Unbelievable Barn Find

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J
ust when you thought all the great cars had been found, another set of doors open to reveal an amazing collection of heavy metal. That was this enthusiast’s good fortune when he stumbled upon more than 20 rare and desirable vehicles laid to rest in a Maryland barn. Yes, they’re still out there!

We’ve all heard the stories. But how many of us get the opportunity to be part of a true “barn find?”

So with some skepticism, I attempted to digest the impact of my friend’s message crackling through Ma Bell: “You gotta check this out. There’s a bunch of neat old cars in this barn including a 1937 Packard Twelve, a 1931 Renault town car and a 1912 Pierce.

“Yeah right,” I said, “What’s the catch?”

“No catch,” came the response. “Just come down and see for yourself!”

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It appears that a garden hose and some car wash soap will make this 1917 Empire touring car a very respectable driver.

Arrive I did to discover 25 collector cars, many unrestored, ranging from a 1903 steam-powered Locomobile runabout to a 1954 Packard Clipper. Between was enough to keep the most seasoned collector reaching for his camera: Classic Packards, rare Pierce-Arrows, twelve-cylinder Lincolns, a Dagmar (what’s a Dagmar?), Overland, Empire, Cadillac, plus porcelain signs and parts galore.

Okay, take a deep breath. Let’s see what this is all about. Collection owner Arthur “Buddy” Smith is guiding us through the dank chambers that house his treasured stash. Buddy is a passionate enthusiast with an eye for saving great cars. Over the years, some were acquired from customers (Buddy and his father operated a service business in the area). Others arrived like lost souls in the hopes of seeing full restorations to their former glories. Some received attention and were driven, but most stayed put from the day Buddy rolled ’em into storage.

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A little dusting and mechanical work would put this 1925 Pierce-Arrow Model 80 back on the road.

But the time had come for Buddy to find a new home for his cherished collection. More on that later; now, the tour begins.

We start with the crown jewel of Buddy’s collection, at least for Packard nuts: a magnificent unrestored 1937 Packard Twelve convertible coupe, original right down to paint and pin striping. She needed a full restoration as the top was in shards, and probably had not seen the light of day since gas was 20 cents a gallon. Yet the elegant lines of this Classic Packard shined through. As with other cars in Buddy’s collection, the Packard was not butchered, vandalized or missing the goodies, like instruments and trim. And that magnificent V-12 engine places it among just a handful known to exist.

Keeping this blue-chip Classic company was a 1934 Packard Junior Eight sedan, a wonderful old gal just oozing authenticity right down to the pristine interior only absent the clock. Straight as an arrow, it lacked most of its original blue paint and chrome, yet that’s precisely what pulled me in like a lost kitten looking for a new home. There are cars that just sit right, and this was one of them. I wanted this unloved Packard!

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Here’s a rare glimpse at a rare car — a 1923 Dagmar.

When you thought it couldn’t get any better, the one shiny spot in the dark air revealed a perfect pair of Marchal headlamps atop a regal 1930s town car. It reminded me of the now-famous images of the Titanic’s debris field… quiet and peaceful with so many stories to tell. It was a 1931 Renault Reinastella custom town landaulet with coachwork by Kellner of Paris.

These rare and highly prized Renaults were powered by purpose-built eight-cylinder engines. Shabby and showing the effects of age, one could only imagine its former glory as the carriage of choice for a dashing 1930s couple. In fact, a recent issue of the Classic Car Club of America’s Bulletin contained a photo of what could very well be the same car photographed at the Greenbrier Hotel!

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A 1912 Pierce Model 36 Brougham emerges from the barn for the first time in many years.

Next up: three Lincoln Model Ks with 12-cylinder engines and elegant formal coachwork. The Brunn transformable town car might have benefited from an older repaint while the 1935 sedan and 1939 Judkins limousine were authentic right down to the plug wires. The Judkins interiors spoke of earlier times when the occupants were as well dressed as their surroundings.

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This 1934 Packard Junior eight is a heart stopper that still sports a magnificent original interior and a patina that only time can paint.

Much to the delight of brass fans, the find included the steam-powered ’03 Loco, 1911 Model T Ford touring and a 1923 Dagmar.
Dagmars were built over a brief time period in Hagerstown, Md. The company’s expertise in constructing pipe organs no doubt led to the decision to use brass exterior trim, rather than the then standard nickel-plating. With sharp angles, the Dagmar cut an impressive silhouette, unusual then as it is today. But perhaps the most coveted of the brass portion of Buddy’s collection was his 1912 Pierce Model 36 Brougham. Buddy reported driving this great machine at least once from his Maryland home to Montreal. Not for the faint of heart!

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A 1916 Stanley Steamer gets ready to be loaded on a transporter to make its way to a new home.

Rounding out the Buffalo, N.Y., maker’s inventory was a 1925 Pierce-Arrow Model 80 sedan, surely the conservative mode of transport for an upscale businessman or family. Like many of Buddy’s cars, the Pierce was complete and original, having not seen service for many years.

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This 1937 Packard convertible coupe packs a Packard fan’s favorite number of cylinders: the magical dozen.

What great collection would be complete without two steam cars? Accompanying the very rare steam Loco was a big and impressive 1916 Stanley touring. Stanleys contain an impressive array of valves and controls and, of course, a boiler, where one is accustomed to cylinders and spark plugs.

As we rounded out the tour, darkness revealed a 1917 Empire touring car powered by six-cylinder Continental engine, 1916 Overland four-cylinder touring, 1920s Moon coupe and 1937 Cadillac V-8 convertible sedan (one of the few vehicles showing recent restoration).

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This 1916 Overland touring car is powered by a four-cylinder engine. It looks like it would take little to get this old girl back on the road.

Chock full of automobilia, signs and parts, Buddy had indeed amassed a treasure trove of important of desirable cars and related pieces.

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The 1931 Renault emerges fter many decades in storage. Custom-bodied by Kellner of Paris, this grand automobile may someday see the lawn at Pebble Beach.

Okay, so you’re all probably wondering what will happen to Buddy’s collection? I’m happy to report that it was acquired by a private collector eager to see the cars returned to their former glory. And I consider myself privileged to be a part of this amazing discovery.

Yes, they’re still out there!

Eric H. Killorin is an automotive web and publishing consultant, Web site at www.killorin.com. All images copyright Eric H. Killorin, LLC.



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A Pierce-Arrow sedan lurks behind miscellaneous garage accoutraments.

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One thought on “Unbelievable Barn Find

  1. Beverly

    I am trying to find out the value of an unrestored 1937 Packard. A family member owns it and would like to sell it but we have no idea of the value. It’s been in the family for over 50 years.

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