Book Review: Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip

by | Oct 27, 2016

A barn find is a classic car or motorcycle that has been discovered, often in derelict condition. The term comes from their tendency to be found in places such as barns and outbuildings where they have been stored for many years.

route66After last weeks review of Cuban Car Culture, it seems that I am making a habit of reviewing books by Tom Cotter but I think that this is one busy automobile writer.

Yet Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip could not be more different. For starters Michael Alan Ross brings his camera along on this trip along the Mother Road that the author and photographer made driving a 1939 Ford woodie. And while I admire them for their choice of chariot, I am in awe of their attempt is a classic car that while certainly within the spirit of the enterprise would be a challenge given the length of the trip— 3,133 miles—and vehicle age. On this two and one-half month journey they looked at more than 7000 barn finds, many of which (I will bet) will look the same as they did on this trip many years later. Such is the nature of road trips and barn finds too.

The design of the book is different tool funkier, while still beautifully produced and seems more suitable to the format that the authors has written the book. The format of Route 66 Barn Finds is different because it reads like a journal and it’s as if you’re in the backseat of that beautiful woodie as it bounces down Route 66, with both driver and navigator constantly of the alert for hidden automotive gems that may be lurking behind a fence or in a salvage yard.

And along that journey you will meet the unforgettable characters that populate American car culture in general and especially those unique individuals who store—hoard—old vehicles in the hope that someday, when their ship comes in they will restore this rusty hulk to its former glory. Someday, if only. These people are not the typical car collector and Cotter enjoys having conversations with them and kindly shares these stories with we readers.

People like Father Matt Keller who is restoring a big block 1972 Chevelle that will be auctioned to help offset expenses for new seminarians. Or two entrepreneurs, Robert Lee and Vincent Aguirre, who make a living towing cars out of people’s yards and selling them on a lot in downtown Tucumcari.

Then there’s Rod Smith, who has a workshop full of restored cars and built a replica of the yellow ’32 ford coup that Harrison Ford drove in George Lucas’ movie American Graffiti. Or Wanda Purkey who along with her son Al run Purkey’s Salvage in Kansas that’s full of interesting cars like bat-wing ’59 Chevys or the rare 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday models that are lovingly photographed in all their rusty decrepitude. There is so much here that the best way to experience this book is by first reading each of his encounters so you savor the experience then go back again, before re-starting reading and look at Ross’s nostalgia filled images.

This is a must have read for people who love old cars. And yes, a Route 66 road trip is on my bucket list but for some reason I can’t get my wife interested. Maybe this book will help.