Reggie Jackson struck out 2597 times in his Hall of Fame baseball career—about once every four times at bat—yet he connected enough times to become one of the game’s all-time leading home run hitters. What does that have to do with classic cars? The message is the same for baseball and automotive treasure hunting: No matter how many times you strike out, just keep swinging; you never know when you’ll hit one out of the park.
In the latest episode of the Barn Find Hunter, Tom Cotter hits a few bumps during his search for hidden gems in northern Michigan, but he perseveres. Driving a borrowed 1965 Mustang coupe, he heads north from Hagerty’s home base in Traverse City and hugs the shore of Lake Michigan. There’s plenty to see along the way, but Tom whiffs three times before he finds someone he can actually speak to about their classic ride. And, as luck would have it, the owner of a sweet Ford F-100 pickup that Tom spotted isn’t a local, so he can’t help either.
Never fear. Tom is no quitter. Soon he sees a 1968 Dodge A100 Sportsman, and its owner, Jack, is not only home but he’s willing to chat. The van, which was formally owned by Jack’s dad, is powered by a 318-cubic-inch V-8 and has 122,533 miles on the clock. It also has some rust problems.
Jack says, “I’d like to restore it, but they’re talkin’ $10,000—and there’s nothing really wrong with it because it runs really good … except, like me, the body’s shot.”
A few miles later, Tom hits a home run when he catches a glimpse of an old Ford Falcon in a 50-foot break in the trees. This, he says, is why you have to keep your head on a swivel when you’re searching for cars. It isn’t about the Falcon, it’s about everything else that can’t be seen.
The Falcon turns out to be a parts car for a beautiful 1964 Falcon that’s parked in the garage. “This is a sweetheart,” Tom says, describing the Wimbledon White Falcon with red factory stripe, red accents, and shiny chrome. He also points out something a bit unusual under the hood: a fuel-injected Chevrolet 350 V-8. The car also has Mustang II suspension and a six-speed manual gearbox.
Tom later admires a Ford Falcon wagon and a ’55 Chevy Bel Air, which is also sporting a 350 engine.
“I don’t know if he’s a Ford guy or a Chevy guy,” Tom says of the owner. “[But] he’s certainly a Chevy engine guy.”
Hiding under a cover is a black, early-1990s GMC Syclone pickup truck showing only 7800 miles. Tom points out that it “was the fastest truck in the world at its introduction,” with a 0–60 time of 4.6 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 13 seconds. “You don’t see many of these,” he says, “and when you do, it’s a special day.”
Going from one extreme to the other, Tom checks out a 1957 Chevy four-door Bel Air in the woods that he says is “great yard art,” before he looks inside one last garage and finds a clean Buick Grand National.
“This turned out to be a pretty good stop,” Tom says, celebrating how the day ended, not how it started. “I’m telling ya, cars are hidden all over the place. Some are outside and they’re worthless; some are inside and they’re pretty darn good.”