Some you would sell for a fortune, some you would keep to love, all have a story.
Isn't it funny that the term barn find still exists? In the 21st century, a derelict barn nobody has peered inside of is a rare thing. Barn finds can't be long for this world, and it's unlikely that storage building finds will become a thing. If we've learned anything by watching too much of Storage Wars, it's that after a certain amount of time without the bills being paid, the cold-hearted owner will crack the lock with a pair of bolt cutters and auction the contents to a loud guy with a personality disorder.
Still, barn finds are still happening and there's quite a history to look back on with some staggering discoveries and some just as staggering stories. But we're using the term 'barn find' loosely here and to simply mean cars that were lost then found again, so save your comments.
Most of us would be happy to discover a couple of delivery mileage BMW E30 M3s and call it a solid day's work. Just a Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II on its own is a piece of enthusiast fun and automotive history worth owning. But to find all that and a Ford RS200 with just a thousand miles on the clock? That's a stunning find, to say the least. It was made by someone, only known as Mark, after he showed off his find on a BMW forum. According to the post, he was buying the M3s as an investment for his sons when he came across them and then got the first refusal on the other cars. That's dad of the millennium material right there.
For the more classically minded, it doesn't get much better than a Ferrari 250 GT California barn find. This one was unearthed in the Baillon barn find collection in France. The collection of treasures had been hidden away by a wealthy collector and then forgotten about for decades, but were saved from being crushed by a shipping magnate named Roger Baillon. The collection was mostly made up of obscure coachbuilt French cars and the whole collection went at auction for an eye-watering $28.5 million, but the 250 GT made up the lion's share by bringing in $18 million of the final number.
Only 25 Ferrari 166 MM Barchettas were made. With that in mind, you would expect it to have been found in some rich part of Europe. However, this one was found in Arizona covered in old rugs and junk. It had previously been shipped from Switzerland to Arizona by a US serviceman that bought it for a man named Reg Lee Litton. Litten drove his 166 MM Barchetta regularly until the engine failed and he left it in his yard.
It stayed in the desert under its warm blankets after the owner died and until his children discovered it and put it up for auction. They landed a cool $1.87 million for one of the cars that put Ferrari on the map. Or all over it, if you like.
While we're talking about Ferraris and amazing stories, the Dino 246 GTS a couple of kids found buried in the yard of a Los Angeles home is breathtaking. It was found in the late 1970s, and the police traced it back as a stolen car from 1974. The mystery of how and why it got there remained until Jalopnik did some detective work and told the most likely story.
The story is that that the owner was performing an insurance scam and hired a couple of guys to steal and break it for parts, but either they couldn't do it to such a beautiful car or thought they had a better plan. Most likely, they found a mechanic's pit in someone's yard and dumped it there and filled in the hole, planning to come back later. It was later purchased from the insurance company by a man called Brad Howard, who restored it surprisingly easily and drove it regularly.
This is one of the most Californian car stories you'll come across. Only 29 aluminum-bodied Mercedes 300SL Gullwings were built, and this one was given to Californian teenager Tom Wellmer by his parents as a graduation gift. In 1971, the transmission called it a day and Wellmer put in the garage and forgot about it. 20 years later, an enthusiast traced it to him and managed to convince Wellmer to sell the car for $2.5 million.
This particular find (CSX2287) was the first of only six built, and it's the one that foreshadowed the GT40 by beating Ferrari on its own turf. It also burst into flames, made 23 national and international speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and spent 30 years in a storage unit. After thrashing the CSX2287, Carroll Shelby sold the Daytona to a toy company owner called Jim Russell for $4,500. It found its way into the hands of eccentric music producer Phil Spector, who drove it around Los Angeles. Spector got so many tickets with it that his lawyer suggested he sell it, so he did.
Spector sold it to his bodyguard, George Brand, for a mere $1,000, who then gave it his daughter Donna O'Hara. She did what any young woman would do with an incredible race car, and stuck it a storage unit and paid the rent every month for 30 years.
Nobody knows why she did that, and that includes Shelby who went to visit the car but she wouldn't even open the screen door and talk to him. The location of the Shelby Daytona became a badly kept secret, but O'Hara wouldn't sell until, eventually, someone was persistent and persuasive enough. The actual number paid for it is unknown but was likely around $4 million.
We can only wish the story ended there as things got dark immediately after the sale. O'Hara willed the money from the sale to her mother and then set herself on fire. Her suicide sparked a legal battle, that even Phil Spector got involved in, over the legality of the sale, which eventually held up in court. Unrelated but worth a footnote, Spector himself is currently in prison for murdering the actress Lana Clarkson in his mansion.
Rudi Caracciola was German racing driver, nay, racing legend. He raced for Silver Arrows, won the pre-1950 equivalent of the modern Formula One World Championship and the European Hillclimbing Championship three times. He was also the man nicknamed Regenmeister, or "Rainmaster," for his driving ability in the wet. When you match that kind of name to an ultra-rare Mercedes such as his 1 of 1 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K, you have a real piece of history and engineering art sitting on four wheels.
Unfortunately, Rudi Caracciola's 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K disappeared for 30 years before journalist Michael Mraz found it. If you're seeing the pattern towards the end of this list, then you already know it was discovered in LA. More specifically, of all places, in South Central and sitting on flat tires in a neglected building amongst a pile of similarly rotting automotive wonders.
As for where it is now... it's in the hands of Ben Klein, the son of the man who owned the collection. It's been kept a secret, but chances are it's being restored by Mercedes for their museum.