Barn Find Hunter: Uncovering a motherlode of Fords and Mercurys

Sunny Southern California is a hotbed for classic cars, from road-worthy beauties to those forgotten junkers that Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter loves so much. But California is tightening its laws concerning the possession of non-functional vehicles, making it tougher for folks to stockpile project cars.

Tougher, yes, but not impossible.

In this episode of Barn Find Hunter, Tom takes the Sunday morning challenge—“the toughest time to find classic cars”—and scours Craigslist to track down Alex, a car guy whose motherlode of Fords and Mercurys has so far managed to evade the ire of law enforcement and red tape. Cougars, Fairlanes, Comets, and Torinos—many with 390 engines and/or factory four-speeds—count among the forgotten gems in Alex’s stash.

Most are for sale, but Alex rules one off limits. “I’m a Cyclone guy, so this one’s a keeper,” he says, turning to a 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator that is a little different than most: It’s a convertible. Since Mercury didn’t offer an Eliminator convertible, Alex decided to make one, and he figured he didn’t have much to lose since the car is powered by a common two-barrel Windsor engine. It also started out as “a bowl full of ugly.” Tom, of course, thinks it’s a beauty.

Alex also points out a Mustang that was his very first car, and then it’s off to a second location. Yes, there’s more. A lot more. “This is what happens when a hobby gets out of control and you have a spare acre of land,” Tom says with a laugh. He begins listing the models he sees—Ranchero, Montego, and Maverick, in addition all the Cougars and Comets—and admits he hasn’t seen so many 390 cars in one location in a long time.

Don’t worry, California. As we mentioned earlier, Alex is trying to sell the cars, and Tom says there are plenty of decent machines to be had—thanks in part to the region’s mild weather. He insists, “If you were into rolling up your sleeves and restoring a car, you could do that with any number of (these) cars and not worry about much rust repair because they’re solid.”

Easy like Sunday morning.