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Finding Barn Finds

I have been fortunate over the years to have found several very desirable Barn Finds. Most times they were simply pure luck or simply being in the right place at the right time. The interview below is an author that has collected hundreds of Barn Find stories and turned them into a book. I hope the book or at least this interview will help you be motivated to seek out your own Barn Find someday. If you have a Barn Find story of your own you would like to share, send it along to


WALLACE WYSS is the author of Incredible Barn Finds, a new book from Enthusiast Books in Hudson, WI. A former native of Detroit “who grew up within the sound of drag racing on Woodward Ave.” Wyss worked in the Detroit auto industry, writing ads for Chevy’s muscle cars, back in the Sixties before moving to California to work as an associate editor on Motor Trend. He left Motor Trend in ’73 and became a free lance writer, writing an even dozen books on cars, including a novel set in the world of million dollar collector Ferraris. He sent us this exclusive interview , conducted by graphics consultant Rick Bartholomew.

BARTHOLOMEW: Wally, what possessed you to write this book?

WYSS: I previously wrote books on specific cars like the Cobras and Shelby Mustangs or Corvettes or Porsche 356 models but after I saw Tom Cotter’s books COBRA IN THE BARN and so forth I sent him some chapters hoping to get into a future edition. But he sent them back and said he wanted to do the book under his own name and not other bylines so I figured, hey, I’ll just call my publisher and propose my own barn find book. The first one was premiered at Monterey last August.

BARTHOLOMEW: But what difference is there between your books and Cotter’s?

WYSS: Although we have some of the same cars like the $4 million Cobra Daytona coupe unearthed after the lady who owned it set herself on fire, my criterion is that the cars have to be worth a minimum of $100,000 when done so that I won’t be besieged by ’65 Mustang notchback owners who made a couple thou on a car they bought from their neighbor. The book would have to be 1000 pages thick to cover every barn find bought low and sold for a few thousand profit.

BARTHOLOMEW What about the look of the book?

WYSS: We both have softbound vertical formats. Cotter has small color pictures and I wish I could beat the bushes for those shots he has of when the car was first found but I am a former barn finder myself and many times I didn’t take a picture because I was in one helluva hurry to get on down the road before the seller changed their mind! So my books so far have one small snapshot—if you think of it as a book of short stories that happen to have a picture, you can get the idea. Jerry Heasley in his RARE FIND Series has even more pictures of the cars but as I say, we each take our separate roads and mine is depending on the literary quality, being written in an entertaining style, and the research. By the way, I should add that, in a few cases, when I couldn’t find a picture I took out my brushes and paint and painted one, since I have been a self-taught “primitive” artists since 2007 with my high point there having my work sold by the Pebble Beach Corporation.

BARTHOLOMEW: Tell us about your own barn finds?

WYSS: I always searched for myself before I was a semi-pro. For myself, I bagged two Mercedes 300SL gullwings, a Porsche convertible D, and an Iso Grifo, but it was for others I got the more expensive cars like Corvette powered Bizzarrinis, Rolls Royce Silver Clouds, Lamborghini Espadas, Bentley Continentals, etc.

BARTHOLOMEW: Do you give tips on how to find barn finds?

WYSS: You bet I do, at the end of every chapter there’s a ‘Lessons Learned’ question and then the answer regarding the specifics of how that car was found and bought. Then at the end of the book the whole last chapter recapitulates the winning moves of the 50 barn finders and gives even more advice.

BARTHOLOMEW: I saw one wag, maybe pulling your leg, who put on that “not all your cars in your book were found in barns.” What do you say about that?

WYSS: True, I use the word “barn” metaphorically. I am tryng to expand the defination. What I really mean is a place where it is unseen by the public for many years. That could be a barn, a factory, a warehouse, a basement, hell, some of the cars in my books were even found in crazy places like the basement of a nightclub where you had to bash down a brick wall to get at it

BARTHOLOMEW: Does it have to be a recent barn find?

WYSS: To the contrary. In the first book there’s a Bugatti Royale that a Detroit engineer spotted at a horse race track in ’37. He told all his friends in New York “let me know if that car comes up for sale” and in ’43 a buddy called him and told him it was in a junkyard. He sent the man to the junkyard and bought the car for $412. I would say today it is worth North of $25 million. So I don’t care how old the tip is that someone sends me  if it shows entrepreneurial skill in finding the car and in wresting it from its owner.

BARTHOLOMEW: Are you partial to foreign makes or domestic cars?

WYSS: Well, since I moved to the coast, I became educated in sports cars and luxury cars I never saw in Michigan but going back to my roots, I was there during the Sixties on Woodward Ave. –even raicng from light to light–so I have a soft spot in my heart for musclecars. There’s almost an even split in the book between domestics and foreign cars.

BARTHOLOMEW: And I understand you have your favorite niche categories. Can you tell us what those are?

WYSS: Yes, glad to. First is the race car converted for the road. I remember when I first came to California to work for Motor Trend and saw a guy driving a LeMans racing Ferrari down the street. It turned out to be a P3/4 owned by Dino Martin, son of Dean Martin. Maybe there were rules and regulations but somehow guys would get full blown racers “legal” and tool around in them until they got one too many tickets.

BARTHOLOMEW: What’s the second category, or “pet subject?”

WYSS: That would be concept cars, or “dream cars” as they were once called. I was one of those kids at the rail at the Detroit Auto Show wishing I could own a dream car but I never figured it was possible back then. Since then, I have talked to many people who bought the actual dream car featured at such shows when the auto companies accidentally let them get into public hands, such as the 1964 Worlds Fair Corvette, one with Shark style side pipes, that I let get by me in a drive-in while cruising Woodward without getting the owner’s name.

BARTHOLOMEW: Do you own an interesting cars now?

WYSS: No, I’m into a different hobby area now, learning the thoroughbred horse trade. I sold my first thoroughbred in 2011. I am also expanding my oil painting so the cars will have to wait. I do have my eye on a barn find Fifties Rolls though. I just don’t want to deal on the car until I’m ready, the strategy you’ll find in the book.

BARTHOLOMEW: When will the next volume be out?

WYSS: In the spring of 2014. It is written now, all 50 chapters, but it’s a little like time trials at Indy. There they have 33 cars on the grid but if another guy comes along with a faster time and qualifying hasn’t closed the newcomer can “bump” somebody off the start grid. So even though I have 50 chapters ready, the latest stories arriving have more information so they are “bumping cars” previously set for Vol. 2.

BARTHOLOMEW: How can someone out there get their car featured in your next book?

WYSS: That’s possible, but remember not only do I want the car to be worth $100K when it’s done but I’d like you to tell me roughly what you paid for it when found. Without that, there’s no story unless you went through a very complicated means of finding it…anyhow send my publisher a letter describing your find , but don’t send in pictures until we see if it’s a candidate. We’ll be happy to mention businesses that worked on it so you body shop owners and mechanics out there might want to ask your customers if they want to nominate the car you helped restore for them.

BARTHOLOMEW: Where can we buy your book?

WYSS: My publisher is Enthusiast Books. Their telephone is (715) 381-9755 and there’s a toll free order line (800) 289-3504. Their mailing address is: Iconografix 1830A Hanley Road Hudson WI 54016 USA

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I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at

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