Tom Cotter's 11 More Barn-Finding Tips

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Last Updated: 16 June 2020

From Tom Cotter's The Corvette in the Barn: More Great Stories of Automotive Archaeology: 11 More Barn-Finding Tips

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1. Lawyers are a Barn-Finder's Best Friend
Make friends with local lawyers, who may know about estates that are being settled due to bankruptcy, death or whatever. You never know, something interesting just might be lurking in that old garage out back.

2. Check Out Estate Auction Websites
Lately, the contents of more and more estate auctions are being listed on the Internet. Sometimes listed between the porcelain doll collection and the wooden kitchen cabinet, there might be a Maserati...

3. Tree Surgeons Do it Up High
A tree surgeon at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, California, told Tom he gets a great view into people’s backyards and behind fences when he’s climbing and trimming branches in residential neighborhoods.

4. Business Cards
Have business cards printed that urge people to call you if they want to sell their car and leave them under the windshield wipers of interesting cars in the parking lot.

5. Go Postal
Mail carriers know every crack in the sidewalks of the neighborhoods they service, especially if they walk their mail routes. The mail carriers know who reads what magazines on their routes and just might know what is resting behind the backyard fence.

6. Mechanic Liens
Check with local repair shops, especially shops that might service specialty cars such as Porsches and antique cars. These shops are often “stuck” with unfinished restoration projects because owners can’t afford to pay the balance of their invoices. Often these cars can be purchased for the payment of past services or at auction.

7. DMV
Make friends with someone in your local Department of Motor Vehicles, or possibly a policeman, who can legally run VIN checks on long-forgotten cars that may have been removed from the road.

8. We Buy Junk Cars
Have you ever seen those ads or signs on the side of the road? Just who are these people and where do the cars go? Well, it turns out that often car towing companies are asked to remove relics from people’s yards or garages. True “junk” is taken directly to the crusher, but cars in better condition are often taken to the towing yard for storage until a buyer can be found.

9. Seek Out Old Collectors
Tom’s friend Jim Maxwell and he hit the road early on a 11-degree, snowy morning (brains are not mandatory), promising not to return until they found something cool. Well, toward the end of the day, they met a number of older collectors who at one time had collected and restored older Fords and Mustangs. These days, the collectors were not interested anymore, but still owned some cars and parts. It makes Tom wonder how many ex-collectors live around the United States…

10. Look into the Crystal Ball
Hire a psychic! Who knows, maybe a mind-reader can tell you what is sitting behind the barn door. It sure beats trying to make those comic book x-ray glasses work…

11. Get Your Own Show
Jay Leno has the best platform to seek out old cars. One old-car mention during his television show had the phone in his Burbank office ringing off the hook the next morning. (We are sure that is happening with the YouTube show). If it’s not too late you might want to go back to acting school or practice your stand-up comedy.

Tom Cotter's Top 20 Barn-Finding Tips

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