Piston Slap: Getting Smart About Barn Finds!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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piston slap getting smart about barn finds

Justin writes:


As a classic car lover for the past few years, I’m always scouring Craigslist for 60’s cars and watching YouTube videos on automotive archaeology. It’s a lifetime dream to fix something special and drive it everyday. This being said, you can guess my reaction to hear that there is an abandoned yet 100% complete Sunbeam Tiger on one of my relative’s property in some shed.

Without boring you, the story goes that the old man that owned it payed storage “rent” to my relative to stow it away for his son or nephew (my family owns a few garages and houses on the same street). He eventually passed and the son/nephew refused to pay for the storage. There it sits, 3 to 4 years since he refused to pay up and disappeared.

I cant stop thinking about it.

What would you do? I want that damn car but nobody thinks its worth hiring a lawyer over the title. I’m also fairly certain my relatives will probably want more than I can offer for it, even if they eventually get the title somehow. I’ve tried to do some research on getting a title for it but it doesn’t seem to apply to this situation.

It’s strange how things work, mostly frustrating but still strange. I needed to share this with someone else before I explode.

Sajeev answers:

If you have the spare time–which you shall if you restore a Tiger–you can certainly research how a Lien Sale in your state works. When I had trouble getting my UK-spec Ford Sierra legal at my local Texas DMV, the manager came out to help. She was very helpful, to the point that information overload made me give up and secure a title company’s assistance…but my point about working without a lawyer still stands!

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in our Best and Brightest applied for a mechanic’s lien, too. Probably a similar process.

Once you do the homework, you’re ready to get the Tiger titled. So what’s up with your family not hooking you up with an antique car they seemingly care less about? If you do the homework, perhaps you’ll be rewarded with that damn heap for cheap. If not, perhaps one party is being unreasonable and you should walk away. Hopefully not, but it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened in a family…especially as the holidays roll around.

No matter, good luck in your Lien Sale. Hope it won’t drive you insane and the Tiger won’t drive you to the poor house.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Snakebit Snakebit on Nov 25, 2013

    As someone actively engaged in the Sunbeam Tiger hobby(I own one, I'm also one of the members of a committee that authenticates genuine Tigers, as opposed to converted Alpines), first, follow the advice you've already gotten, and don't spend dime one until the car is legally yours. I don't understand the family situation where they don't think the car is worth anything, but the inquirer stated they may want to overcharge to release the car. Which is it? Also, has the inquirer checked to see if the surviving relative of the car's owner has the title, and how much would the inquirers family consider settling the storage fees for (everything that's due, part of it)? While the inquirer is settling this part of the equation, find out what Tigers outside this possible transaction are actually selling for. Try eBay and some of the popular collector car auctions. If they have time to watch in excess of 20 different sales, that will pay off in knowing when the right car crosses his path, and he can act swiftly to buy. This works for outside sales as well as the one involving his relative.I.e. if the inquirer isn't wedded to saving this barn-find, look at every Tiger transaction he can. The last time the Tiger family did an estimate of what it would cost to properly restore a Tiger, the figure was around $70,000, after you already own the Tiger, and this was about five years ago, so bump that figure up, accordingly. Once he's settled on a Tiger or two to choose from, get someone in his locale who's in the Tiger community, to look at the car with him to advise him. There are three active Tiger clubs in the States, one in the UK, and one in Australia, so there's bound to be someone near him. As with any classic car, buy the best one you can afford, and when possible, buy one whose restoration has already been done, that'll be the least expensive route to ownership. Lastly, get a head start, join the Facebook open group 'Sunbeam Tiger' and the user group tigers@autox.team.net (both free) and start learning about Sunbeam Tigers.

  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Nov 25, 2013

    Many years ago , I had bought , on the cheap , a sixties Malibu that the prior owner had never bothered to obtain the title for . A mechanic at a shop I really hadn't been to before , offered to obtain the title by getting a mechanic's lien ( at least I think that is what it was called ). As I remember it he did just that and transferred the title to me as a salvage car , and did all this for a rather nominal amount of money -maybe $ 25 as I remember , but this was maybe 1979 or 1980 ,so most likely not as much BS red tape involved as now , and I was living in Texas . Don't have any idea how easy this would be to do now .

  • Tassos Unlike Tim, I don't use this space as a wastebasket for ANYTHING BUT a proper used car.If you seriously need a car AND you are as destitute as Tim's finds imply, HERE IS A PROPER ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS:You can probably get it for only $4k, WITH Leather, Factory Navigation, plenty of room and a V6.https://www.cars.com/research/toyota-camry-2005/I even considered getting it myself as an extra reliable car.
  • Jeff Of all the EV trucks I like the Rivian the best but I am still years away if ever from buying an EV.
  • Kwik_Shift I definitely like the looks of the newest 300s over the Chargers.
  • SCE to AUX "Should car companies shack up with tech giants in order to produce legible infotainment systems and the like? Or should they go it alone?"Great question(s).The River Rouge days are gone, where Ford produced whole cars out of raw materials entering the plant at the other end. Nearly everything is outsourced these days - sometimes well, sometimes disastrously.But the problem with infotainment systems is that they are integrated with the car's operation. VW has delayed entire products for issues with infotainment.For me, the question boils down to a contractual arrangement - who owns and maintains the code forever? Since more and more of the car's function is tied to the infotainment system, I'd argue that the car mfr needs to own it - especially the larger ones.Do mfrs really want to share intellectual property with Huawei just to fast-track some code they've managed themselves in the past?
  • Kwi65728132 I always did like the styling of the 300C and it was on my short list for a new (to me) rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated V8 luxury sedan but I found a Hyundai Equus that was better optioned than any 300C I could find and for several grand less.