There is a gadget, nay, an instrument in Tom Cotter’s Barn Find Hunter tool kit that is second only to his personal charm and vintage car knowledge. That is his woody wagon. The yellow paint and bird’s eye maple have made a warm first impression on many folks to whom Tom has introduced himself over the years. This wagon’s fascinating history reaches farther back than its tenure on Barn Find Hunter, however, and the latest episode is dedicated solely to this one car—which is possibly Tom’s first barn find.

See, like many of us that have been diagnosed as gearheads, Tom didn’t even have his driver’s license before he began coveting cars. There was one car in particular, though, that caught his eye as he crossed the schoolyard one day as a 15-year-old. Tom spotted the 1939 Ford wagon in Brentwood, Long Island, and it captivated him. Somehow he talked his father into investigating the wagon further that same night. It was indeed for sale, but Tom didn’t have the $300 needed to take the car home.

Luckily, a woman for whom Tom had previously done some around-the-house work decided to advance him the money. Tom then had the summer to work off the debt. He kept the wagon until 1973, where it was then sold to a buyer in Puerto Rico. 26 years later, Tom’s wife tracked it down and returned it to his ownership, and it’s been with Tom ever since.

The ’39 Ford has logged 50,000 miles in the pursuit of interesting cars and their stories. The original drivetrain was not up to that kind of usage, so the long yellow hood hides a modern Chevrolet V-8 backed by an overdrive transmission. With that combination, Tom can achieve fuel economy in the mid-20s. That allows for a lot for exploration per tank of gas.

If you want to see where this wagon goes next, be sure to subscribe to the Hagerty YouTube channel to receive notifications with each video that goes live.

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