Wikipedia defines "barn find" as the discovery of a classic car or a motorcycle in a doomed state of existence. The term was so named because such vehicles have a tendency to be found in “barns, sheds, carports, and outbuildings,” per Wikipedia. While only cars of great interests or historical significance are technically considered barn finds, the definition has become looser over the years. Even common, mundane cars from the past have become “barn finds.”
Sometimes these barn finds are so huge that you find numerous cars in one location. For instance, in 2014, about 60 derelict cars were found in Western France. It wasn’t exactly a barn, as much as a farm, which was hiding cars like the Ferrari California Spyder owned by a European film star. Take a guess as to how much that car was worth? It was bought for close to $20M at an auction. Other hotshots were discovered, too, including the Talbot Lago T26 owned by King Farouk of Egypt; a Bugatti, Delahaye (French), a Delage (French), and the like were also discovered.
Those were good cars, cars that were part of either a great lineup of a highly acclaimed individual. And then you have the “other type” of barn find. These aren't your average—which also exist but aren't included here—but well below-average cars. Unlike the good barn finds, these cars were probably left because no one wanted to drive them.
20 Sickest: 1957 Corvette Airbox Racer
If my sources are valid, about 43 of these Airbox Racer Corvettes were produced. These cars were used for racing, and out of the 43, only 17 or 18 exist currently. This one here was left to rot in a rural Ohio barn in the 1970s, which it did for a while, I guess, until someone bought it. Around the same time, Corvette restoration artist Joel Lauman heard about this car and worked hard to search for the owner. After locating the owner, he convinced the owner for it to be restored to show condition.
Corvettes have a charm of their own, and I guess back then was no different. I couldn’t easily find if money was exchanged in this or not, but there had to be some for a thing of which only 17 or 18 exist.
19 Sickest: Three Citroen 2CV Prototypes
While these prototypes are treasured, I have no way of assessing their beauty or value. I mean, the design of these cars goes back to the Second World War, so I’m not sure how to compare the design.
These cars were like your Ford Model T, essentially, as they were built with utility and straightforwardness in mind to help the large farmer population of France.
The production of Citroen 2CV lasted for about 40 years, but that’s not what’s pictured here. They're the precious prototypes instead. It was the fear of the destruction that war causes that led some of the workers to hide these prototype cars so well that they were discovered a good 55 years later. It was a surprise when discovered, as everything else was believed to have been destroyed.
18 Sickest: Mercedes-Benz 190 SL
If you think today’s SL-Class is something, well, then you're certainly right. But so were the ones from the 1950s. Here’s the story behind this picture. So, this guy was walking with his father when he got a glance at the front of this car. The guy, being a car enthusiast, inspected closer and found something to be covered in a dirty cover. "Interesting," he thought. So, the next day, he went and inquired more about the car and was able to look more closely. His interest piqued, and he eventually bought it. The car had been sitting for about a decade, housing rodents, droppings, and even a dog, as evident from the hair left in the car. It’s a nice-looking car. The grille of the Mercedes SL looked pleasant, even back then.
17 Sickest: 1963 Aston Martin DB4 Convertible
Aston Martin, or fully known as "Aston Martin Lagonda Limited," was, at one point, owned by David Brown Limited, which itself was owned by David Brown. When he acquired Aston Martin, he literally saved the company. It’s the initials of his name that you see so often, so “Aston Martin DB” should be making more sense now. Well, here’s a rare barn find. Initially, an Oxford University Professor owned it, and he sold it in 1978. It had about 60K miles on it. It’s an Aston Martin, so you know what that means, right? It's worth a decent sum of money. That happens to be the case for any Aston Martin, let alone an item found in a barn. And, in fact, this one was auctioned for $440K in 2011.
16 Sickest: 1972 De Tomaso Pantera
You see some of the top-notch names, like Ferrari and Aston Martin, and you instantly come to the conclusion that such cars will rake in a lot of money. True. But here’s something a little outside the box, if you will. It’s a sports car from Argentina.
The De Tomaso Pantera was a mid-engine sports car in Argentina from 1971-1992.
With an Italian designer, the car was produced with racing in mind. The one you see here is from 1972, was last registered in 1982, and could garner anywhere from $50K to 100K after restoration. This was actually found by a group of people who search for cars lost in the barn. The people who found this car were genuinely happy with it, so cheers to that.
15 Sickest: 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS
People needed to do some digging with this—it was hidden under the ground, seriously. Apparently, two kids were playing around in the front yard of a suburban home when they sensed something beneath the mud. They got the police involved and, lo and behold, the digging began.
Excavated was an Ferrari Dino with optional Campagnolo wheels and Daytona seats.
Some say it was insurance fraud, while others say it was an act of loot. Whatever it was, something was fishy, as the intakes were carefully covered with towels and the top had a rug to decrease the rate of deterioration. The car was recovered in good condition and was sold off to a local business, only to be owned by the cop who helped unearth it; it was valued at around half a million dollars.
14 Sickest: 1950 Ferrari 166MM
Well, here’s another Ferrari. I think Ferrari has been in existence for so long—especially in the racing arena—that finding a few of these in a “barn” is inevitable. Anyway, about 25 of these were made, and nearly all of them exist. Here’s the story of this one. This American guy was living in Europe and saw a 166MM at a showroom in Switzerland. Intrigued, he called his friend, Litton, who was more knowledgeable about Ferraris, and Litton asked the friend to buy the Ferrari. Litton raced it locally, with friends, until it broke one day. He put a rug on it and left it to decay. The engine wasn't the only thing taken away; at some point, even the rug got taken away, leaving the car to open air.
It was bought for a million dollars.
13 Sickest: 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atlante
Annnd, here’s a Bugatti. The only thing you likely won’t find in this article is a Lamborghini. It was first owned by Earl Howe, the founder of the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Only 17 of these bad boys were built, so you can see that it’s a precious item. About 18 years later, it reached the hands of a surgeon, Dr. Harold Carr. I guess he was a rather rich surgeon, for surgeons make money, but not the kind of money that allows them to own and operate a Bugatti. Nevertheless, Dr. Carr drove this for three years, after which he just parked it in his garage. It was discovered and sold 37 years later after his death in 2007. Well, the car raked in about $4.2M at the auction.
12 Sickest: 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
This was owned by a resolute owner. For one, the car sat for 14 years, waiting for restoration somewhere in Ohio. Owner Joe Korton bought it in 1972 but left it in his garden with a couple of companions—the guy had enough capital flow. And if you were a child of his house, you might've used its bonnet as a slide because some kids did for sure, says carthrottle.com. It wasn’t just any GTO, though. No, this one was raced by racing driver Innes Ireland in the past, and he even reached out to Korton to get his hands on the 250 GTO, but Korton was determined and didn’t yield. It was only in 1986 that the car found a new home and was restored by a Swiss collector. It’s worth over tens of millions of dollars, apparently.
11 Sickest: 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona
It would be an understatement to say this was a historic car. Made for auto racing, these cars did more than a fabulous job in the races.
Only six were ever made, and then, these cars were illegally flown back to the States from England.
But the calculation was off; in 2001, only five were accounted for, with no record of the sixth one. That was until a woman’s home revealed the sixth one after she had lit herself on fire. Turns out, her father had bought the car and had just given to her. When found, this car was worth over $4M—compare that to the initial price of $5K. The car was a great asset to Americans. It represented a car that beat Enzo Ferrari at his own game.
10 Worst: Mercedes-Benz W123
This isn't a project car, folks. Just look at the picture. Yet, it was listed on eBay as one—and the owner was even asking for money for this piece. The picture you see above is from a model that was in production from 1976 through 1985. I mean, these cars were good-looking back in their time and, even now, are decent, but to buy the one you see here is a bit extreme. There are layers on top of layers of things you don’t want to deal with. The interior is the only thing that doesn’t look that bad, although no one can guarantee that to be rodent-free. The car hasn’t moved an inch in the last 20 years, and the owner is asking for $340, according to motor1.com.
9 Worst: 1972 Mini Cooper
These cars can easily be passed off as miniature cars. They look nice and are all cozy with their compact nature. I don’t see much wrong with this car—wait—except for some problems with the flimsy sunroof, maybe, as it shakes when other doors are shut closed. Or maybe, that was just the case just for some models. Anyway, here’s a car “barn find.” I put that phrase in quotes because it’s a stretched-out definition of "barn find," for the car is in terrible condition.
Some of the major parts are there, but the entire structure has disintegrated so much that it’s difficult to call this collective piece of debris a “car.”
The 1972 Mini has a few bits salvageable, but besides that, it's listed as a tax-exempt Mini in the UK.
8 Worst: 1965 VW Van
This is essentially your microbus, which VW has been producing in one form or another since the 1950s. Unlike the car in the previous entry, this one actually has its body in one piece. If you look at the car, the very first thing you notice is how rusty the Bus is, which is expected, considering it comes from having sat in a place in Pennsylvania that’s no stranger to all the four seasons. While you can’t see it in this picture, the next thing to notice in other pictures would be the gaping hole where the powertrain sits. Yes, it’s missing the entire powertrain. The interior is a little more stable, although even that’s nothing unique. Overall, I’m not sure why the owner was asking for around $5K for this 11-window Bus.
7 Worst: 1977 Ford Pinto
Ah, the Pinto. Hopefully, you were expecting a Pinto on this list. It’s a car that's disappointed almost everyone; the only people who weren’t disappointed were those who never owned this car. It’s like our generation’s Pontiac Aztek—no, worse, actually. At least the Aztek wasn’t known to have such a cheap design that the fuel tank’s placement was unsafe. And if I recall correctly, that’s how the complaints started with the Pinto. Someone got hit, and the car caught on fire. The rest is history.
Here’s a barn find. This 1977 Pinto hasn’t been touched for 21 years.
It was listed on Craigslist for $1K, but honestly, given that it’s a Pinto, people aren't exactly excited about it. Even if you restore the barn find, you’ll be still left with a Pinto (barnfinds.com).
6 Worst: 1975 AMC Pacer
The Pacer wasn’t liked by people a few years after its release, and neither is it liked now. The design of this car was supposed to be all novel and unique, flourishing with innovativeness. To that end, AMC made the passenger door a little longer. But all that did was create difficulties with securing items in the back. And if you look at the overall design of the car, you're instantly reminded of a fishbowl, a duck beak, or a spaceship—none of which are relevant to a car. Here you can see a barn-find Pacer. It looks like it’s holding up decently well, and even the interior seems to be doing okay, but the owner states it'll need a complete overhaul. We're unsure about its value (barnfinds.com).
5 Worst: 1974 AMC Gremlin
Wikipedia says the ‘70s was the decade of the “pet rocks, shag carpets, platform shoes, and the AMC Gremlin.” That should say something about the popularity of the Gremlin. Apparently, teenagers were in love with this car, and high school parking lots reflected that; you couldn’t go to school parking lots without seeing a bunch of these around. While 671K units were sold in the eight years that it was produced, the car lost its charm rather quickly. Now, it just comes off as a marred car.
The one pictured here was found in Washington, enclosed by walls in all directions, which were taken apart to get access to this car.
It seems like the car has 27K miles, and the asking price is around $7K, according to hemmings.com.
4 Worst: 1962 Chevy Corvair Monza Coupe
The car seems like a good choice, as it’s a coupe. But wait until you learn more. Corvairs weren't that safe or reliable back in the days. The one thing you can definitely thank this car is for setting the stage for the Camaro, which came into production after the Corvair lineup was discontinued. The car had the engine in the back and, apparently, that led to the Corvair having a higher frequency of accidents. Lawsuits weren't uncommon for this car, and Ralph Nader took this car apart in his book Unsafe at Any Speed. Well, here it is, in the form of a barn find. It has 100K miles and has been sitting for a good number of decades (topclassiccarsforsale.com). Not sure what about this would intrigue you.
3 Worst: 1958 Edsel Ranger
The Edsel Ranger wasn't the best decision made by Ford. In fact, the entire Edsel division wasn't the best move by Ford. The Ranger was supposed to be a high-end car from Ford, but with the recession in late 1957, it came to be known as the wrong car at the wrong time. No one liked these, so sales plummeted, and it took Ford only three years before doing away with the Edsel division altogether. The body is unique to the Ranger, to say the least. The one you see here is a barn find, on sale for a little over $4K. While the shape of the exterior is visible to you, the invisible interior is a bit more cringe-worthy, especially the floor, since it looks all rusty.
2 Worst: Chevy Vega
I couldn’t find any information on this Chevy Vega, but it looks like it was literally found in front of a barn. The surrounding land is filled with grass but no other edifice. As you can see in the picture, the car looks to be in a terrible condition. It's probably been sitting around for easily a few decades. These cars were supposed to compete with the likes of the VW Beetle.
In fact, 1971 was the year that it won Motor Trend Car of the Year award.
But the reliability of American cars was so out of control back in the '60s and the '70s that it was only a few years until the news of engines catching on fire emerged; rusting body didn’t matter much at that point. This car almost destroyed GM, says popularmecahnics.com.
1 Worst: GM EV1
This was America’s first effort at mass-produced EVs. And naturally, the product failed. The GM EV1s were produced because GM—much like other companies—had thought the environment-friendly CARB law would take effect soon. Well, that didn’t happen, but GM had produced a little over 1K units of the EV1. This was all in 1999, so you can imagine the limitations in range and power of these cars. There are three unique things about these cars. One, they were never sold, just leased. Two, GM tried to recall and destroy all the units after the CARB law didn’t go into effect. Lastly, conspiracy theorists believed GM had destroyed all units to keep its advanced technology safe. Well, you're more than welcome to check out that technology in this barn find, conspiracy theorists.
Sources: barnfinds.com; wikipedia.org