After scouting around Utah, seasoned Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter finds his way to a gate. When he takes a peek over the top, he sees a veritable motherlode of vintage metal. Locals told Tom he would never get behind those walls. But after calling a phone number he found on the gate and leaving a nice voicemail, he gets a call back with an invitation to poke around. Sometimes all you have to do is ask—but it doesn’t hurt to be a well-known internet car sleuth.
So, bright and early the next day, the woody wagon arrives outside the walls of the car-packed lot. Tom is still slightly skeptical that he will get the chance to look around inside. Sure enough, not only do the doors open up, but someone familiar with the story spares the time to walk with him and offer up some history on the cars that—over many years—found their way onto this nearly 20-acre property.
Jim McEwen takes Tom on a rusty, crusty journey through the lot. Jim isn’t the owner—that would be Red—but he is intimately familiar with the situation at hand. Some of the vehicles appear more complete than others, but the Utah desert climate was fortunately kind to the sheet metal of most everything. The interiors, less so.
“You come to the Southwest for metal, and go to the North for interiors,” quips Jim. “‘Cause there’s no interiors here that made it through the hot summers.”
As Jim says, hundreds of ‘60s-era cars sit with metal exposed but nothing worse than surface rust to show for it. The paint just baked off under the sweltering sun as the years wore on. A prime example is a 1966 Chevrolet Impala Jim points out. A two-door Impala might not be anything to write home about on its own, but with options including a big-block, air conditioning, and power steering—but not power brakes—it’s suddenly an intriguing car.
The lot looks like a pile of abandoned body shop projects, because Red spent a number of years spraying paint and slinging filler, according to Jim. Many cars became donors for better-condition vehicles, as several missing quarter panels indicate.
Tom probably could have walked the yard for a few days, with an endless supply of interesting cars to enjoy, from big-block Ford Torinos to an ex-Yellowstone tour bus. It just goes to show that keeping a keen eye out for cool cars can yield great results, even when the doors seem like they’ll stay closed to you.