Out of barns: ramblings and links

This is a bit off of the usual Jeep and Willys posts.  I think all of us enjoy the mystique of barnfinds.  Whether it be a single car or the occasional horde that appears.  I am going to include links to a couple collections that have appeared in the last 20 years, and one that I can find no information on.  through my shop I often deal with barnfinds in a wide array of conditions.  (We rescued the Willys truck below a few years back and should have it finished this summer.)


The Model A Fords:  This first collection I have no photos of.  If you have heard anything about this collection please update me, it seems to have disappeared quietly.  I used to drive a Corvair panelvan (originally owned by the Pentagon)  One fellow I regularly purchased parts from, Mr. Rose, relayed this story to me.  Mr. Rose received a phone call about what he thought was some Corvairs filled with parts and headed to Pennsylvania with a van to see what might be useful.

corvair in snow 001

When Mr. Rose arrived he found a weathered farm with a battered farmhouse, a huge dilapidated looking barn, a field with rows of every model of Corvair and an extremely harried man dealing with the whole of it.  When Mr. Rose began sorting through the field of Corvairs he found the vans were filled with NOS parts in boxes.  This turned out to be a much larger haul than he expected.

In speaking to the fellow managing the estate Mr. Rose found there was much much more.  “My father hated me,” the man said,” I had to quit my job and move from Michigan to deal with the estate.”  Mr. Rose looked around confused and finally asked what there was to deal with besides the rows of Corvairs and a run down farm.  Then the real story came to light.

Inside the old barn was one of every type of Model A produced.  The father diligently collected each variation of Model A and, if I remember correctly, restored them all.  The harried man explained that Ford was offering around 3 million for the collection.  His siblings then fought over the amount, whether to sell to Ford etc.. etc..  and that was why he quit his job to deal with the estate.

If any reader knows anything about the Model A collection please update me.  I have been trying to track any information on that one for a while.

A.K. Miller:  The next one is the story of AK Miller, whom many barnfind enthusiasts know of.  When I first heard of the collection of Stutz Bearcats hidden in Vermont barns I wondered if it was just a legend (the internet was not as big as it is now).  I ended up talking with a museum curator who was there though, and confirmed not only the cars, but stashes of gold bars hidden under floorboards and such.  The AK Miller barnfind story is told and illustrated well on these web pages.  It could be a movie.


Automotive news & entertainment

And you can even purchase a book of beautiful photos with the full story here:

View The Stutz Stash of A.K. Miller by Nicholas Whitman

Hawkeye:  I found an Instagram page called Hawkeye Homestead containing old photos and beautiful quotes from a man named John, “Hawkeye” Hawkinson.  As many photos showed 1920s automobiles I started looking for more information and found quite a story.  Each photo below links to a different website with more of his story.  I wish I had met him.  Apparently there was even a Chasing Classic Cars episode on his collection.  When Hawkeye passed his belongings were sold as he wished and all money donated.  Look through the great articles and video below.

The Old Motor: great photos and story

Image result for hawkeye homestead cars restoration

Saranac Lake Wiki

A Story in Cars (Great video as well)



Bob’s Barnfinds

Some antique cars work to find their way home to my friend Bob Kurland’s shop. In 2012 Bob received a call from a crack head (literally, it was proven in court). The crackhead said he had an antique car in the garage and wanted to sell it to Bob for $400.00.  Bob packed up the flatbed and headed into Baltimore.


Bob said when he reached the house he had to back the flatbed through a fence,” it was like threading a needle while wearing a baseball glove.” He opened the garage and saw the drivers side window was broken as the crackhead could not figure out how to open the door.  The crackhead had also removed the car battery using a hacksaw.


The crackhead came out and signed a receipt for the sale of the car then Bob headed on his way.  As he looked in the rearview mirror Bob kept thinking that the car looked familiar. Finally he took it to a carwash and sprayed the car down, it looked like new with all the dust removed.desoto01

The interior was in perfect condition, even the fold down interior wooden cargo bed.


As Bob cleaned the car an oil change tag on the driver’s side door caught his attention.  He looked down and saw that he was the last mechanic to do an oil change on this very car.  His signature was still on the sticker.


Bob remembered an old man who used to work at a Desoto dealership.  The fellow used to bring the car to his shop for maintenance and other work.  After the last oil change they never saw him again. When Bob went to file for a salvage title he found that the car was listed as stolen and then he learned the rest of the story.

The old man’s daughter was ecstatic to find that Bob had the car and it was not scrapped. She told Bob that her father passed away shortly after that last oil change and the car had sat in the garage since then.  She visited the car weekly until it disappeared and she figured her crackhead nephew had scrapped it. She met with Bob and gave him all her father’s photo albums and records pertaining to the car.  The car had found its way back to its mechanic and she was happy with that.


Fast forward to a month or two ago and Bob was at a gas station with the Desoto.  An old lady came up to him and explained that her husband had passed away, and would Bob be interested in seeing her husbands Pontiac.


The 1941 Pontiac had been sitting in the barn for 15 years. The price was extremely fair so Bob brought it home.



The original oil change coupons and owner’s manual were in the glovebox, and original tools in the trunk.


Bob gave it a change of fluids, bled the brakes and started driving it.  We went for a ride today and I was really impressed with this survivor. These old cars seem to like to come out of their snug retirement homes so Bob can put them on the road again.  Thanks for the ride Bob!!.


Meet Mabel

I love barn finds, I think most car buffs do.  Nowadays we see alot of garage and self storage finds.  We rarely get to breathe in that musty air and hay and brush dust off a vehicle that has sat for twenty or more years.


A fellow, Brian, contacted me a while back in search of a Willys truck.  He and I looked at an array of trucks posted on ewillys.com. There was a variety available around the country.  Eventually we found a nice restored truck and he decided to buy it.  However he decided that it was not the right time for a truck and we decided to keep looking.  The key phrase was that we,” wait for something closer to the shop.” Insert Mabel.


I kept an eye online for trucks more local, but honestly these vehicles show up when they want to be found, especially the right ones.  A friend and neighbor took a copy of my card one day and mentioned that a friend of his had a Willys truck he wanted to sell and that it was sitting in a barn.

A week or so later I heard from Mr. Gross, we set a time for me to go and see the truck.  Mr. Gross happens to live about two miles from my house, how much closer could we ask for?


When we met up I found that Mr. Gross and I had alot to talk about.  I teach and he is a retired teacher.  We both love to teach kids and adults to work with their hands.  As we chatted I looked over the truck (Mabel is a ’57 Willys) and began to realize that this was the one for my customer.  I took photos and immediately went home to email Brian about what I hoped was his new truck.


Brian agreed that this was the one, and as you can see by the above photo, we moved forward with the purchase.  Mabel was in the Gross family since the 1970s.  The truck worked on their farm in Taneytown, then moved down closer to Westminster.  Mabel sat for years as a father/son project that never fully moved on.  With Mr. Gross’s son now having a master’s degree, he decided it was time to move the truck on.

IMAG0764Mabel is now at our shop awaiting her restoration and then a move to the midwest.  A true barnfind, and another Willys truck to bring back to the road.

Jeeps at Ernie’s

A short while back I posted about vintage Dodge trucks at Ernie Baals’ place.  Now we are going to step back and finish up my visit to Ernie’s with his Jeeps.  The first shot is of a project in his shop.Image

I honestly cannot remember the years of most of them, but I thought folks would enjoy the photos.  The one below was restored by Ernie when he was sixteen and he plans to overhaul it again.Image

Ernie built the Jeep below almost entirely from reproduction parts.  It lasted about 300 miles and chipped a gear.  It sits as of now as a failed experiment and an annoyance to Ernie.Image

If any of you followed or read about our M38 resto rod overhaul (see it here: M38 resto rod ) You know we have seen really screwed up wiring.  Well the Jeep below takes the cake.  I have never seen home lighting switched in a wiring harness.  Kudos to Bubba, you have topped yourself!!ImageImageImage

I had fun sharing stories of Bubbafied Jeeps with Ernie.  He also has found a large amount of old street signs used to rebuild Jeeps.  I started a collection of the street signs we  have removed from Jeeps.

Ernie also has a really nice 1942 GPW that he drives regularly.  I will include it as the grand finale of this post.ImageImageImage

Thanks again to Ernie for helping with the Dodge ambulance project and for showing us around his collection.

Austin Champ barnfind

The arrival of the Texas barnfind Willys MB this week, and some postings I saw about Austin Champs, made me seek out photos of the fun barnfind I purchased years ago.  It was a British military Austin Champ.


At the time I was working summers in a local bicycle shop.  A friend of the owner knew I was into antique Jeeps as I often drove the Willys MB to work.  He asked if I had ever heard of an Austin Champ.  He said his 92 year old father had one in his workshop and wanted to sell it. (on a side note, his father was a neat fellow who worked on the Manhatten project in WW2).

I was intrigued and went home to research the vehicle. As the price was right for a penniless schoolteacher we made an arrangement and my poor put-upon rollback driver, Bob, joined me for the adventure.Image

The extrication was quite interesting.  Brake drums were frozen and a whole pile of oddball items had to be removed to get the Champ out of its shed. The building it was in was a steel workshop built in front of another workshop.  There were even tunnels going into the hillside and under the main house. (The main house was built out of salvage and painted in giant polka-dots!) I actually got lost at one point looking for a light switch.


The Austin Champs were made in the early 1950s and were eventually replaced with the more simple and lightweight Landrovers.   After I worked on the Champ for a while I really felt like it was designed by a committee. Very heavy and over-engineered.  After putting a good amount of work into it I finally sold it and put the time into restoring my father’s ’56 Porsche instead.

Champs are neat vehicles though, and I think less than 900 still exist.  To find out more about them visit the Owners’ Club at: www.Austinchamp.com  I wish I had possessed the time and money to restore the one I owned briefly.  But I know it is happy in its new home.

They’re still out there

So in December of 2011 we built the GPW “Rarotonga” for International Military Antiques and their TV show “Family Guns”. Yes, we restored a jeep in a month.  It was nuts and involved many nights with little to no sleep. Fast forward and that Jeep is now in Texas with a very happy new owner who found out that his neighbor had a 1942 Willys MB stored in the barn.


This Jeep has spent over 20 years doing farm work and has only minor modifications. The seller is the son of the former owner who was in his early 80’s when he passed.


The price was right and I knew when I saw this that I HAD to find it a new home.  The MB has many original parts and a very original engine bay apparently. You can see it needs some steel work but having the original seats, handles, windshield etc.. all say something to me.


The Jeep has already found a new home in Pennsylvania and I am ecstatic!  When it arrives I will post more pictures.  When I find a home for a vintage Jeep I feel like I am finding a new family for an orphaned pet. 😀

In Ford Tribloc we trust

The fun part of dealing with John Barton’s collection is sorting through all the tools and goodies.  Of course the less fun part was moving it all. John lived in a vintage autoshop that had a two story house above it.  There was a trap door into a basement which I believe originally was a machine shop space and such.  All the engines, axles, and other heavy items were down there.  Thank goodness he had this installed above the trapdoor in the garage.


This vintage Ford chain hoist made all the work we did possible in a matter of hours.  It slide back and forth on an I beam.  Below is Pete hooking up an engine for lifting.


The process was slow, but saved our backs.  Without the hoist we would never have been able to empty the place.



We managed to remove all the big items by the end of Saturday morning.  We actually had two pickups and a Uhaul packed by Saturday afternoon.  Below is a photo of Izzy celebrating the last of the engines being loaded in our rental truck.


If you want to see the hoist (and us) in action click here to view a video I uploaded:


Allard and Crosleys at auction

Yes, I know this is supposed to be another post about the Great Willys Picnic, but that will come after this one.  be patient, please 🙂

My friends Bobby, Mike, George and I went out to dinner and then to a local auction this evening.  Our big interest was seeing the 1949 Allard that was up for sale.  Despite all of the cars looking rather decrepit we were still drawn to see what they went for.  There was an Allard, a 1964? Mercedes, and three Crosleys.



While the Allard was covered in surface rust, the steel was complete without any rust through.  Over all much of the car was present amongst the parts piled beside it.  It originally came with a Ford flathead V8, but was outfitted at some point with a Cadillac V8.  The lines of the car are quite striking and it must have been beautiful when new.  The Allard sold for around $18,000.  Next up was a 1964(?) Mercedes.


This car probably ran when it was stored.  It was the second time for the auctioneer selling this very car.  He sold it to the owner of the estate back in 1984.  Doors shut with a satisfying clunk, the interior wood was in great shape, and the car was complete.  It sold for a very reasonable price of $8,000.  I assume this was because they did not start it.  Finally came the Crosleys, led by a 1949 Hotshot.


This was quite an eclectic collection all coming from one estate.  The Hotshot was complete, and not in too bad shape for a barn find.  This would not be a hard restoration though I think it sold a little too high at around $1,700.  If it had been running and in this shape I could have seen that price.  These cars actually became popular in racing circles in the 1950’s.  They were designed so that windshield, bumpers and lights could be stripped down easily for racing.  Even after Crosley’s demise in 1952 these cars were outfitted with a wide variety of engines to play on the race circuits.  I would like to play with one of these someday.  Finally there were a 1947 pickup and convertible.


If I had spare time of any sort and any money whatsoever I would have bid on the pickup.  It needed ALOT of work but would be a cute little parts runner.  It went for $650.00 which seems quite fair.

Okay, stay tuned for more of the Great Willys Picnic next time!!