HomeThe Market2014 top stories: No. 7 — ‘Barn-find’ mania at the auctions

2014 top stories: No. 7 — ‘Barn-find’ mania at the auctions


The barn-find 1954 Jaguar Xk 120SE will be presented at Auctions America just as it was found | Auctions America
A rusty, dirty barn-find 1954 Jaguar Xk 120SE sold twice at two major auctions during 2014 | Auctions America

Probably the best poster car for the seemingly insatiable rise of “barn-find” classic cars during 2014 was the British sale of what was most-likely the worst Ferrari Dino ever brought to auction, bar none.

That would be the incredibly rusted-out 1973 Dino that had stood neglected in a soggy English garage with a leaky roof for nearly 40 years. The car was so bad that even the auction house, Silverstone, described it as “rotten as a pear.”

Though probably only good for its low-mileage V6 drivetrain parts, the Dino sold for an astonishing $222,000, including auction fee.

Nearly four decades under a leaky garage roof decimated this low-mileage Ferrari Dino | Silverstone Auctions
Four decades in a leaky garage decimated this Dino | Silverstone Auctions

The car does have the interesting back story of a speeding driver who had outrun pursuing police, then hid the car in the garage because he was afraid of being caught driving it again. It has just 13,942 miles on its odometer, but that seems fairly irrelevant considering its scary state of being.

The sale speaks to the strength of the barn-find mania that has been sweeping through the collector-car world (original dirt became a major selling point), fueled by the preservation movement for old original cars or the lure of restoring a distressed relic, as well as the romance associated with the re-discovery of a lost treasure.

Or many lost treasures, such as the amazing recent discovery of a forgotten trove of 60 highly desirable European classics – Ferraris, Bugattis, Maseratis, Talbot Lagos and many other rarities – that were hidden away on a French estate. Left to the elements in open sheds for decades, the cars are in various stages of decay, but they will be brought to auction as-is in February by Artcurial Motorcars at the Retromobile showcase in Paris.

A little closer to home, last January’s Scottsdale/Phoenix auctions saw its share of dusty, musty derelict cars coming out of long-time storage. The Gooding & Company sale scored serious money for an as-found 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing needing everything that roared to $1.88 million, including fee, while an impeccably restored Gullwing went for considerably less at the same auction.

This burnt and neglected 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider sold for more than $2 million | Larry Edsall
This burnt and neglected 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider sold for more than $2 million | Larry Edsall

That and a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider sold at Gooding for more than $2 million, despite being fire-damaged and suffering from many years of neglect.

Auctions America’s spring auction in Auburn featured the ruins of a Jaguar XK 120 SE drophead coupe that was hauled from a Georgia barn and still wore a coating of red crud, which blended nicely with its rusted panels. It sold for just over $45,000, including auction fee.

The Georgia red-clay Jaguar appeared again in the same condition in August at Bonham’s Quail Lodge auction in Monterey, California, where it sold for $42,500, including auction fee, apparently having lost even more of its luster.

The first-ever online sale from Auctions America also featured British sports-car barn finds, a 1960 AC Ace Bristol roadster that sold for $176,000 and a 1953 Aston Martin DB2 coupe that reached $94,600, each of which sold well above expectations despite needing extensive restoration. Some beat-up domestic cars in as-found but restorable condition sold at more reasonable no-reserve prices: a 1953 Packard Caribbean convertible went for $6,390 and a sorry-looking 1964 Buick Riviera garnered just $1,760.

For yet another favorite result from the year of the barn find, we return to England for the sale by Bonhams in June of a highly desirable 1955 Vincent 998cc Black Prince motorcycle that went for a total of $153,000, despite being scattered about in rough-looking pieces after being taken apart in the ’60s.

Putting that in some kind of perspective, Bonhams sold a completely restored 1955 Black Prince at its January 2012 sale in Las Vegas for $125,000. And this past January, Midamerica’s Vegas auction sold a completed Black Prince for $125,000.


Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. It is truly an interesting perspective on the people who see an incredible value in an original, as-found, vehicle in extremely poor condition. What is more interesting is the rest of the story when those same people find out that they will spend another value equal if not greater than the purchase price to restore that vehicle. Is there a shock value when they go to auction the restored vehicle and get less than what they originally paid for it? Sounds to me like great content for reality TV.

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