For some old-car spotters, it’s all about the thrill of discovering a hidden jewel. That’s the driving force behind the current "barn find" trend of discovering forgotten classic cars hidden off the beaten path. Ace "auto archaeologist" Tom Cotter and his partner in crime collector Brian Barr may have just crowned themselves the kings of the barn find after a 14-day car-spotting road trip through the eastern United States. Armed with Cotter’s customized 1939 Ford woody to break the ice, professional photographer Michael Alan Ross and no particular destination in mind, the three-man team found over 1,000 classic cars hiding in garages, barns and back lots in just two weeks.

The remarkable odyssey is the subject of a new Motorbooks product, Barn Find Road Trip. Available now from and other retailers, the large-format hardcover is like a car guy’s fantasy vacation brought to life.

Although many of the cars they found were for sale, Cotter and company didn’t make the trip to find a restoration project. This trip was undertaken purely for adventure, and to show other enthusiasts what’s possible with a bit of planning and know-how. You don’t have to be a "certified car geek" like Tom Cotter to pull it off.

Why it matters

Barn Find Road Trip is a great coffee table book, lavishly illustrated on every page with tantalizing photos of neglected classic cars in situ. Cotter provides numerous historical tidbits and tells the stories of the many cars and collectors he meets over the meandering trek through Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The group faces adversity in the form of absent owners, poor directions and even mechanical problems after the ’39 Ford breaks down.

Cotter is a long-time automotive journalist, race driver, collector and mechanic, among other things. He’s authored 10 books including the In the Barn series which started with the fantastic The Cobra in the Barn. Photographer Ross is an experienced automotive photographer with a talent for capturing cars in just the right light.

Barn Find Road Trip features over 400 of Ross’ photos, interspersed with Cotter’s day-by-day narrative of the trip. It retails for $35.00. Cotter is already working on a sequel, with the next trip starting on November 1. This time, Cotter and company will be looking for hidden classics along Route 66, with the journey ending at the Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals in Chicago at the end of the month. Readers can follow the trip and submit tips at the new book’s Facebook page.

All photos by Michael Alan Ross.

Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: