolen and disappeared without a trace just a couple of months after it was first sold in October of 1974 to Rosendo Cruz of Alhambra, California. Wrapped in plastic and with its intakes stuffed with towels, it was clear that whoever buried it had the intention of claiming it later down the line. Or at least they would have if not for a group of meddling kids digging in the yard. To this day, the crime has never been solved.
1968 Ford Mustang ‘Bullitt’
When it comes to movie cars, the 1968 Ford Mustang from Steve McQueen’s Bullitt surely takes the cake as the most iconic and historically significant of the bunch. But the story of what happened to the actual on-screen car is an epic all its own. You see, one of the two vehicles used in the film was all but destroyed during filming and reportedly went to the crusher once filming had finished (though, in truth, it ended up in Mexico to be discovered much later). The other took an odd trip, changing hands several times and ending up in the hands of an insurance executive by the name of Bob Kiernan out of New Jersey. So the story goes, McQueen actually tried to buy it back, but Kiernan wouldn’t sell. Unfortunately, Kiernan passed away and the vehicle became the property of his son, Sean, some 38 years after McQueen had tried to get it back. Kiernan still owns it to this day, despite a wealth of interested parties that included McQueen’s son Chad. And that’s just a fraction of this wild tale.
1969 Lamborghini Miura S
The Lamborghini Miura, amongst a long line of excellent vehicles, is one of the raging bull brand’s most fabled and sought-after cars. In fact, most of those that were built are still in excellent condition in the hands of collectors, rock stars, and more. There is one exception, however, in this 1969 Miura S. Discovered in an ad for a Lamborghini Aventador (which it very much was not) the car was being offered by a private seller who clearly didn’t know what he had. In fact, when asked about it, he claimed it was a “one-off 1967 Lamborghini SS” — a car that never existed. One of just 17 vehicles built, this Miura sat under a thick layer of dust before being excavated, cleaned up (read: unrestored), and put on display in Miami’s Lou La Vie car and art museum, where it remains to this day.
Land Rover Series 1 Prototype
Before the Land Rover Series 1 was first unveiled at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show, a number of pre-production prototypes were built. One of them, however, mysteriously vanished at some point in the 1960s — after being a road-going car for a number of years. While it was never clear how it ended up there, this pre-production prototype was rediscovered in the Welsh countryside some 70 years after it had originally been built. Having sat there for 20-something years, it was eventually rediscovered completely by accident by none other than the folks at Jaguar Land Rover. Brought back to their facility just a few miles up the road, the vehicle is now in the hands of Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works. And they’re in the process of restoring it to its former glory in a project they’re calling Land Rover Reborn.
In case it isn’t abundantly clear at this point, a barn find has the potential to be discovered just about anywhere. In perhaps no story is that more abundantly clear than in the tale of this Mercedes-Benz 190SL. According to Michael Potiker, the man who discovered it, he saw it while walking alongside his father through a neighborhood. With nothing to go on but a glimpse of a bit of chrome sticking out from under a custom cover in the garage of a derelict house, Potiker approached the home and — to his surprise — discovered that the owner was in palliative care and, therefore, couldn’t speak. With a bit of gumption and persistence, he got in touch with the trustee of the owner’s estate and bought the car. Since then, Potiker has transformed the vehicle into one of the most glorious Barchetta cruisers we’ve ever seen.
1957 Porsche 356 A 1500 GS Carrera Coupe
Especially when it comes to barn finds, it’s hard to say that there is one that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest — especially because, when it comes to cars, so much of it is based on personal tastes. This one, however, might just be the Holy Grail. The first road car to ever feature a four-cam engine, this 1957 Porsche 356 A 1500 GS Carrera Coupe lived a good life, passing hands several times before ending up in a literal barn at some point in the 1970s. It sat there for several decades until it was finally extracted and brought back into the world — albeit, completely unrestored. Complete with its original documentation, this legendary sports car sold for an impressive sum of $506,000 in 2018.
1958 Porsche 356 ‘Super’ Speedster
While getting behind the wheel of a classic car is good enough for some people, there are others who prefer a challenge — the opportunity to take a vehicle in disrepair and bring it back to life, ala Doctor Frankenstein. For those folks, perhaps no barn find is as enticing as this 1958 Porsche 356 ‘Super’ Speedster. With coachwork by Reutter, this particular car — while not in road-going condition — was found in remarkably original condition. Sold in October of 2018 for a whopping $307,500, this insanely rare drop-top vehicle hopefully landed in the possession of someone who will fix her up and bring her back out on the road. It’s hard to say if we’ll ever get to gaze upon her again, but we’re happy to have had even this chance.
1964 Porsche 901
Easily the most iconic Porsche model of all time, the 911 actually started out as the 901. In fact, several prototypes were built before the 911 name was applied. This is one of those very vehicles. Built in 1964, this particular prototype went missing and, for all intents and purposes, was believed to be gone forever. Then, in 2014, Alexander Klein — the classic car manager at the Porsche museum — received a phone call from RTL2, a German television station, claiming they’d found something in which the car manufacturer might be interested. Sure enough, after confirming the description and VIN, Porsche realized what had been unearthed: one of the few extremely rare predecessors to the 911. Purchased for $119,984, the “Number 57” has since been painstakingly restored and brought back to working condition — albeit with a wealth of new parts, including the engine. To this day, it’s the oldest vehicle in Porsche’s collection.
1967 Shelby 427 Cobra
Remember that Long Nose Alloy Ferrari from earlier on our list? This is the 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra alongside which it was discovered. Easily the more exceptional of the two if you’re a fan of American vehicles, this legendary car is just one of 60 that were ever produced and, by some strange circumstances, ended up sitting in a barn collecting dust for the better part of 25 years. Fortunately, it was finally uncovered alongside its mate and brought, unrestored, to the Gooding & Company auction block. Unsurprisingly, even in its state of disrepair, this 18,000-mile vehicle sold for a whopping $1,045,000 in 2018. We can only assume it has made its way to a good home.
Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe Prototype
Carroll Shelby is a legendary car maker who originally tested his mettle on the race track. After hanging up his gloves, however, he decided to take on Ferrari in a very different way — by beating them on the race track with his own vehicle. As such, he hired Pete Brock to redesign the AC Cobra (the car on which he had based his previous builds) for maximum speed. The result was the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe. And it achieved Shelby’s goal, beating out Ferrari in 1965. One of just six ever built, number CSX2287 was the only made in America and the original prototype. It’s also the same car that was engulfed in flames during a refueling accident in Daytona in 1964 and set 23 national and international speed records on the salt flats with a top speed of 187 miles per hour. It also, somehow, ended up in the hands of famous music producer and convicted murderer, Phil Spector, before going into storage for 30 years and finally rediscovered, restored, and included in the National Historic Vehicle Register alongside historical icons like the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building. It’s now on display at the Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia.
10 Best American Race Cars In History
If automotive history strikes your fancy, then you’ll not want to miss out on our guide to the best American race cars ever made.