50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered by Tom Cotter
Published 2014 by Motorbooks
192 pp., hardcover
Acquired new from a retail bookstore
The great thing about the automotive hobby is there’s so many ways to be a part of it. Whether you race cars or restore them, whether you’re into old classics or the latest supercars, whether you love American iron or you’re into the import scene, there’s room for everyone under the classic and collector car tent.
One part of the hobby that seems to have gained in popularity is the search for the ‘barn find’. Seeking out and finding that hidden gem, the one with a story behind it. My most recent review touched on the barn find – cars stored away, maybe long forgotten and hidden from plain view. Tom Cotter has made a name as The Barn Find Hunter, travelling across North America in search of salvageable classics. I had watched many of his videos posted on Hagerty Insurance’s website. A few years ago I picked up one of his many books, 50 Shades of Rust: Barn finds You Wished You’d Discovered.
Collected are short stories about 94 cars, trucks and bikes that have been found and rescued from what seemed to be their final resting places. And it’s quite an eclectic collection…
… a 5000-mile Porsche 914/6 that sat inhabited by mice for 36 years.
… Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth’s Orbitron, rescued from use as a dumpster in Mexico.
… a McCormack sports car resembling the one on the cover of Motor Life.
… an SCCA Mustang reunited with its driver after 40 years.
… a 1930s aluminum Peugeot traded for a 1964 Ferrari Lusso which was then traded for a 1965 Lola T-70 racer.
… the oldest production Mustang known to exist.
… a deteriorating AMC dealership, closed since 1980 and still stocked with cars, parts and brochures.
… Dyno Don Nicholson’s 1970 Mustang NHRA drag racer.
… a Yenko Deuce Nova hidden in a trailer for 25 years.
… a 1929 Packard stored in a shed tucked up in a mountain retreat.
And that’s just a few of the stories that also include hot rods reunited with the people who drove them as teenagers, former NHRA and NASCAR performers, and 2 cars now owned by Jay Leno after the owners wrote letters to him offering them for sale. Some of these cars were literally rotting into the ground, others buried under all sorts of things in a garage, and others just hidden away. They aren’t even all just cars as a few trucks and motorcycles get their due.
Some may find this book just doesn’t give enough of the story. Truthfully, there’s not a whole lot of information that can be packed into just a page or two. There are few pictures with each story, but many are somewhat small. I think each story offers just enough to grab your interest but leaves you wanting to know more. In some cases, there isn’t much more to know — the car has been rescued, and nothing much more has happened. For others, they were restored or were in process. And some quickly passed out of the hands of the owner to someone else. And some of them actually do make it back out on the road.
One thing you do come away with is the knowledge that every car does have its unique story. If you’re the type of person who loves the idea that somewhere out there, in the corner of a shed or quonset hut, the object of your automotive lust sits, just waiting to be discovered, then 50 Shades of Rust is the kind of book that will stir your passions. It may be light on details, but there’s more than enough to whet your appetite to get out there and start hunting.
Pros: lots of interesting stories, and a huge variety of cars, trucks and bikes, some you may never have heard of.
Cons: the stories are short, and the pictures are small. It would be great to see how some of these cars got the restoration they deserved.
Where to get it: Amazon, bookstores.