Man discovers his car raced 1972 Singapore Vintage Grand Prix | Barn Find Hunter - Ep. 125 - Hagerty Media
Tom Cotter always says he’s more interested in the story than the car, and on this episode of Barn Find Hunter, while Tom searches for automotive treasure in near Nashville, he’s told a great story about a rare 1937 Riley Lynx. Yes, a Riley Lynx. OK, so maybe the car and the story are equally cool.
First things first. Tom rolls past a house in Columbia, Tennessee, and spots a Porsche 928 in the yard. He stops, of course, and meets Michael, who immediately recognizes him. Michael says the Porsche isn’t his, but he has a 1955 Cadillac Series 62 in his garage that he’s owned for 20 years. Later he explains that the Caddy was his daily driver in 1987 … 35 years ago. Hmmmm. You’re forgiven for the timeline snafu, Michael—probably just starstruck like the rest of us.
The Cadillac, which was originally blue with a white top, is powered by a 331-cubic-inch V-8 and has factory air-conditioning and power disc brakes. Stepping outside, Michael shows Tom his 1982 Mercedes-Benz 380SL, a 1963 Ford Econoline with a swapped 289 V-8, and a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 220D. “It’s rusty,” Michael says of the Benz, “but I like the rust in it.”
Down the road a bit, Tom spies a classic Chrysler but can’t find anyone home, so he moves on. Then he stops for a Chevrolet El Camino, but the owner isn’t interested in being interviewed. Coincidentally enough, another El Camino is across the street, and this time its owner, Brian, is happy to chat.
He explains that he purchased this top-of-the-line 1980s El Camino Conquistador with H.O. 305 engine six years ago, and he’s driven it many times. Although the “Elky” has been sitting for a couple of months, he says he’ll never sell it. Tom lights up when Brian explains that he does home repairs and sometimes receives cars in trade, since it aligns with some advice that he offered in his most recent book, Secrets of the Barn Find Hunter.
“One of the things I recommend is, make friends with somebody that can go on private property legally—like you can,” Tom says, referring to Brian. “You can go to some places that I can’t get to and look inside the garage and find stuff. So can UPS people, police officers, landscapers … You’ve got the ideal job, man.”
After cruising through the towns of Leiper’s Fork and Franklin, Tom follows up on a lead and meets Mike, who owns a garage full of classics, some with sentimental value and some that are extremely rare. Tom says he’s heard that Mike has some stories worth sharing.
“Anybody who’s got this crap has stories,” Mike jokes, gesturing to the cars inside. But not all stories are as fascinating as his.
Starting with a 1930 Ford Model A Deluxe Coupe, Mike says, “I bought this car 62 years ago when I was 13 years old. I paid $30 for it, and I drove it to high school and drove it to college. My dad and I restored this car, and I don’t know if I can bring myself to sell it. He’s dead now, and that car is my dad.”
Mike says he fell in love with MGTC sports cars back in the day and now owns one, but a friend said, “You’re a family man—you need a Riley Lynx.” If you’ve never heard of a Riley Lynx, you’re forgiven. They’re so rare that when Mike joined a Riley club and shared that he was looking for a Lynx, he bought the first one he was offered, a 1937 version, “sight unseen.”
“The lady who sold it raced it in the Singapore Vintage Grand Prix at the age of 17 in 1972,” Mike says. “So, suddenly I have a car with history.”
He also owns a ’37 Riley Kestrel Sprite sedan with art deco fastback styling. “It’s a delightful car,” he says. “It has amenities you wouldn’t believe for 1937,” including sunroof, semi-automatic transmission, magneto ignition, and a four-cylinder hemi engine.
Mike says there are five or fewer examples of both Riley cars known to be in the U.S. To learn more about these rare Rileys—and discover the identity of the car that Mike says “delivers as much fun as you can have in a car without having sex”—watch this episode of Barn Find Hunter.
“You never know where you’re going to find cars,” Tom says. “There might be a Mike in your town—get to know him.”