Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter’s 428 Ford Country Squire four-speed can be yours

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Patrick Putkowski

I told Pat I wouldn’t do it. Just because my gig, Hagerty’s Barn Find Hunter, allowed me to drive around the country looking for old cars, didn’t mean I would buy any.

“No, honey, you’re right,” I told my wife.  “I have enough cars and don’t need any more.”

But this car was different.

When my film crew and I film a Barn Find Hunter episode, I get leads from well-meaning people, but I usually don’t like to take them. I prefer to find cars the old-fashioned way: drive up and down country roads and look in backyards and behind fences. Accepting leads seems to takes the romance out of actually discovering an old car.

Ford Country Squire Wagon Rear Three-Quarter
Patrick Putkowski

When my friend Zach Strait from Staunton, Virginia, heard I was heading to Michigan, he told me of a four-speed Ford wagon in the Ann Arbor area. This time I was all ears, because I am lifelong Ford guy and station wagons are my favorite body style.

For instance, the 1939 Ford Woody you’ve seen on most episodes of Barn Find Hunter?  I bought it out of a barn in 1969, when I was 15 year old, for $300. Also in my garage is the 1953 two-door wagon I purchased for $85 as a high-school senior. I’ve owned dozens of wagons over the years. Even my daily driver is a 2011 BMW six-speed sport wagon.

So when Zach told me about a four-speed wagon, I thought that might be a cool subject to include in an episode.

I called the car’s owner, Adrian Clements, who said it would be fine to film the car. He was in the middle of moving to New York City, however, and wouldn’t be able to meet us. Instead, his friend would meet us at the storage lockup where the car was garaged.

Adrian told me the amazing story of the car. In 1966, Vincent Bolling wanted to buy a muscle car, but having a family, his wife convinced him they really needed a wagon to haul their kids to ball games and school events. So, Vincent went to the local dealer, Stueve Ford in Miamisburg, Ohio, and pled his case. They told him the dream car he wanted—a Country Squire with a 428-cubic-inch engine, four-speed, bucket seats and a console—couldn’t be built because the codes didn’t match up. The closest he could order was a 428 with an automatic, or a 390 with a three-speed.

Because it was just before the holidays, and the dealer really wanted to make another sale, they gave Vincent a phone number of a Ford executive in Dearborn who might sign off on the build.

The name? Lee Iacocca, Ford vice president.

Ford Country Squire Wagon Front Interior
Patrick Putkowski

Iacocca figured that since a customer could order a full-size sedan or convertible with a big-block and a four-speed, why not a wagon?  Iacocca gave the thumbs-up and Vincent was able to order the only car of its type in the world.

We filmed the episode, said thank you, and went on our way down the road to discover more barn finds. Only thing was, I couldn’t get that wagon out of my head.

I thought about it for two months and finally had a discussion with Pat. I needed to add this car to my collection. She gave me that little grin and agreed. It was too special to pass up.

I had a long phone call with Adrian, made him an offer, and suddenly I owned a very rare car. Adrian made me promise, though, that I would not restore it. His hope was that the car’s wonderful patina would be preserved. I couldn’t agree with him more.

I’ve owned the Country Squire now for five years and have made a few repairs and improvements. When we film episodes of Barn Find Hunter, I often drive thousands of miles. First, I put in a new clutch, which had begun to chatter in first gear. Next, I installed disc brakes, replacing the original front drums, which is much safer in traffic. The original carburetor, an Autolite 4300, was junk, and often filled the exhaust system with fuel, igniting the muffler every few hours. So I installed a throttle-body fuel injection unit that hides under the original air cleaner. Not only does the car start easily in cold weather, my highway mileage was boosted from 10.5 mpg to a robust 13 mpg!

I also installed dual exhausts, because with a 428, I wanted that puppy to breathe! A set of Flowmasters take the place of the anemic single exhaust.

By far the biggest job was removing the body from the chassis, never easy on a 5000-pound car, and I replaced the rubber donuts that mount between the body and frame. My mechanic, Keith Irwin, repaired any chassis or body corrosion he discovered. Now the car rides like a Lincoln. Well, actually, a Country Squire.

Ford Country Squire Wagon Rear
Patrick Putkowski

If you’ve been attracted to this car from seeing it on Barn Find Hunter, this could be your lucky day. The four-speed 428 wagon is bring sold live on Bring a Trailer right now, which means you have the chance to be the next owner. I just hope it goes to a good home.

If you are the winning bidder, remember that Adrian and I both hope that the car never be restored, so it can keep its natural patina.

Happy Hunting.


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Read next Up next: In Conversation with Tom Cotter, The Barn Find Hunter


    Tom, that’s not the only one of it’s kind. Twenty years ago someone offered to trade even for my pristine ’67 Continental for his ’63 Squire – with a 427/4 speed and bucket seats. Numbers matching. Email me if you’d like to hear the whole story.

    This thing used to park with the Total Performance crew during Woodward Dream Cruise. They rented the used car lot of the Ford dealer. Hadn’t seen it in a few years, good to know it’s still being cared for.

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