Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Barn Finds and modern times...

Ever since I wrote yesterdays post I've had this idea of automotive hidden treasure on my mind and how it really is The Grail for us petrol pumping nut-jobs. In thinking about this, something else started to come to me, and that is the idea that somehow it feels like it has taken on an even more romantic, mysterious, and fantastic quality in recent years. Now why would this be? Why would we be feeling this now? Well, I think for a few reasons. 

First and foremost, and what is probably most obvious, is the internet. This idea that if you are lucky enough to be in the position to purchase the car of your dreams, you can potentially have it delivered to your doorstep in two weeks time...  without leaving the comfort of your home. This certainly cuts down on the old "Safari factor" that used to be an unavoidable component of the hobby now doesn't it? As much as this surely dulls the thrill of the chase feeling that comes from locating and grabbing up your dream machine, it can't be considered anything but a good thing. Never again will a casual enthusiast, who might live in a part of the country with a climate unfriendly to aging sheet metal, end up stumped and disheartened because they couldn't find a pristine example of their old high school ride. Now a case could be made that that is what Hemmings has been for since the mid 1950s. Yes, it's true, the great sandwich-bag colored motor news publication has been there for us for a long time, but I think you'd have to agree that the Hemmings world always was, and still is, a tight-knit circle. Unless you were a Hershey going- AACA lifetime member- guy with a penchant for pouring babbitt bearings in his basement just to pass the time in the winter even though all of your cars have inserts- enthusiast, you may not have even heard of Hemmings Motor News. Where would you start at that point? The local paper? The Pennysaver? Maybe so, and just maybe you'd find something that was recently unearthed in your local town or nearby. Not so much anymore. Not with the communication and information we have at our fingertips. As the Bugatti story proves, it can still happen in this day and age, just not as often. 

Now we come to the combination of the internet, or more specifically Ebay, and the good old boob tube. As someone who is never home long enough to make sense of paying for satellite or digital TV, I am absolutely astonished every time I'm around the 700 channels and take time to surf for car-porn. If this technology had been around when I was in high-school I would have never left the house ( We're still talking about CAR-porn for the record ). Program after program on every kind of classic, muscle-car, sports-car, super-car, truck, bike, you name it, that you could ever imagine. And some really quality stuff. Top-Gear, American Muscle-car, the Alain DeCadenet "Victory by Design" series just to name a few. And then you have all of the how-to-do-anything under the sun to whatever it is you're driving shows. And again, some well done, entertaining, and very educational shows... like, most anything I've seen in the "Powerblock" series of shows that air on Spike over the weekend. See, we do have TiVo on the tour bus and I've managed to put my own little taping schedule in to keep up on the "important" things going on in the world. And I'm sure I'd find many more to watch if I lived with it everyday. 

But as far as the TV stuff goes, I think the true culprits in ending the Barn Find era are the televised and sensationalized Barrett-Jackson auctions. If this doesn't make every person who has an "old car out back" sit up straight and take notice than nothing will. This shouting match with rock concert lighting has all the subtlety of the WWF, but with less informed commentators. With all of the financial upside that this series has brought to the collector car market, it has also contaminated the hobby by making every person with a rusty '68 Road Runner think they have a million dollar car. This has now become the new obstacle in the old car world that has to be navigated. If you've been in the hobby for years, you know better, but the guy who owns the car and thinks he has a lottery ticket is another story and has no interest in being brought up to speed. I suppose a case could be made that the cars are being brought out of hibernation instead of being left to rot, in some cases that's true. But I have seen too many examples to count of owners with false dreams who are going to stick to their price come hell or high water while their still salvageable car sinks into the ground. Sorry, I just had to get that out. 

Now when you put all of this together; 1) exposing people to the collector car world in an overly hyped way. 2) inserting collector and special interest cars into peoples weekly entertainment programming. 3) giving them a place to advertise their old car that reaches a worldwide market...     well it only makes sense that our old practice of scouring the countryside and finding unknown treasure is going to fade away, and that's progress and that's OK.

 Maybe this is the new obstacle of the old car world that has to be navigated after all. It certainly is the new playing field. As the Ebaymotors story of the year '63 Pontiac Tempest drag car ( that sold for nearly a quarter of a million dollars leaving no one as surprised as the seller ) told us, the barn finds are still out there gents...   only now we'll most likely find them in cyberspace. 

( Regarding today's photo )...   Do you think the young Carroll Shelby ever thought things would become more complicated than a boy and his pedal car? 

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