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Unearthing hidden treasures

Vast numbers of classic car enthusiasts dream about scraping open that unbalanced barn door to find a dusty Aston Martin DB4, which will be offered for less than the price of a Ford Ka, purely because it hasn’t turned a wheel since Margaret Thatcher was in power.  There isn’t a petrolhead among us who can claim the pull towards that Alfa Romeo Spider, lurking under a hoard of rags in the corner of a long disused garage, isn’t hugely alluring. 

The dream for enthusiasts to find a completely original car in good condition, blow off the cobwebs, insert some fresh petrol, give it a service and then drive your dreams off into the sunset is too good to ignore.  Sadly, this is very rarely the case - but it doesn’t stop us fantasising about our personal automotive holy grail. 

Yet, taking on a barn find has often been regarded as a specialist task for the brave or wealthy. However, this needn’t be the case.  While past reports dictate that the fine line between money-maker and money-pit can often spell disaster without serious vehicular investigation, with some advice on what to look for we believe resurrecting a long-neglected motoring treasure is within reach for all of us.

All of the world's Ferrari 250 GTOs and Cobra Daytonas may be accounted for, but there are plenty of other classic cars still waiting to be found. If you’re in need of inspiration here are some of the great finds of the past…

The Onassis Miura

Stamatis Kokotas was known as the 'Greek Elvis', as much for his sideburns as his hit records. But he had a big fan in the shape of shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, so much so that Onassis gave him a Miura S as a gift in 1969. Kokotas clocked up 52,000 miles in three years until it developed engine problems. The engine was removed and sent back to the factory; the car was left in a garage beneath the Athens Hilton - for 30 years. 

Battered and bruised, it was unearthed in 2003 when the hotel was being remodelled ahead of the Olympic Games. Having never been paid for its repair, Lamborghini still had the engine - on display in their museum. So, after 40 years, it was finally reunited with the car, which was auctioned by Coys in 2012. It failed to reach its reserve, but a post-sale deal was struck for about £300,000.  

The Bugatti in Lake Maggiore

Not all 'barn finds' are found in barns, and even fewer are found under water. A 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia was discovered in 1967 by a diver, and over the years became a sub-aqua club attraction. It seems the car was dumped in the lake around 1963 to avoid the payment of Swiss import duties, which by then were probably more than the 11-year-old car was worth.

The decomposed car was extracted from the lake in 2009, to raise funds for charity. The footage of fishing the car out was seen right around the world.

Bonhams auctioned the Bugatti at their Paris sale in 2010, where it sold for £205,925 to American Bugatti collector Peter Mullin. He is keeping the car preserved in its as-found state.

Citroen 2CV prototypes

To prevent the Nazis getting their hands on them during WWII, Citroen decided to hide the various prototypes that had been developed. In fact they concealed them so well that after the war only two could be found. Or so Citroen said.

A memo came to light from the 1950s ordering that other prototypes be scrapped. Luckily that instruction was ignored, and in 1995 three prototypes were discovered in the roof of a barn at Ferte-Vidame. How they got there is a mystery as they needed to make a large hole in the roof and use a giant crane to get them down.

Remember, no car is truly lost—somebody knows about it, you just have to find that somebody.

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