Mystery solved: Owner of barn-find 1969 Plymouth GTX steps forward

All’s well that ends well. Unless, of course, you were planning to bid on an “abandoned” 1969 Plymouth GTX convertible in northern Michigan that was already in the process of being auctioned.

Less than 24 hours after the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office held a three-hour public viewing of the GTX, and on the same day a two-week online auction for the car was set to begin, the mystery has been solved. Craig McIntosh, whose name was found on a shipping label in the trunk, called Hagerty on Wednesday morning, June 5, after learning he was at the center of the story.

“The car isn’t abandoned, it belongs to a friend of mine,” McIntosh says. “He was dealing with some personal stuff back then, and I was trying to help him out by taking care of it and putting it in storage. I thought the car was gone a long time ago.”

McIntosh, who moved from Leelanau County to Atlanta, Georgia, 13 years ago, still has ties to the area. In fact, he was in northern Michigan just last week. McIntosh was stunned to learn that the Plymouth was being auctioned, since he thought it had already been sold. McIntosh insists he was contacted by law enforcement “years ago,” and he offered to pay the car’s outstanding storage balance if he could take possession of his friend’s car, but without proof that he owned the GTX or was representing the owner, the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office refused to release it to him—and rightly so, he admits.

“I don’t blame them—they couldn’t just hand it over to me based on what I was saying,” McIntosh says. “My friend was going through a lot at the time. When the police contacted me, I called him to tell him what was going on, but I didn’t hear back from him. I just decided that I’d done everything I could, and what happens, happens. What else could I do?”

1969 Plymouth GTX engine bay
Jordan Lewis

McIntosh and his friend now communicate regularly. So when McIntosh learned that the GTX was still in Leelanau County—and it wasn’t too late to get it back—he reached out to his buddy, who called Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich on Wednesday morning.

Borkovich was in training most of the day Wednesday, but he called Hagerty afterward to express his gratitude for locating the owner of the GTX.

“We’re excited to be in contact with the person we believe is the owner of the car. He’s from out of state, we’ve communicated with him, and now we’re just waiting on some paperwork. We appreciate all the work that Hagerty did to find him. It was true investigative reporting. This is what we were hoping for, so we’re thrilled with the outcome.”

The clue that cracked the case was in the trunk, which had been locked and was opened recently by the towing company. Inside was a replacement carpet kit from Auto Custom Carpet, ordered on August 12, 2002 and mailed to McIntosh in care of The Business News in Traverse City, Michigan. Gayle Neu, a contributing editor for the publication (now the Traverse City Business News), knows McIntosh and emailed him with our request for help.

McIntosh says he would often work on the GTX to help his friend and because he’s a muscle car enthusiast.

“I’m a car guy. I didn’t want to let it go by the wayside,” McIntosh says. “So I worked on it here and there, trying to keep it going. I did the floorboards. I put new tires on it. I ordered the replacement carpet—I just never got around to putting it in. I guess that worked out for the best. It seems like only yesterday that I ordered that carpet.”

Seventeen years later, McIntosh says that scrolling through photos from Tuesday’s preview is surreal. “It kind of makes me sick to think about it,” he says. “I hope everything works out and my friend can get his car back.”

If he does, we’ll let you know.

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