Tom Cotter has a knack for finding cars, but it’s not all raw talent. The magic behind locating hidden treasure comes down to persistence and talking to as many people as possible. In the latest Barn Find Hunter episode, Tom decides to test his skills by searching out cars in Le Claire, Iowa. Better known as the backyard of American Pickers Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe, Tom is out to prove there are cars to be found in even the most over-hunted areas.
Expecting an uphill battle, Tom makes it just three blocks from American Pickers headquarters before he is out of the rental car to talk to some locals. After a quick exchange he’s standing next to a Ford Model A, in pieces, that the owner drove in high school. Next to that is also an interesting piece of kit: a Ford Model A engine with a cylinder head swap to turn the center cylinders of the four-banger into an air compressor.
From there, another conversation results in a new lead. Tom knows where to look, but that doesn’t mean there’s anyone there to show him around (and trespassing is generally a bad idea). After no response to a knock on the door not once or twice, but three times, Tom and the crew choose to just wait it out, sitting in the rental car and hoping the resident of the house would come home while they wait.
An hour and half passes, but the plan worked. Except Rick Riley didn’t come home, he just woke up. Headed out the door for his night shift job, Riley gives Tom a walk around his modest and eclectic collection of Pontiacs and Fords. The collection ranges from a 1950 Crestline parked out front of the house to a LeMans-turned-GTO in the back garage, with conditions ranging from parts car to driver.
It just all goes to show that by getting out and talking to locals, Tom found dozens of cars in a small town that is best known for finding the undiscovered. Or as he would put it, “persistence pays off.”