By on November 25, 2013

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 [email protected]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.

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9 Comments on “Piston Slap: Getting Smart about Barn Finds!...”

  • avatar

    Every State has rules & laws for lien sales & titles .

    As I used to rebuild abandoned cars I’m fairly proficient at the California system .

    That being said , you really need to ask for permission to tow it away first as the family rift and resultant misery will never , _EVER_ stop nor go away if there’s even one @$$hat who’s a negative butthole and will be envious once you put in the sweat equity and $ to make it look nice and run again .

    Tread very carefully here , I hope you get permission to take it .


  • avatar
    The Soul of Wit

    To follow up Nate’s comment…if you get permission to take it….GET IT IN WRITING! E-mails confirming the understanding sent, with read-receipt or open-receipt requested…then make HARD COPIES of everything so they won’t get purged.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    All of this stuff depends on the particular laws regarding vehicle ownership in whatever state the car is in, so get busy researching that.

    In Virginia, somebody with a vehicle on their property can apply for an abandoned vehicle title- fill out some forms, wait a few months to see if anybody shows up with the old title to claim it, and if not then a new title is issued to the applicant. If your relative doesn’t want to do this, what you do is buy the car, fill out a complete bill of sale (VIN, description, location, date, sale price, name and addresses), move the car to your property, then get the title yourself. Do not do ANYTHING to the car until you have the title free and clear.

    • 0 avatar

      “Do not do ANYTHING to the car until you have the title free and clear.”

      This cannot be emphasied enough. It may not be worth something to your family now; but when you get it cleaned up and crank it over for the first time (or sell it to someone who can); it will instantly become the family jewels.

      Some years ago, the city of Brenham donated a steam fire engine to the Beaumont Fire Museum. The Beaumont Fire Museum put good money into restoring it; only to have the City of Brenham demand it back. They were legally powerless to do anything about it; and the engine is now under glass at the Brenham Historical Musuem. Whether you are individual, museum, or business; do NOT put money into fixing up something unless you are the clear owner of it; or don’t mind the original owner coming and taking it back when the work is finished.

      • 0 avatar

        And make sure you keep it under cover. Something this old that has been sitting under cover all this time will likely fall apart very quickly if left out of doors; I would imagine the top will be the first thing that needs replacing or restoring.

  • avatar

    Unless the son/nephew is interested in negotiating a fair price that would allow you to pay a portion of the “back rent”, walk away. You’re just going to get either a) screwed, or b) sideways with some/all of the family.

    A Tiger that has been sitting still this long is a much better fantasy than reality.

  • avatar

    Lots of unknowns in this story so far. Have you seen it? What kind of condition is it in? If it’s a wreck then it might not be worth the trouble, I don’t think Tigers are all that valuable. What state are you in? How hard would it be to track down the real owner? And with family nothing is every easy, I know. I hate when people say “my family owns…” because in most situations your “family” doesn’t own anything. One member of your family owns something and the others use it in some capacity. So who actually owns the building this car is in? That’s who has claim to the abandoned car.

    So once you figure all that out, then deal only with that one family member, and I would just flat out ask him what he wants to do with the car. But if its decent and just been sitting, why not go for it? Help your family member secure the title and then hope they fulfill their end of the bargain and sign the car over to you.

  • avatar

    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 [email protected] (both free) and start learning about Sunbeam Tigers.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    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 .

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