Never Stop Driving #61: Gas money to get home

In rural Virginia, Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter found treasure: A 1937 Ford dirt track racer that once plied the dirt ovals of southwest Virginia and won a championship in 1972. Like so many old race cars, the worn-out coupe was tossed aside for some future date when the owner planned to restore it.

Cotter’s Barn Find Hunter videos, which Hagerty Media has broadcast for seven years now, are catnip for curious car people and a roadmap for treasure seekers. While Cotter’s incredible nose led him to both a forgotten Ferrari and a Cobra, one of my favorite episodes is when he visited a junkyard that he first saw while driving on Interstate 81. Cotter met the owner, Snowball Bishop, and toured his collection of old Fords. The Ford dirt track racer caught Cotter’s eye as a piece of local racing history, an artifact of the love of driving that spans decades.

In Cotter’s 2019 video, Bishop explained in his wonderful Virginia drawl how he bought an engine from NASCAR legend Richard Petty. Petty was asking $1200. Bishop only had a thousand dollars so Petty said he’d take that, whereby Bishop then claimed he needed some leftover money to buy gas to get home. Fine, said Petty, nine hundred dollars then. I could listen to Bishop’s stories for days.

When Cotter visited Bishop again, he noticed that the race car had moved from inside the barn to an uncovered spot outside. Bishop’s desire to restore the car had met the reality that he was unable to do so. Cotter asked: Perhaps Hagerty should restore it?

There was a lot of positive energy around the idea, but as the guy in charge of the budget I was wary. Restorations, as I’ve found with my Ferrari Dino project, are time and money holes. Then again, I’m a sap for racing history and I knew that we’re blessed with three hugely talented filmmakers, Ben Woodworth, Jordan Lewis, and Jonathon Rudolph, and the mechanical expertise of Davin Reckow. Good luck, I said.

Over the following four years, Reckow chipped away at the restoration, which you can see here. Much of the work was done after hours, as restorations are never straightforward. Reckow, who is himself a dirt-track racer, said, “I have a soft spot for modifieds, and Bishop’s car is the perfect angry-looking dirt car.” On the track, Reckow reported that the car—a sterling example of creative individuals making do with what they had—is “twitchy as hell.”

Soon, we’ll return the car to the family and more films will follow.

This episode is another reminder of how seriously we at Hagerty take our purpose to save driving and car culture for future generations. We live it every day. Our mission is to build a business that funds that purpose—you can help by signing up for the Hagerty Drivers Club. We all greatly appreciate your support.

I wanted to share that positive story because it feels like trouble is brewing in the auto industry as the United Auto Workers negotiate labor contracts with Detroit automakers. UAW president Shawn Fain skipped a traditional hand-shake ceremony, saying, “I’m not shaking hands with any CEOs until they do right by our members and fix the broken status quo of the Big Three.” He cited large executive compensation increases and car-company profits that should be shared with the workforce.

I’m no labor expert and Fain could be posturing, but unrest is afoot. Even though union membership is down, that hasn’t stopped leaders from using aggressive tactics. Teamster president Sean O’Brien called the United Parcel Service a “white-collar crime syndicate.” A couple of weeks ago, I reported on the tactics of those who oppose autonomous taxis in San Francisco. That movement seems to be growing.

Hagerty Media, however, remains a place to come and enjoy the best car stories from around the world. Writer Matt Anderson shared his own tale of traveling to a junkyard in a Fiat 600 camper. If we stay on the junkyard theme, let’s include Sajeev Mehta’s restoration of a 1983 Lincoln. Next week is Monterey Car Week, the Super Bowl for classic car live auctions. The Broad Arrow Group is auctioning this gorgeous Isdera sports car as well as a twin-engine 2CV. We have reams of auction previews on and update it constantly.

Appraiser and Hagerty Price guide publisher Dave Kinney told me all about the upcoming auctions and why they matter in our latest No Reserve podcast. Please give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Have a great weekend!

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    Larry, I do appreciate Hagerty Media’s focus on the positive sides of our hobby/sport/business – whatever portion(s) of the automotive world we happen to be in. But I also want to thank you all for keeping us informed on the darker sides of things. Encouraging positivity is wonderful, yet it doesn’t keep your team from giving us as fair and balanced reporting as I am able to find anywhere. We can’t afford to turn a blind eye to the forces that conspire (either purposedly or by coincidence) to destroy the joys of the motoring world, and we can’t help fight those forces if we don’t know the facts. To me, reading these columns and stories nearly daily help me be aware and decide what I might be able to do to actually increase the positives and help defeat the negatives.

    Keep up the absolutely excellent Automotive News columns. I have raced Circle Dirt Tracks, Dragstrips, SCCA on Rod courses, and can no longer drive a Racing Suspension vehicle due to brain tumors (3 over 3YRS) caused by COVID Moderna vaccine. Also retired on low fixed income. Cannot afford Hagerty Drivers’ Club but your Columns are absolute Automotive Brain candy!

    Larry, after reading about the Monterey Car Week, the Super Bowl for classic car live auctions it made me think of the many people you insure that will never make the trip. For most the cost of a journey would just be out of their budget, I’m not talking about being there to buy a vehicle, but just being there to take in the vehicles present and all the elbow rubbing that could go along with it. With that said I would like to see Hagerty step up with a getaway giveaway for 2 to get them there, call it some type of contest, drawing, whatever. Airfare, hotel, meals, make it special for a couple of your insured. A big splash for the Hagerty name, which with the right publicity should gain you more customers. I enjoy your writings and getting the mag in the mail. The E Fuels article shows there are different ways to move our cars forward. Also enjoyed reading about Porsche’s 75yr anniversary. I got to say I really like reading more about American nameplates than overseas models.

    I hear you Rick. We definitely lean towards the American stuff but there are a lot of car fans out there!

    Man, I hear ya, Kurt. How does a Cobra (or so many other so-called “barn finds”) get FORGOTTEN! I once found a half a can of soda that I’d absent-mindedly left in a corner of the barn and kinda covered up with bales of hay. But a 6-or-7-figure collector car? The Cotter videos are a blast, but sometimes they leave more questions unanswered than answered!

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