By on October 6, 2011

 Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

Every year, the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum sponsors the Orphan Car Show, dedicated to vehicles, brands, and companies that are not with us anymore. Lots of oddball cars and classes means lots of graphic content for Cars In Depth and maybe an article or two at TTAC. It looks like there are more than 800 images on the memory cards so it’s going to be a bit before I get them all processed and winnowed for a proper report on the show for the Best & Brightest. Still, as I’ve said before, you never know when you’re going to find an interesting car or something else automotive worthy of note. Driving to the Orphan show I decided not to take the Interstates and instead took winding two lane roads out to the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area. I wasn’t sure about an intersection and ended up going a couple of miles in the wrong direction. On the way back I noticed a home with a bunch of old Fords in front of the garage. There were a couple of 1970s vintage LTDs, two Fox body Mustangs, and a Pinto. One of the Mustangs has current license plates and looks like it’s a daily driver. The rest of the cars appeared, from a distance of about 100 feet, to be solid restoration candidates, but they had the look of “when I get the time” projects. What really caught my eye, though, was the yard sign standing by one of the big Ford sedans: “Cars NOT For Sale – Don’t Ask!”. It’s enticing to wonder what’s out of sight in the garage, but it’s still a nice collection of Fords.

For a second I was tempted to knock on the door and ask the owner about his collection and his sign, but I figured that maybe, just maybe he was tired of answering questions. I’d like to write something poetic or insightful about dreams as yet unfulfilled, but to be honest, it was just a bunch of old cars by the side of the road.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

Not long ago I found out about Cars In Barns, a web site devoted to, well, you’re not stupid. People report old cars that they spot in barns, behind buildings, in fields, and wherever you might find an interesting old car (but aren’t all old cars interesting?). Some are proverbial “ran when parked” barn finds. Others are shells, exposed to the elements and returning to the same. Many of the cars are probably beyond restoration, some of them are steel and rust lacework, but every single one of them is about passion, or obsession. Many of the reports at Cars In Barns read something like: “I’ve known about this car for ten years, but every time I ask the owner, he says that it’s not for sale.” To me that speaks of passion on both sides, the passion of the owner who still dreams of a restoration, and the passion of the guy that keeps bugging him about selling it. That passion for a specific car is sometimes rewarded. It’s not entirely uncommon, when reading a particular vehicle’s history or hearing an owner recounting the acquisition thereof, that the first efforts to buy it were rebuffed. “I’d been asking him to sell me the car for years and finally, when he was thinning out the collection and wanted it to go to a loving home, he called me.”

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

So I understand the guy with those Fords feeling the need to ward off the lookie loos and wish him well with his cars, whether they end up as 100 pt restorations, parts cars or, sadly, Chinese washing machines. I also understand the people who stop, see the sign and say, “well it can’t hurt to just leave my phone number in case he decides to sell.”


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18 Comments on “Look At What I Found!: Not For Sale...”

  • avatar

    Anybody asking about the non-Mustang Fords was just hoping to re-sell them for scrap anyways . . .

  • avatar

    Can’t let this go without recounting the ultimate ‘barn car’ – the one remaining 1968 Mustang fastback that Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt.

    The last reports were that the cretin that managed to glom onto it for peanuts sometime ago has steadfastly refused any and all offers for decades (and the offers surely have to be into eight figures by now) and is supposedly allowing one of the most iconic movie cars ever (if not the ultimate movie car) to rust away in a barn somewhere.

  • avatar

    There is a guy in my town who has a split window Corvette slowly returning to the earth in his front yard. Somebody saw it on Google Street View and it briefly became an internet phenomenon. Many, many people tried to buy it from him. It was still melting away in his yard the last I heard. Hoarders are an interesting species.

    • 0 avatar

      Brings back (bad) memories of one from 40 years ago:

      My earliest memory as a child is, at age 3, my father brings home for the day a 1953 Corvette. Brand new. They’d just got it in at the shop and he wanted to show mom “what kind of stupidity Chevrolet was capable of.” Gave me a ride in it (yes, I still remember that ride), took it back to the shop and promptly traded it to Grabyak Chevrolet in New Alexandria, PA for a couple of BelAir hardtops. In Johnstown, BelAir’s he could sell. Corvettes? In a blue collar steel town?

      Summer of 1969, I find that car. Five blocks from the family home. Rotting. A complete mess. And the lady who owned the place wouldn’t sell it. It was he son’s, who was killed in a ’59 Corvette (bought from my dad). And since the ’53 was her son’s car, it was staying at home where it belonged.

      Dad and I tried on and off for three years to buy that car. She wouldn’t budge. The lady died in the early 80’s, and the car was gone from the premises. Never did figure out what happened to it.

      Dad claimed it was Corvette #14 off the line.

      • 0 avatar

        And this is Grabiak Chevrolet today:

        No Vettes on the home page but they’ve been known in Western PA as the “go-to” dealership if you’re into them.

      • 0 avatar


        Damn! They’re still in business, and, according to the map still in the exact same location (I haven’t been west of Ligonier since 1998, when I left Johnstown).

        Back in the C1 solid axle days, if you wanted a Corvette and lived in western PA, you went to Grabiak. Period. Most people don’t realize, but back in those days, not all Chevrolet dealers were enamored with the Corvette (my father definitely hated them) and there were a lot of dealers more than happy to ship their ‘Vettes to Grabiak in exchange for BelAirs or Impalas.

        Back in the early ’60’s, you’d drive by the store and see 5-7 Corvettes parked in the lot out front, with another 1 or 2 in the showroom – and it wasn’t a big showroom back then, maybe could handle 5-6 cars. They definitely made their reputation on the Corvette back in those days.

        That got lessened due to quiet pressure from the Pittsburgh Zone office that ALL Chevrolet dealers will sell and support the Corvette shortly after the C2 Sting Rays came out. Dad wasn’t overly happy with that.

        Then again, dad’s annual Chevy was invariably a BelAir or Impala 2-door hardtop, 283 or 327 with Powerglide. You should have seen the amazed look in his eyes after I talked him into the suspension option on his ’70 Camaro Rally Sport (Powerglide, of course). He never ordered a car without the beefed up suspension after that.

  • avatar

    people have psychological issues

    i have it, everyone wants it, if i restore to 99 points or i let it turn to iron oxide that’s my decision and mine alone…

  • avatar

    TonyJZX…..Right, watching five vehicles rot away in your yard is indeed your own decision. Providing of course, “your yard” consists of five acres of rural property.

    • 0 avatar

      In this case, it might have been that large a lot. It was rural Washtenaw County. In most of the Detroit ‘burbs anything inoperable or unregistered that is visible from the street will usually get you a visit from the code enforcement officers.

      Also, only 3 or 4 of the cars are sitting. One of the Mustangs has current plates and the other Mustang doesn’t look too far gone either.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ……thank God for “barn cars”, but, let’s face it, even the authoress of “Oldest WW1 Veteran’s Widow Tells All” has watched ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, PAWNSTARS, or that execrable Speedvision series on musclecar hustlers. There will always be discoveries, but, except for cases of elder abuse and feeble mindedness, the price won’t be cheap.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, I think that’s hurt the antique market way beyond belief. I’ve seen 72 Dart’s with slant sixes that wouldn’t move without 4 new tires and a tow truck and people are asking thousands of dollars for it! All because that saw a 71 Hemi Cuda in mint condition go across at Barrett-Jackson for half a million. As if that has any bearing on a vacant field in South Texas.

      Maybe one day prices will return to reasonable.

  • avatar

    A family member traded for a ’69 Hemi Charger 500 barn car (that “looked like it had hit every phone pole in the county”) about twelve years ago. He had been talking to the owner for ten years before that, when the owner finally needed a nice car for his 16 year-old son so a deal was done (I think a restored Dodge Dart was traded).

    After the 500 was restored, the previous owner realized how stupid he had been and tried to get the car back saying he had been cheated in the deal. Well the fact is, that 500 would still be sitting in the same barn today and in even worse condition. Sad to think…

    The 500:

  • avatar

    Those 4 cylinder Mustangs may be worth something once the last of the 5.0s have been drag raced or hooned to death. Perhaps the owner is crazy like a fox?

  • avatar

    I live a couple of miles away from this house, and there is an older woman living there, whose husband passed away a number of years ago, and these were his vehicles. I used to see him tooling around in the green Pinto with a Vietnam Vets plate, wearing a Gilligan-type beach hat. It was his daily driver, but I haven’t seen it on the road in fifteen years. This is nothing more than a widow who wants to hang on to her late husband’s old cars; I am sure there are lots of fond memories there for her, otherwise she would have junked them.

  • avatar

    There was a house with a black 1937 Ford coupe in the carport. I used to pass by when I would take the back road to or from my job. Finally I stopped on the way home…the lady said her husband was planning to restore the car and it was *not* for sale, but that I could leave my name and phone number if I wanted. She produced a piece of lined notebook paper, and I think I became seventeenth on the list. Needless to say I didn’t ever find out what happened to the ’37 when it finally left that carport.

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