Never Stop Driving #90: My Own Barn Find Treasures

Cameron Neveu

Tom Cotter, Hagerty’s Barn Find Hunter, has a helluva nose. He routinely uncovers automotive treasures in barns, warehouses, garages, and pastures across North America for enthusiastic audiences on the Hagerty YouTube channel. His latest episode, which takes viewers into the depths of the Detroit Historical Society’s fascinating backroom car collection, has more than three million views in the past week. Amazing. So, when a friend called and described a local storage locker that held potentially valuable old engines, I cleared my calendar to have a look, hoping I could experience some Barn Find Hunter magic my own self.

When we rolled up the door of a standard-issue storage locker, like the ones you see on Storage Wars, my heart made a little jump. The space was jammed with dusty shelves piled high with automotive bits. Was this how Howard Carter felt when he entered King Tut’s tomb in 1922?

Yeah, yeah, I’m stretching. But it was so much fun to pick through the collection, try to ID the parts, and listen to the owner recall when and why he gathered his personal treasures. He’d been renting three lockers for decades but had reached what he called the uncluttering stage of life. Parts accumulated long ago for future car projects were no longer needed and he hoped I could help determine what the stuff was worth. I saw some pieces for an early VW GTI that I could have used when I restored one back in 2012, plus numerous other VW components, including engine cases. The crown jewels, however, were a pair of Porsche 911 engines.

One, which he’d had rebuilt decades ago, was wrapped in plastic, the intake runners sealed with masking tape. The other engine was reportedly of the same late-sixties vintage but had not been rebuilt. We muscled the motors off the shelves onto a dolly and wheeled them outside. The first step in determining the health of any engine is to see if it spins. I put a socket on the crank bolts and both engines freely spun. You can see the owner and my lame attempt to impersonate Cotter in this Instagram video.

I fought an intense urge to take both motors home and get them running. Maybe I’d hot-rod one for my 1969 911. So much potential joy, sitting on a cart in front of me in the alleyway of a self-storage facility! These treasures, however, were hard to appraise and I feared paying too much or, worse, too little. I knew the owner wasn’t thrilled to be at the stage in life when he had to abandon the plans he’d had for the motors. A stack of greenbacks would be a nice consolation.

I called Ramsey Potts, a senior car specialist at Hagerty Marketplace who races a Porsche and is plugged into that community. We both called around and got wildly different opinions about the value of the flat-sixes. “Let the market decide,” Potts suggested. And that is why both motors are currently open for bidding on the Hagerty auction platform; here’s the rebuilt one, and here’s the other. Please help spread the word and get as many eyeballs and bids on the engines as possible.

Don’t miss the latest episodes of my Never Stop Driving podcast, in which Bill Caswell—a crazy, creative, hyperenthusiastic car savant—recounts the greatest automotive adventure of all time. We’ve split the tale into two parts to get all the details, like when Bill was caught in the crossfire of a machine-gun battle at the Mexico border. You have to hear it to believe it.

Listen on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.

Hagerty Drivers Club member Paul Cervantes received the latest issue of HDC Magazine, which just landed in mailboxes, and kindly wrote: “This is always a happy day for me and I’ll soon be found in my reading chair, first scanning the pages before settling into the great stories and fantastic photography.” Don’t get our award-winning magazine? You can by joining the Hagerty Drivers Club, which will also support all the content we produce.

Have a great weekend!


P.S.: Your feedback is very welcome. Comment below!

Please share this newsletter with your car-obsessed friends and encourage them to sign up for the free weekly email. The easy-to-complete form is here. And if you’d like to support the efforts of Hagerty Media, please consider joining the Hagerty Drivers Club.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: Our Two Cents: The Weirdest Automotive Words


    As I’m finding myself smack-dab in the “uncluttering stage of life” myself, I both enjoyed and hated this article. Maybe hated is too strong, but it’s certainly not fun to be going through things and deciding how/when/if to let them go (and to whom). If I loved something enough to gather it up at some time, how do I make myself not love it enough to get rid of it now? Larry might be right about the storage locker guy, but at times, a stack of greenbacks is honestly slight consolation for me. Regardless of any deal-making, I’m finding that getting a potential new owner who expresses excitement and has positive plans for my stuff typically moves to the top of my “who-gets-it?” list.
    Now my wife, who has always been a much bigger “collector” (hoarder?) than I, is also getting into the gist of this part of aging. I can tell it’s a lot more painful for her than me, so I’m trying not to whine too much about my downsizing dilemma around her.
    Oh well, summer swap meets coming up soon – maybe I’ll be able to summon up the courage to clean off a few more shelves!

    I’m in Canada and would like to subscribe for the magazine. We can’t join drivers club in Canada but how about the magazine?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *