For the ultimate heart-fluttering mystery within the automotive world, very little comes close to locating a viable barn find. The petrolheads ‘buried treasure’, pursuing long forgotten cars has often led to unearthing, literally in some cases, hidden gems from the motoring domain.
The term ‘barn find’ is thrown around more often than not when describing vast swathes of dilapidated classic cars within the classified pages – a phrase now often cynically abused to define any older vehicle ravaged by neglect to boost interest and asking price. A few barn find cars are worth the high asking price, such as a structurally sound Aston Martin, but others can be no-hopers. Them, some are not worth paying hand over fist for simply because they’ve been ignored indoors instead of out. So, which cars should you look out for?
Here we have 10 prime candidates that you should snap up, given the opportunity. But before you so much as contemplate venturing into that barn or setting foot on someone else’s land, get their permission first. If you can’t ascertain who owns the land, go no further. It’s trespassing.
10. Range Rover Suffix A.
Range Rovers continue to climb in value, outstripping even the original Land Rover in terms of desirability and price. Due to the sheer volume produced, the earlier the example the better. Parts are easy and relatively cheap to source with even major restoration jobs DIY friendly to those undertaking a task for the first time. The end result of giving an early barn-find Range Rover some TLC will be the most versatile classic car on the road. Target Price: £800 – £3k.
9. Jensen Interceptor
One of the biggest and best British GT cars of all time, this ultra-cool slice of 1960s autonomy offered V8 power like never before. Discovering an example in good condition lurking within dry-storage is too much to hope for, but even finding an Interceptor requiring recommissioning is worth it. Rare, desirable and oh-so-retro, just look at what you would end up with should you invest some elbow grease and a lot of money. Target Price: £7000 – £11k.
8. Lancia Fulvia
Some Fulvias appear determined not to be repaired, but with such low production numbers and randomly assigned product alterations, sourcing parts can be difficult. Bodywork will provide some interesting challenges while achieving a factory finish isn’t a task for the unwary. However, if you are looking for a car as an excuse to visit the continent in search of spares, this is the one for you. Don’t pay anything more than £5k for a poorly Fulvia, no matter what history the car claims to have. Target Price: £1k – £3k.
7. Rover SD1
A world-beater upon launch, there was so much right about the mighty Rover SD1. Sadly, there was a fair amount wrong with it, too. Reliability and build quality shocked even the firmest of BL devotees to the core. Rust issues then set about destroying any chance most SD1s had of survival. Later models improved dramatically, making them prime chunks of brilliance for anyone who happens to stumble across one without rampant bodywork issues – as mechanicals are usually straightforward enough to mend or replace. Target Price: £500 – £2k.
6. MGB GT
A GT offers all the fun of an MGB, but without the issue and expense of canvas hood replacement. No matter how it looks when a sorry looking specimen steals your heart, we can guarantee that you will end up welding, if not undoing someone else’s bodged repair. Relatively easy to take apart and put back together again, with a roaring club scene, nearly every part is available brand-new. We can promise an MGB will restore your faith in driving. Target Price: £500 – £3.5k.
5. Ford Escort Mk I/II
When brand new Ford Escorts rust faster than anything British Leyland can churn out, you know that they will be heading to the scrapyard in the sky in huge numbers. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened to the first two rounds of the beloved Escort – but not before some were saved from the salty roads and lairy teenagers. You may have to part with serious amounts of money to source a decent barn find, but with prices skyrocketing there won’t be a better time to snap one up. Target Price: £900 – £3k.
4. BMW 635CSi
Although there is greater complexity with this beast in comparison with the previous cars on this list, and fewer specialists, taking a long-abandoned BMW 635CSi under your wing isn’t as daunting as it looks. Besides some intricate fiddling on the fuel system and tricky interior detailing, the main headache is likely to be the bodywork. Don’t despair, as apart from fabricating the sections for bespoke corrosion patches, all the difficult bits are hidden from view. Target Price: £1.5k – £4k.
3. Jaguar Mk 2
Snapping up any early Jaguar is better done in the present rather than sleeping on it, as most desirable models are now well out of reach for us mere mortals. Full of complex curves and fiendish levels of sophisticated suspension work, don’t expect a Mk 2 Jaguar to be a quick fix. Perfecting a Mk 2 may take years, but stick with it. By the end of the restoration process you will have a vehicle to take everyone’s breath away. Target Price: £2k – £8k.
2. Morris Minor
The humble Moggy ticks all the boxes for any classic car enthusiast. Easy to repair, easy to use in a contemporary environment and with a welcoming club capable of answering all your Morris Minor related questions, there is nothing to turn you off a well-heeled Moggy. Discovering a barn find Morris Minor won’t be ridiculously difficult, either – with examples waiting to be found in various states of decay – thanks to such a huge number produced over 23 years. The earlier the example, the better. Target Price: £300 – £2.5k.
1. Mini Cooper
Who could say no to a Mini Cooper? With an addictive, free-revving powertrain and a face to melt even the frozen heart of the sternest Greenpeace campaigner, it’s easy to get carried away and rescue the most rotten of examples. A Mini straddles that fine line between money-maker and money pit, however, so still take care in deciding whether or not to rehome that Cooper crying in the corner. Let’s get one thing straight – no car restoration is that easy, but a Mini offers simplicity within a small shell, with nearly all parts available fresh from the reproduction manufacturers. Specialists are ripe up and down the country, too. And, at the end of the day, you have arguably the greatest motoring icon at your disposal. Target Price: £1k – £4k.