Sunday, December 26, 2010

Junkyardlife book review: 'The Corvette in the Barn' by Tom Cotter

Photo courtesy Tom Cotter
Old cars hitched to stories worth remembering. It's a simple formula that has been successful for author Tom Cotter and his ever-expanding 'barn' series books. Cotter's latest effort, "The Corvette in the Barn," continues to fuel the imagination of automotive junkies around the globe. Cotter reveals how the pursuit of an automotive relic is as much fun as owning the Corvette, Porsche or Ford Pinto of your dreams. Many stories in "The Corvette in the Barn" are jaw-droppers, that revolve around the luck of discovering a super rare car and capitalizing on a great deal.  

Worth buying? 
If you have visions of finding a dust-covered dream car on your own terms and at a discount, this book is your benchmark for success. You may not have the bankroll of Jay Leno or Jerry Seinfeld but discovering a desirable car may become your claim to fame and fortune. Cotter's 
diverse foreign and domestic 
catalog of treasure hunts is sure to please a wide variety of brand loyal followers.
Photo courtesy Tom Cotter
TVs 'Green Hornet' fever strike teen
One of Cotter's intriguing stories features a South Carolina man's desire to own an original 'hero' car from the 1966 'Green Hornet' television show. His quest to find Black Beauty, the car driven by the Green Hornet's sidekick Kato, played by martial arts extraordinaire Bruce Lee, led him to a little old lady in Southern Michigan. "Even as a kid, I just really liked that particular car," said 46-year old Karl Kirchner. His long-distance friendship with Opal Wall, eventually brought Wall's 'Green Hornet' car, known as Black Beauty, back to South Carolina. The rare car, is one-of-two custom 1966 Chrysler Imperials built by renowned customizer Dean Jeffries. The value of Black Beauty is sure to soar with the release of "The Green Hornet" motion picture. Who says cars are bad investments?

Sizing up "The Corvette in the Barn" 
Cotter's book contains 39 short stories, 27 written by the author. Each include at least a couple of photos to satisfy your visual appetite during the 256-page journey. Brief, one-chapter stories are perfect for magazine-length reading time that I prefer and my wife loathes. Cotter includes barn-finding tips in "The Corvette in the Barn," guaranteeing the search for all manner of 'barn finds' will continue for years to come. Finding a lottery ticket on wheels is just enough motivation for starry-eyed readers to start cruising the back roads for their own barn find.

Bottom line
The book is entertaining and does ignite the fire of barn-finding possibilities. There is one nagging flaw which could be rectified in future books. I would like to see more Corvettes or domestic makes stories in a book with Corvette in the title. Stories about Porsches, Alfa Romeos, MGs, Ferraris, Aston Martins, a Victress S1A Special, Lancias? Those stories are fun to read but I've never driven one and feel a bit of a disconnect when reading about them. Needless to say, I would not have picked up "The MG in the Barn."

Cotter's other books include "The Cobra in the Barn," "The Hemi in the Barn" and "The Vincent in the Barn." Something tells me more "In the Barn" books will follow.

Eco-friendly note: You may not find a barn relic but Cotter's books may save you some barn-finding gas while you read. 
Disclosure: A review copy of "The Corvette in the Barn" was provided to junkyardlife.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cars in Yards: Brown 1979 Pontiac Trans Am hardtop with WS6 option

A straight 1979 WS6 Trans Am? At least they mowed the grass around it from time to time. 
  Second generation Trans Ams are gaining in popularity. Take this brown 1979 Trans Am for example. It is b-r-o-w-n and cool, really. I wish I could notify the original owner of this once beautiful 1979 Pontiac Trans Am. They probably thought selling the car was the right thing to do at the time. Could they imagine that their beautiful Heritage Brown WS6 would end up grazing in a field in South Georgia? My friend Anthony and I (Ron) found this honey bird on the way home from a swap meet in the peachtree state and made an abrupt stop.
  As I accessed the grounded victim of poor decisions, my mind flashes back to what it must have felt like in late 1978 or 1979 when that lucky person strutted into a Pontiac dealership and fell in love at first sight with this new Trans Am. I love those stories. Did they spot it on the lot? I wonder if they had seen the color combination in a brochure and ordered just that. Perhaps they didn’t want the T-Tops and purposely opted for the hard top. Maybe they wanted the 400 Pontiac motor and an automatic transmission, but found out that was only available with a 4-speed in 1979. Hence, the next best thing – the 403 Oldsmobile engine with an automatic transmission. 

Notice how well the panels and doors seem to be well in line. This would be a nice car.

  This Georgia Honey was moderately optioned with the 403/automatic combo with air conditioning and tilt wheel. It did not have the deluxe lighting package, although it did have deluxe interior. The one option it did have that we Firebird Galoots here at Junkyard Life absolutely love – WS6! Introduced mid-year in 1978 with a thicker sway bar and 15 x 8 wheels. Then Pontiac totally improved the Firebird again in 1979 with the addition of an awesome 4-wheel disc brake set-up! In 1979, the Pontiac Trans Am outbraked the Chevrolet Corvette. If you ask me, checking off the right options in 1979 on your Formula or Trans Am, you could out run the Corvette as well.  The media would never confirm my performance opinion, but did indeed hand over Corvette’s traditional “Best Braking” crown to Trans Am (equipped with WS6) that year.

What color brown?
  Making sure I got my facts correct, I learned that Pontiac's Brentwood Brown, Chesterfield Brown and Heritage Brown were all the same paint code (code 69). Although it seems the 1979 Heritage had more of a “honey glazed” effect than the prior 1978 Chesterfield and the 1977 Brentwood. Whether they changed the recipe from year-to-year or not, a 1979 Heritage Brown Trans Am made for one handsome vehicle and will always get my attention, even in a condition like this.

Pontiac's 15x8 WS6 wheel. Notice the extra “lip” on the outside rim. This is a quick way to tell the difference between 15x7 Snowflake rime that did not come on the WS6 cars.
Also, notice the original lug nuts and late 80’s era tires!
Good News/Bad News
The good news is this T/A could totally be saved and has a lot of great parts and options. The hard top may have slowed the detrimental effects of time and the dreaded cancer that moisture creates. The Bird also seemed pretty straight and was in sight of a highway. The bad news is I know it has been there for two years in almost plain sight. So, I imagine other Firebird enthusiast have tried to find the owner and let the automotive rehab begin. Lets hope it's not one of those “I will let the car rot to the ground before I sell” situations. We can always hope it will fall into right hands (maybe ours) and be back on the road! Happy Hunting!

Ron - The Earth Roaming Car Guy

Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cars in Yards: 1973 Pontiac GTO for sale, seller's phone number lost

This 1973 Pontiac GTO was discovered languishing in North Carolina. As luck would have it, the owner wanted to get it out of his yard.
Elusive 1973 Pontiac GTO is buried in a cell phone. I met a guy in North Carolina this summer who really wanted to sell a 1973 GTO,” Ron Kidd, my pal and car buff extroidinaire, said calmly. "It has been parked in his yard for a long time."
  A black, 4-speed, 'Colonnade' body style, GTO with dog dish hubcaps immediately popped into my head, as I listened to Ron describe his yard find. A mental movie featuring the 'Car I Want to Buy at the Moment,' played on a continuous loop. I hammered through the gears in my mind as Ron poured out more details.  
  Ron said, "I snapped a few photos and I've got the owner's telephone number stored in my phone. The dude called me ten times." Ron's Goat find got my attention, despite the fact that '73 GTOs have been treated like an overweight cousin by much of the muscle car community. My enthusiasm was soon tempered by a dose of A-body reality. I've never seen a cheap GTO that wasn't a basket case. Could this be the "GreaT One?"  
This 1973 GTO is a Sports Coupe which featured louvers on the rear quarter windows. Pontiac also built GTOs without the louvers, known simply as GTO coupes.
Park a car under a tree long enough and you get busted glass. A tree planted a limb inside the windshield of this '73 Pontiac GTO. Aargh!

Parked Pontiac pulls me in
Even with a busted windshield and other ailments of neglect, Ron got me fired-up for this 1973 GTO. Obviously, the engine needs attentions. Possibly the transmission, springs, shocks, brakes etc. But with a little sweat equity, I could make this Pontiac a presentable investment, or so I thought. 

"GTO Phone Home," I need the digits
Ron dug into his phone records for the calls from Carolina, but has yet to find the phone number of this GTO's, eager-to-sell, owner. As thoughts of burn outs and high speed, highway blasts in a '73 GTO begin to fade, I've got to ask for help. Does anybody know this GTO owner's phone number? If you do, send it to 

GTO photos brought to you courtesy of Ron Kidd, the owner of that snazzy 1972 Olds Vista Cruiser, top right. I hope he closed the GTO's trunk before he left.

Pursue your dream cars
Old cars are an addiction to some people, including myself. I enjoy finding, wrenching and driving cars that grab my attention, such as this mid-70s iron. The quest for cars is half the fun. Choose wisely, you may find your dream car.

This one-year only 1973 Pontiac GTO colonnade body style is one of 4,806 built. 
Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to buy cheap, classic cars on craigslist

Craigslist 1968 Buick Riviera, bust or bargain?
10 tips to surf your way to hidden, classic car treasures. Craigslist, a website that allows sellers to post free classified ads, is home to thousands of new automotive ads each day from all across the world. Navigating the craigslist search engine is easy but finding your dream car on a budget requires diligence. 

I stumbled across this 1968 Buick Riviera on craigslist's Birmingham, Alabama cars and trucks listings recently. The seller listed a "68 Buick Antique classic muscle car" for sale. The ad read:

1968 Buick Riviera GS automobile. Body has lot of rust spots. 455 CI - 7.7L Engine. Engine purred when parked some time ago. This was a once beautiful and powerful automobile. Can be restored into a magnificent ride. $1900.
The "68 Buick" ad did not have photos. This usually means your dealing with a computer newbie and/or a mature seller. Ads without photos will cut the number of prospective buyers in half. No photos also means better bargaining potential. My mind raced. Did I find a big-engine Buick driver for cheap? A quick phone call was made to the seller. He revealed that he didn't remember how much he was asking for the car. "My grandson placed the ad a couple of month ago," he said. The Buick's condition and other details were also sketchy. The seller did remember that the odometer read about 50,000 miles. A short road trip was in order.

1968 Rivieras hide-away headlights are vacuum operated.
When I first laid eyes on this craigslist '68 Riviera, I was underwhelmed to say the least. By limiting my search to "1968 Riviera," I would have never found this backyard beauty. Lucky me. A quick walk around and a subtle head shake was all it took for the seller to read my mind. He quickly got to the point. "Why don't you make me an offer we can both live with?" Mmm... My internal voice was telling me to run away before I made a deal to drag this once-proud Riviera to my driveway. Thankfully I passed on making an offer. I couldn't overlook the fist-sized hole in the driver's side floorpan or the fact this car needs a lot of work to get it back on the road. 
Buick sold 49,284 Rivieras in 1968.

This '68 Riviera remained glued to the ground that day but don't let this deter you from searching for your dream car online. Try these simple craigslist search tips to help you find your dream car deal.

Tips for buying cheap, classic cars and trucks on craigslist
  1. Search for similar, sometimes misspelled terms. For example search "69 Camero" or "1969 Chev" instead of "1969 Camaro." 
  2. Click search "entire post" option for searches.
  3. Select "By Owner" option for searches. Dealers rarely make deals.
  4. Get a better deal on ads without photos. More room to bargain, fewer buyers respond to these ads because you must see the vehicle in person.
  5. Expand your search to cities outside your area. 
  6. Be the first to show up with cash.
  7. If you must tow it home, ask the seller to pay towing or drop price.
  8. Ask sellers if they have any other "older" cars for sale.
  9. Ask sellers if they know of any "older" cars in the area.
  10. Keep a list of phone numbers of interesting craigslist vehicles. Contact sellers after ad expires to possibly strike a deal.
Bob West's additional craigslist car buyer's bonus tips for Junkyardlifers:
  • Search for ads in surrounding cities. ie: I live in Phoenix. I always search ads in Tucson, Flagstaff and other AZ cities that have their own craigslist. A couple hours drive can score you some primo items.
  • Place wanted ads. If you're looking for a 1952 Kaiser, place an ad saying so. You'll get responses from some high-priced sellers, but you may also get a call from Aunt Gertie, who doesn't drive anymore and has a low mileage Manhattan sitting in the garage.
Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife

1968 Buick FM stereo radio.

1968-'69 Buick Rivieras have this wrap-around bumper.

Buick's 1968 Riviera was built as a luxury sports car.

1968 Buick Riviera rear seats.

The pristine padded dash is a highlight of this 1968 Buick.

Bucket seats and console shift were popular options on '68 Buick Rivieras.

Buick's 430-cubic inch V8 produced 360 bhp @ 4600 rpm in 1968.

1968 Buick Rivieras have well-appointed instrument clusters.

1968 Rivieras were rear wheel drive.

Vinyl tops should have been outlawed in 1968.

1968 Buick Riviera's aggressive styling is defies its 4,200 pound heft.

1968 Buick's radiator is missing but carburetor is reportedly on the premises.

I would prefer a set of Buick Rally rims instead of Riviera hubcaps. Still, no deal. 

1968 Riviera interior might clean up but rusty shell all but gone.

Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife

Thursday, November 18, 2010

1969 Ford Mustang Barn Find 302-V8, 4-speed for sale in Texas after 25 years in barn

This barn find 1969 Mustang was put out to pasture for $500. After decades of protection this ‘69 ‘Stang was yanked from the barn’s dry confines for its own safety. “The only reason it was moved is because the barn was falling apart,” says Brandon R. of Tyler, Texas. “It was eight years ago when a rusty John Deere tractor pulled the Mustang out on a chain and left it under a tree.” Brandon sent us these photos after he discovered the car for sale in Van, Texas. “It was a back woods kind of place.”

Inspecting the $500 1969 Mustang barn find.

Why was it parked?
Rowing through the gears in a 1969 Mustang coupe powered by a 302-V8 was a kick in the pants in 1977. Unfortunately, a game of parking lot bumper bash led to mothballing this Mustang for 25 years. The front end crash forced the ponycar’s radiator to contact the fan blade causing fluid spill and its premature parking. A new radiator, fan belt and fan blade would have gone a long way in getting the Mustang back on the streets during the disco decade. Plans to repair the Mustang were indefinitely put on the back burner. It languished untouch as kids and grandkids took first priority.
1969 Mustang 4-speed with V8 power. Have a seat in somebody's dream car.
He who hesitates...
You guessed it, this one got away before Brandon could make a deal. “The car was 500 bucks, but once again, before I could go and get it, it sold,” Brandon said. “It was a 302-V8 with a 4-speed. I wanted the parts to change my 1970 Mustang automatic transmission to a stick. It also had a few options that mine didn’t have.” 

Note the blue door panel - original paint code was Acapulco blue.

This 1969 Mustang was originally from Dallas and had been resprayed since it left the factory with Acapulco blue paint. The damage from the minor accident and eight years under a tree was fixable. “The missing hood, probably removed since 1977, was still in the barn. The only rust was in the right, quarter panel,” Brandon said.
Damaged hood was removed, exposing Mustang's engine bay to Texas skies after being pulled out of barn 8 years ago.
Lesson learned?
When you miss a classic car deal like this, a valuable lesson may be learned. The term 'buyer beware' has a whole new meaning. It may sink in after you get through kicking yourself. 'Beware' car nut, you may not have a second chance on a 1960s-era musclecar for five bills. You've got to pull the trigger on a deal before it gets away, or else you'll regret it and words like these will haunt you. “The guy was flexible on the $500 too. Title, keys, etc. came with the car.” Argh!

Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife

Decades old Dallas, Texas parking decal.

1969 Mustang barn find interior should clean up easily.

Barn find '69 Mustang trunk.

1969 Mustang, $500. Regret, priceless. 
Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1973 Dodge Charger, High School Hot Rod Mystery: Part I

High school cool in a Dodge Charger, circa 1974.

Dude... What's that car? 
I (Ron) was looking through old high school annuals for parking lot scenes at my local library. I hit the lotto when I spotted a photo in Tarrant High School's 'Class of 1974' yearbook (near Birmingham, Al). So, I showed it to Jody and Anthony and Jason and anyone who would look. Wow! It shows a Dodge Charger with and an unusual roof option loaded with students. Jackpot! But now we have a mystery on our hands.
So, what is it?
I can tell you what it's not. It's not your standard run-of-the-mill, ho-hum, point A to point B car. This is a 1973 or 1974 Dodge Charger S.E with Rally Wheels and a weird roof. That super-sized hole in the vinyl top may have been dealer installed and not a factory option. What kind of horsepower was under the hood of that swinging Mopar? A thrifty 318 block with a two-barrel carburetor all the way to a mean 440 cubic inch engine with a thirsty Carter four barrel were possible. The photo was taken in 1973, so the dandy Dodge could be less than a year old if it was a '73 model or fresh off the truck if it’s a '74 model. It appears to be a light color, perhaps even the light yellow (Y2 Yellow) that Dodge offered. Somebody paid a lot of money for this baby.

Dude... Where's that car now?
So we declared to the world, “We must find this car!” Whose was it? A teacher? A student? And what the heck is going on with that cool roof? Buckets and console? Bench seat? What's it packing between the fenders? We must know! If it’s a four speed, we may drool.

Connecting the dots 
I don’t think it was a loan from a dealership. A dealer would often loan a school a parade-friendly car for advertising purposes. But, I don’t think that’s the case here. Why not? Well, mainly, if a Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth dealer was to loan a car for a parade in 1973, it wouldn’t be that one. There was a host of cars that would better lend themselves to a parade. I’m talking big convertibles to hold lots of upperclassman. Then, I noticed a sticker in the window that I thought may be a parking sticker. I have since learned that Tarrant H.S did not use parking stickers. What next?

Search is on 
So, Sherlock Ron and Matlock Jody have been trying to get to the bottom of the '73-'74 high school mystery. We would like to find the one-time owner of this fine machine and find out about that roof. We want to know (maybe we don’t) the fate of this Charger. We want pictures from the 1970s and beyond of this car’s life. We want hope that its still in the family, however unlikely that is. We want a street race story. We want as many option details as the person can remember. Have you ever been interrogated by a couple of enthusiastic car guys?

We need your help
We have made little progress so far. If you know someone who went to Tarrant High School near Birmingham, Alabama in 1973-1974 and this picture rings any bells, e-mail us here at, otherwise stay tuned for hopefully an exciting part two!

Ron The Earth Roaming Car Guy

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cars in Yards: 400 Ford Mustangs in Texas are a collection of Tony's Ponies

Not the Mustang ranch, just a huge collection of 'Stangs are gathered in an east Texas yard.

If you could fit 400 classic Mustangs in your yard, would you? A Mustang ranch of the ‘Ford’ variety has taken up residence in east Texas. Brandon R. of Tyler, Texas gave me the scoop and the photos on this treasure trove of vintage Mustangs. A wide variety of first-generation Mustangs, 1964 1/2s thru 1973 models, are a junkyard dream come true for Mustang restorers. But are they for sale?
Customized 1970 Mustang Sportsroof or just call it a fastback.
Brandon, a young gear head with his ear to the ground on all things automotive, heard a rumor about a guy who had more than 1,000 cars in his back yard, including 400 Ford Mustangs. Brandon jumped in his truck and made a 2-hour drive to check out the story. He couldn't have imagined a giant collection of privately owned cars existed, even in Texas. 
Tony, the owner of 400 Ford Mustangs and many more cars in Texas.
Brandon met Tony, the longish, blond-haired owner of the secret ‘junkyard’ in Texas. "I spent 8 hours looking at 8 acres of cars," said Brandon. Tony pointed out that Brandon had only seen the beginning. "You haven't seen nothing," Tony told Brandon. Those 8 acres were like pocket change compared to the property's enormous size." With so much to see, Brandon barely scratched the surface of Tony's vast collection of vehicles, which also includes Camaros, Thunderbirds, Falcons, Impalas and Corvettes. 
Brandon says the blue 'Stang on its side is a Shelby.
"I saw so many cars, trucks, buses and vans that it was hard to try and look at everyone of them. We were given a limited amount of time to look at his cars." Tony booted Brandon out before he delved into the most valuable vehicles. "The sad thing, is that the good stuff was beyond what I saw." Tony is a smart guy and has been burned by thieves in the past. "He knows that by keeping the stuff out of sight, it is better protected against thieves." People would pay to see these acres of Ford Mustangs. If your reading this Tony, maybe we can schedule a junkyardlife tour?
Some of the Mustang sheetmetal has been scavenged.
Brandon, who sent us the great photos, is an 18-year-old, who coincidentally has owned 18 cars during his young, gear head life. He currently drives an orange 1972 Corvette with 49k original miles. Tony's Ponies has inspired Brandon to dream of someday starting his own collection. "If I had the acreage like Tony and the money, I'd snatch up everything I could find."

Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife

Tony has collected a lot of fastback Mustangs. The green one is a 1969 model.

This blue Mach 1 Mustang looks like he donated a front clip and deck lid.

That's a Pontiac Trans Am blocking your view of the Mustangs.
1973 Mustang Grande in Texas yard.
Brandon called it Tony's Ponies, 400 give or take.

Poor man's jack stands or junkyard ingenuity?

A 1973 Mustang convertible, that's Tony clearing space in the shed.

Do uncovered Mustang engines rust in Texas?

1970 Mustang Fastback interior.

All these Mustangs and so little time.

Hey Tony, ditch the Mitsubishi Eclipse. 

In Texas the obligatory NRA sticker is mandatory if you don't have a drivers door.

The Mustang Grande never gained attention, until now?

Mach 1 with vinyl roof and zero visibility out rear glass still looks cool.

Tony's many Mustangs in Texas.

Send your photos, tips and stories to junkyardlife