It isn’t often—outside of the U.K., anyway—that you find three Triumphs living within 300 yards of each other … and not one of them is a Spitfire. And Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter discovered them within a few miles from his home in Davidson, North Carolina.
In episode 103 of the Barn Find Hunter, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country, Tom forgoes driving his 1939 Ford Woody Wagon in favor of another car that he’s owned for years: his Fern Mist 1953 Ford Ranch Wagon.
“What? Where did this come from? You know I’m a station wagon guy. You know I like Fords …,” Tom says. “I bought this car in 1972 as a high school senior. My girlfriend said, ‘I’ll never ride in that car.’ Now my wife of 46 years, she has ridden in this many times.”
Tom explains that the seller wanted $100 for the Ranch Wagon, but he agreed to take all that teenaged Tom could afford: $85. “It had a surf rack, curtains in the windows, and mag wheels. Then about 25 years ago I restored it.”
The Ford is a “bare bones car,” with three-on-the-tree manual transmission and no radio or clock. Tom says that ’53 was the last year of the flathead V-8, “but this car does not have an eight; it has a six.” Meant to be shipped to Germany, the Ranch Wagon’s speedometer is in kilometers. Tom says he considered upgrading the engine many times, but he’s glad he never did.
“You don’t see these much anymore,” he says. “They’re all gone.”
Also unusual are the three Triumphs that Tom discovered while jogging down a gravel road in Davidson.
First up is Chuck’s 1975 TR6, which he has owned since 1994. “I loved the lines,” he says. One day, Tom ran past Chuck’s garage and saw him tinkering on the TR6, so he stopped to check it out. It runs much smoother than it did then, since Chuck spent a lot of his downtime during the pandemic working on it.
He tells Tom that he’s now planning to sell the car, but Tom encourages him to hold onto it. Chuck is already doubting his resolve.
“You know, every time I get it running right, I say I’m going to sell it, then (I think), ‘I can’t sell this car.’ But I think my wife is tired of me doing that.”
Just down the road is Mark and his 1971 Triumph Stag, built the first year the car was available in the U.S. The two are greeted by a puddle of oil. “The first sign that you’re in Triumph territory is the oil slick,” he jokes.
As a teenager, Mark convinced his father to buy the V-8-powered car for his mother in 1981, and it has now been in the family for 40 years. Tom remembers the strong odor that hung in the air the first time the Stag drove past. “We call that British car cologne,” Mark says with a smile.
In addition to the rare Stag, Mark also shows Tom a pair of Jeep CJ2As in his garage. Then it’s on to Triumph no. 3, Jane and Bob’s 1966 TR4A.
Bob bought the four-cylinder TR4 new in 1966 and drove it as his daily driver for years. “One day he just disappeared, and then he came home with this car,” Jane says. “… He drove the kids to school every day. They put the top down, they sang—they still sing the songs … They were very popular in that car.”
Tom also visits another neighbor with a 1957 Studebaker Provincial Wagon. That makes three Triumphs, two Jeeps, and a Studebaker. It’s amazing what you can find in your own backyard … or down a gravel road.