CLASSIC CAR FINDS

Words: Tom Stewart

Few classic car enthusiasts haven’t dreamt of stumbling across a ‘barn find’ – some dusty but hopefully complete old bentley or bugatti. we spoke with eight car experts who did just that.

 

Barn Finds
Lambourghinis in a barn

In early October social media was buzzing with images of dusty Lamborghinis apparently just discovered in a Texan barn, but the most high profile find of recent times, perhaps ever, was what became known as the Baillon Collection. In mid 2014 news broke of 100 rare cars found languishing in various sheds at a French castle. The collection had been assembled over many years by the late Roger Baillon, a French entrepreneur & passionate car collector, but he’d never got around to restoring them. In February 2015, 60 of the Baillon cars were offered by Parisian auction house Artcurial and every one sold for a total of over €25 million, with one very special Ferrari realising €16.3 million.

There are even barn find computer games now, but the reality is that discoveries of neglected but valuable classic cars have always been rare, and in more recent times they’ve become increasingly uncommon. Furthermore, actually finding the car is often the easy part, so we asked a few seasoned experts to recount their tales…

Chris Routledge, CEO, Coys

Mercedes 300SL


 

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

 

“Back in the late 1980s I worked for 1950s Mercedes 300SL specialist Porters in Kensington. I was up in Market Drayton for some reason, chatting about old cars, and someone mentioned that there might be a dormant 300SL Gullwing somewhere in the area.

“I returned to the office in London and started leafing through a 300SL owners’ register of the early 1970s. Most of the owners were in the USA, but there was one, a Malcolm Doyle, in Worcestershire. I got onto directory enquiries, obtained a number, called him, and eureka, he still had the Gullwing!

“I drove straight there the following morning and met Mr Doyle and his family, but he was far more interested in showing me his green VW Beetle convertible… Eventually he took me to a shed with half its roof missing, and there was the Gullwing. The car hadn’t moved in 30 years and it had sunk into the ground up to its axles. Mr Doyle, an oilman, explained that he was soon to return to Malaysia for three years before retiring and so he was open to offers. We agreed on £74,000, and the next day we dug it out with a pickaxe and spades, loaded it onto a trailer and took it to London.

“The car had the desirable Rudge ‘knock-off’ wheels, and it was still in its original and very unusual burgundy paint with burgundy plaid interior. It transpired that it was also the 1954 Brussels show car, which made it even more special – another reason why it soon became part of Bernie Ecclestone’s personal collection. It’s since been owned by the ex F1 and Le Mans winning racing driver Vern Schuppan.”

Chris Routledge, CEO, Coys

Mercedes 300SL

“The car hadn’t moved in 30 years and it had sunk into the ground up to its axles”

 

 

PETER DRON, RETIRED MOTORING JOURNALIST/EDITOR

Gombert Collection


 

Gerard Gombert
Gerard Gombert

 

“This is an amazing barn find, but unfortunately minus the barn. I first became aware of the cars at the side of the Draguignan-Grasse road near Fayence (about 45 minutes from Cannes) over 20 years ago, but I had no idea that the festering collection was so remarkable and knew nothing of the sad story behind it.

“I saw the eccentric, white-haired and white-bearded Gérard Gombert occasionally, and when I first noticed his 1970s Mercedes CE parked on the verge it was still in regular use, but in recent years it gradually merged into the undergrowth and became mostly rust brown.

“I once stopped to pass the time of day with his donkey grazing on the opposite side of the road, and spotted some interesting cars amongst the trees, notably several BMW 2002s. “Gombert died recently, aged 77. He had raced motorcycles and later ran a successful car business on the Côte d’Azur. He was well known in racing and rallying circles and to showbiz stars, but he became increasingly reclusive, preferring the company of his dogs, cats and Pompon the donkey to that of human beings. Obsessively, he kept collecting cars and motorcycles.

“More than 150 of his cars and motorbikes went under Parisian auction house Osenat’s hammer in Fayence on 10th November. There were nine Alpines, including the highly desirable A110, but also an A210 Le Mans racer (which sold for €872,800). There were also cars as diverse as a 1932 Citroën Torpedo, a 1958 AC Bristol, an FX4 London taxi and a Rover 90 that had also been used as a cab. Although some of the starting prices appeared optimistic, Lot 371 for example – five Mercedes, including the roadside CE – started at €100 (the lot eventually sold for €1,750). Gombert bought two new Lamborghini Miuras, and some of one, complete with engine, was up for sale (Lot 300), selling for €150,000. He cut the car in half some time ago to save a tree that had grown up through it.”

PETER DRON, RETIRED MOTORING JOURNALIST/EDITOR

Gombert collection

“Gombert cut a Lamborghini Miura in half to save a tree that had grown up through it”

 

 

ANTHONY GODIN, OWNER, GODIN SPORTING CARS & MOTORCYCLES LTD.

Porsche 911 ST


 

Porsche 911 ST
Porsche 911 ST

 

“I’ve had a few barn finds over the years, notably an Aston DB5 and a complete Brough SS80 motorcycle in bits, but about 15 years ago I was at a race meeting at Monza, the Coppa Europa I think it was. A few of us were talking cars, and this Italian gent who I’d not met before, Mario Illote, mentioned to me that he had a 911 in his garage down the road in Milan that he wished to sell. I wasn’t that interested at first, but he phoned me later and persuaded me to take a look at it, which I duly did.

“It soon transpired that it wasn’t just any old 911, but a pukka early ‘70s 2.5-litre 911 ST. The ST wasn’t an individual model, but a standard 911S became an ST when retro-fitted with one of about 50 kits produced and supplied by Porsche’s racing division.

“Just by looking at it I could tell that the car obviously hadn’t been driven or even moved in years. In conversation Illote told me that his grandmother had been the first woman to compete in the Targa Florio road race, and that he’d driven the 911 in many events including the 1971 Targa Florio and Le Mans 24hr races – it retired after five hours in the latter due to a broken piston.

“I have to say that as the car’s rarity, provenance and potential value unfolded, the more nervous I became about it. On top of that, I think Illote wanted the equivalent of about £80,000 for the car, and that kind of money I simply didn’t have at the time, a time when an ordinary ‘70s 911s were trading for around £10-15,000.

“Unable to do a deal myself, I persuaded Illote to consign the car to a Coys auction, for whom I was then doing some freelance work. He agreed, so we shipped the car to London and entered it into a True Greats sale at the Royal Horticultural Halls in around 2002. From memory I think it sold for something over £100,000. I’ve no idea where the car is now, but I still have that broken piston!”

ANTHONY GODIN, OWNER, GODIN SPORTING CARS & MOTORCYCLES LTD.

Porsche 911 ST

“As the car’s rarity, provenance and potential value unfolded, the more nervous I became about it”

 

 

CARL HARTLEY, CO-DIRECTOR, TOM HARTLEY CARS LTD.

Ferrari 512 BB


 

Ferrari 512 BB

 

“One Sunday about two years ago I took a call from an older guy in Lanzarote. He had a right-hand-drive 1979 Ferrari 512BB – a rare car with just 101 built. He said he’d had it from new and had taken it to Lanzarote about 30 years ago, and that it hadn’t been driven for at least 15 years.

“I flew straight out there. The owner met me at the airport and drove me to his house, which was way inland in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by absolutely nothing. The car was in the garage, but it was surrounded by so much stuff that I could barely see it. It took us at least an hour and a half to clear all the clutter out of the way, but even when that was done the car was so covered in dust I couldn’t tell whether it was red or brown.

“Anyway, it was a totally original one-owner car with just 20,000 miles from new, so we struck a deal. I then found two local garage mechanics and paid them €100 each to come over and get the car running, which they did. By this time it was approaching midnight, but I was on a roll so I drove it the 15 miles to the docks in the hope that there’d be a shipping company there that could bring it back to the UK.

“It didn’t drive too well. The lights were dim, the brakes were lousy and the throttle kept sticking open so I had to use the clutch and handbrake to slow down. With help from the team in the office I located a shipping firm, left the car with them and flew back home.

“Once back in the UK we treated the car to a full restoration which took about a year. The engine, suspension and all mechanicals were rebuilt by Graypaul Ferrari, while other specialists dealt with the cosmetics, bringing it to the condition it’s in today. “Sadly I don’t have any photos of the car as I found it in Lanzarote as I’ve changed phones twice since then, but it’s listed on our website under Current Inventory.”

CARL HARTLEY, CO-DIRECTOR, TOM HARTLEY CARS LTD.

Ferrari 512 BB

“The car was so covered in dust I couldn’t tell whether it was red or brown”

 

 

JONATHAN FRANKLIN, SALES MANAGER, HEXAGON MODERN CLASSICS

Porsche 911 964


 

Porsche 911 964
Porsche 911 964

 

“We’ve found a few cars in peculiar places, but I’ve a particular favourite, not least because it’s mine and I intend to keep it! It’s a 1990 Porsche 911 964 Carrera 2 coupé, and the car had a couple of owners before becoming the property of a woman in Sussex, who at some point had parked it in her garage and left it there.

“It was discovered by a pawnbroker some 10 years later, or about six months ago. I can only speculate as to why the pawnbroker and the by-now old lady were in touch with each other, but they came to some arrangement whereby the pawnbroker became the car’s new owner. He then contacted me with a view to selling so I went down to look at the car, and bought it.

“It was covered in thick dust – a good sign as the garage was evidently dry – and was in completely untouched original condition, in Guards Red with a Linen leather interior. It also had a full service history up until 10 years ago, and just 42,000 miles on the clock. It was perfectly preserved, apart from perished rubber seals, which I’ve recently replaced. I’m in the process of re-commissioning – it’s an air-cooled engine so there’s no cooling system corrosion to worry about – but it’s been serviced with oil and filter changes, and new tyres because the old ones were square. I’ve only driven it short distances so far and it runs and drives as it should with no tell-tale smoke, although when it’s been properly up to temperature a few times it’s possible it may need attention to the valve stems, but that’s a straightforward job. We’ll see.”

JONATHAN FRANKLIN, SALES MANAGER, HEXAGON MODERN CLASSICS

Porsche 911 964

“It was covered in thick dust and was in completely untouched original condition”

 

 

SIMON KIDSTON, FOUNDER, KIDSTON SA

Alfa Romeo Tipo 33


 

Alfa Romeo Tipo 33
Alfa Romeo Tipo 33

 

“I wasn’t the man who discovered the 1968 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/2 in Africa – a family friend did – but I’ve been closely involved with it over the years, and it’s a tale worth telling.

“Following a front-line racing career in Europe at the hands of drivers like Nino Vaccarella and Lucien Bianchi, a works Tipo 33 was sold to a Portuguese privateer in Angola. He raced the car there and apparently won everything he entered, but after a while the engine required a rebuild, and spare parts had become even harder to obtain as the civil war intensified. So, in the mid ‘70s the owner sold it to his Portuguese mechanic, who left it at his brother-in-law’s scrapyard, while the former owner returned to live in Portugal.

“While in Angola on business in 1986, my French car-loving friend heard about the Alfa from his interpreter: “You like old cars? I know where there is one.” He eventually found the Alfa under a tarpaulin at the scrapyard. It was well preserved thanks to the hot, dry climate, but the cockpit was home to a family of Black Widow spiders, and there was the dried skin of a large Mamba snake on the floor.

“The next step was to find the car’s mechanic owner, who by this time had also returned to Portugal. He in turn was tracked down to a suburban flat in Lisbon, lying in bed with a broken leg. Fuelled by whisky, the subsequent negotiations continued into the small hours. The final agreement involved cash, a Cortina engine (to be delivered to the seller’s family still in Angola), a motorcycle and a JVC video/TV!

“But the French buyer’s troubles had only just begun. Extracting the Alfa from a country torn by war, where bribery and corruption was rife, took two whole years and involved smuggling US dollars into the country in his underwear.

“Eventually the car was flown to France in 1994, when I first saw it in all its derelict glory. The French owner had intended to embark on a restoration, but I eventually persuaded him to offer the Alfa for sale at a Coys auction – I was the organiser at the time – in December ’94. It sold back to Italy, unrestored, for £115,000. The Italian buyer subsequently had the car restored there, and it returned to racing.

“Then last year my firm brokered the $1.5 million deal which saw the same Alfa pass to its current owner in the US.”

SIMON KIDSTON, FOUNDER, KIDSTON SA

Alfa Romeo Tipo 33

“Extracting the Alfa from a country torn by war, where bribery and corruption was rife, took two whole years”

 

 

SIMON KIDSTON, FOUNDER, KIDSTON SA

Ferrari 250 GT SWB


 

Ferrari 250 GT SWB
Ferrari 250 GT SWB

 

“It was widely reported that a certain 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spyder, along with the many other dusty old cars belonging to the Baillon family, was discovered in 2014. Not true; thanks to a friend in the French registration offices I’d tracked it down some five years earlier.

“A major collecting client wanted the car, and was willing to pay a knockout price to own it, so I commenced negotiations with the family. The discussions continued off and on for years, but the family was very evasive. Then, in December 2014, news of the Baillol ‘barn find’ broke, and along with it the announcement that the collection was to be auctioned by Artcurial in Paris in February 2015. I spoke to our client and after much deliberation the night before the auction we decided to bid and set a price limit.

“The auction was pandemonium as 3,000 people turned up to watch, and I did the bidding on behalf of our client. The estimate was €9.5-12 million, and we won the car for €16.3 million – actually a lower figure than we had anticipated, and less than he was prepared to pay. Patience paid off.”

SIMON KIDSTON, FOUNDER, KIDSTON SA

Ferrari 250 GT SWB

“The estimate was €9.5-12 million, and we won the car for €16.3 million”

 

 

NICK MEE, MANAGING DIRECTOR, NICHOLAS MEE & CO.

Aston Martin DB4 GT


 

Aston Martin DB4 GT

 

“There was a DB5 Convertible I went to see near Denham in Bucks. It was about 1993 and the market was in deep recession at the time. I first noticed the car was missing its roof, but when I looked into the driver’s footwell I could see the ground beneath, as it also had no floor. It was a total basket case. Back then it would have cost about £90,000 to restore, and with the work done it would have been worth no more than that. And it wasn’t going cheap, so I walked away.

“At around the same time there was a classic dealership in Scotland in financial straights. I bought a DB4GT from them for £73,000. It wasn’t a barn find as such as it had been resprayed and detailed, but the car was otherwise original. Victor Gauntlett [Aston Martin’s Chairman from 1981 to 1991] brought his pal and prospective customer Prince Michael of Kent round to have a look and I took him for a couple of laps of Hyde Park. I sold it for a small profit to someone else soon after, and since then it’s been converted into an FIA-spec racer, owned by Lord Drayson and more recently fully restored, for about £200,000. The car passed through my workshops recently for a mechanical inspection, and it’s now worth a cool £2.5 million.”

NICK MEE, MANAGING DIRECTOR, NICHOLAS MEE & CO.

Aston Martin DB4 GT

“Prince Michael of Kent came round to have a look and I took him for a couple of laps of Hyde Park”

 

 

Future Classics

We’ve seen some spectacular examples of classic cars hidden away in barns, often untouched or unseen for decades, which go on to realise a significant increase in value at sale or auction. As for the ‘future classics,’ the values will be driven by the rarity, provenance and – ultimately – desirability of the cars

In our view, the Jaguar XJ220 could be a strong contender to be a future classic. Jaguar produced fewer than 300 of these supercars, priced at £470,000 in 1992 (roughly £910,000 when adjusted for inflation). For a two-seater it’s a beast, both in terms of size and performance (having clocked 217.1mph in a test at Nardo, it held the Guinness World Record as the fastest standard production car between 1994 to 1999).

A favourite on many bedroom walls in the 70’s and 80’s, the V12 Lamborghini Countach is another strong contender as a future classic. It’s iconic, instantly recognisable and garnering attention from collectors: At an auction in 2014, a 1982 model that had sat dormant for 23 years was valued at £160,000 but sold for twice that figure.

At JBR Capital, we’re passionate about classic cars, and can build a bespoke finance package suited to your needs. If you’re interested in buying your own future – or current – classic car, call one of our experts today on 020 3355 0035 to explore your finance options.

Barn Finds

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