Friday, September 25, 2015

An Out Of the Ordinary "Barn Find"

Okay, this is not a post about finding James Dean's 550 Spyder in a barn, cobbled back together by a tinker and in fine running condition in rural Vermont. Sorry. And, I really beg your pardon this time, it isn't about the barn find of an ancient exotic touring automobile that once belonged to King Farouk, covered in dust but an easy clean-up.

No, not this. = ?
Instead it's about many special cars in one barn, and all but one of the cars in this story are already beautifully restored by a master, so the 'find' consisted of surprise and delight for a group of PCA types who thought they were going to see a '55 Chevy or something before having hot dogs and hamburgers in the back yard. Yes, we went to a farm in rural Vermont. It had a modest and typical farm house, and a smallish barn that had a few additions tacked onto it. When the barn's well-disguised doors opened, our jaws dropped.

This: Elvis Presley's 1964 Rolls Royce
The very first car that we saw in there was a gigantic, chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine that Elvis Presley bought new in 1964. It's easy to find pictures of this car online, but I took my own while there. This was the only car in the place that did not belong to the man whose barn this is, but he was redoing the well-used back seat (see additional photos below) before the car gets employed as a major prop in a documentary movie. It's a special car, it's original owner is still special to many, but there were more amazing cars in the place.

Are you familiar with early Bugatti designs? One of his efforts sits in a corner, the only car that is in pieces. It's a small and unassuming runabout, and it suggests nothing about the Type 41 Royale, and others, that would follow years later. It is so tiny that I doubt that I could get into it at all, but it is the real thing. Probably it was previous to Type 13, Bugatti's first real commercial success in his own factory.

The other cars were crammed together (some about 12 inches or less apart [30 cm]), so making photos was a challenge and even my very wide angle lens was hardly up to the task. So, mainly you will see pieces of great cars.

The Packards were stunning. The 1952 XK-120 Jaguar coupe was to die for. Loved the additional British cars, and an American brass era EMF.             

A star of the show in my opinion. 1952 XK-120 coupe. Squashed between two Packards. = Me

While the Elvis R-R has some interest because of its once-upon-a-time owner, I'm sorry, but that car really pales in comparison to the two Packards, which are world-class cars, like so many of their era. The Packards were mainly hand-made and stunning, but the Rolls looks awkwardly hand-made, and run of-the-mill in a way that isn't anywhere near in the same class as those Packards. Of course, the Concours winning Packards were restored by their talented owner and the Rolls wasn't, except for the work being done that I mentioned above.

One uncommon part of this event, sort of, is the fact that the restorer's wife is the one who organized the PCA affair that brought a group of us to see this collection, plus it was she who organized and led a tour of the area that turned out to be one of the most spirited drives I've ever taken on public roads, bar none. I won't say that speeds were extra-legal at times, and I won't say that I learned something about the handling of my car with a passenger aboard, and I certainly will not mention anything about details like hitting the rev limiter more than once. Those sorts of activities are not appropriate on rural roadways, so it's good that you learned nothing about such behavior from this blog since I didn't mention any of it.

Okay, let's take a look at more images.

This is the back seat of Elvis's car that needs work. = ?
Not only is the upholstery worn on the velvet back seat of the Rolls (Elvis appears to have preferred sitting on the right side), but the oddly stained green shag carpet needs to go. The eight-track tape player will stay, but I don't know if it works. That might not matter. In 1964 Elvis probably had to work for at least several weeks to pay for this car.

That MG is really sweet. Too bad I couldn't fit it all in. = Me

I didn't mention that the owner and restorer of all of this also does boats. That's an ancient Chris-Craft over there with a Chrysler engine in it, I believe. There is another speedboat in the lower portion of this building that had just had its engine reinstalled. 'Gray Marine' it said on that engine, which was a marine engine company that existed from 1901, until 1967. Many of its engines for small boats were based on automotive engine blocks. Trivia aside, the work was as splendid on the boats as it is on these cars.

The paint on all of the the owner's cars is like glass. This is a recent show winner.
There was not one single speck of dust on any of these cars, nor any fingerprint, either. Fingerprints were restricted to the Elvis Rolls. People cared about Elvis, not so much his car, so they gawked inside to see where 'The King' had once parked his bottom, and they tried to guess what went on in that car, which one could only imagine. With the Packards and others, the cars were the stars, so as a matter of deep respect nobody put their greasy paws on any of them.

A newer Packard. This car has a special ultra private passenger compartment.
Maybe it's possible to learn this information, but it is probably a challenge:  Who bought these Packards in the first place? Did they come from Chicago? Were they robber barons? Run-of-the-mill industrialists? Movie stars from another era? The extreme privacy of the passenger portion of the back of this car raises many questions. Why the secrecy? Never mind, whoever owned them is long gone, but thankfully their cars were not eaten up in the WWII scrap metal drives; and so we can feast our eyes in jealousy.  

I drank my Mimosa from this glass. It appeared that the owner/restorer purchased about a case of these, no doubt from a session of competing down there, but I didn't think to ask - he was busy grilling hamburgers at the time. The level of quality of his cars was up to the Pebble Beach standard, so I have little doubt that he has at least shown there. He has the transport vehicles and equipment to take his cars anywhere.

One corner of the workshop.
It's nice to have such a workshop tucked away in a 'commonplace' barn, somewhere in the wilds of Vermont, unknown, even to the locals. That's a good thing, of course, lest it all vanish. That's why I'm making no mention of which part of the state it's in, and that's why I'm not mentioning the name of the owner, either. All of this could be anywhere, and I might just trip over another extraordinary thing next time I venture out. Actually, I know of a local warehouse full of Ruf parts ...

Here's proof that a bunch of Porsche owners were actually there, and that's the sacrosanct barn.

Here's the inside of that little MG, that we see part of above.

And finally, the whole Elvis limo. = ?