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Sunday, 31 July 2011

If Only - The Barn Find Of My Dreams


A website I use often called Jalopnik.com does these "Question Of The Day/Weekend" posts every other day and on weekends. Some of them are made into definitive lists, some of them are more open, with weekend ones always being the latter. This weekend it's "What is the barn find of your dreams?". Well, I don't remember having such a dream before, but it set my imagination off. After suggesting the missing one of only two roofless Toyota 2000GTs from the 007 film You Only Live Twice, I devised a dream sequence that made my brain tingle when I thought of it. It wasn't as long as this - you can find it in the comments after scrolling past a cool dream of someone's about a McLaren F1 - but I thought I'd turn it into a story. A bedtime story, perhaps. It is quite late now...

"One of those slightly freaky people who packs a classic car in one of those airtight bags to preserve it instead of driving/polishing/displaying it lives somewhere quiet in the countryside. He lives on an old farm which he used to maintain, nestled amongst rolling hills somewhere green with a few yellow fields and a road-length driveway all to himself, dusty and un-tarmac'd. This man, getting on a bit but able to look after himself, minds his own business having made himself a tidy fortune doing whatever it might have been, and owns a big estate car as a workhorse and a pair of classic cars, the more valuable of which he started preserving after about 6 months of expensive ownership. One day, a storm brews and turns the sky a graphite grey before turning nasty and tearing through the area. No-one really knows what happened to the man that day, but people feared the worst, as he had disappeared by the time the storm had subsided and was never seen again. Over time, people went back to their things and the tatty remains stood for a decade or two, maybe even three. However, his barn, which is a 5-10 minute walk downhill from his house, is left essentially intact, with only a few roof panels being broken and the walls lightly scarred from objects caught in the wind striking it...

On holiday in America, I'm doing a little exploring in some rent-a-crap US market saloon, looking for wiggly bits on a big road map of the area near my hotel, when I happen across this old barn, sitting quietly in the summer air and flanked by a large and somewhat overgrown yellow field. No-one's around and curiosity gets the better of me, so I use the tool kit in the boot floor of my rented car to break the chain off the huge doors and pull on them. They take a bit of persuasion, but I persevere, and the doors swing creaking open... As they do, a ray of sunshine behind me erupts over a perfectly preserved 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, sitting in its airtight bag waiting to breathe again (that was the first '60s Ferrari I thought of, although thinking again, a 250 GTO would be an awesome thing to find in this way). Sidenote: I don't know how long these "carcoons" have existed, so assume the car was mint before it was packed, be it restored, well looked-after or relatively box-fresh.

Thinking this probably belongs to someone, I spot an old house that is connected by a stony path clearly beaten into place by feet, and decide to go and ask about it. Walking up the hill, I spot a smashed, rusted-out estate car and what looks like a '70s Camaro in similarly bad, sunburnt shape, although the Camaro's sitting in a partially-demolished garage. The house looks just as beaten up as anything else man-made I've seen nearby, save for that Ferrari 275, still in its airtight bag. I knock on the door and it shudders open to reveal spider webs and copious amounts of dust on every surface. There's no-one there and it looks deserted. Having trekked back and torn through the airtight bag with a knife I found - only to find the zip afterwards - the car is free, soaking up the first rays of natural sunshine its original Rosso Corsa paintwork has felt in years as it sits gleaming next to a dusty old tractor and some other abandoned farming equipment. I look around. The key's on the inside wall of the front of the barn, hanging off a nail and somehow looking relatively un-aged compared to any other metal in the barn. As there's nobody around for miles and I didn't see any police cars on the way here, I decide there's only one thing for it: I syphon the fuel from my rented car and fill up the Ferrari, hoping that the lack of any outside air getting to it meant the oil was still okay...

Before I know it, I'm going through quiet countryside in a 1960s V12 Ferrari, windows open, sunny but not too bright or humid, wind sweeping past the sunglasses I found in the glove box. It was a glorious day, listening to that engine sounding as sweet as it ever did, working through the gears, the undulating, twisty roads to nowhere all to myself. Because I'd used quite a lot of fuel finding this car, I had to pick a fairly short route through the rolling hills before returning to the barn, packing it back up and duct-taping the bag together to make it airtight again, before shutting the barn back up and crawling back to the hotel on very low fuel indeed in my anonymous saloon, stereo off so I could instead remember the sound of that 3.3L, 300bhp Colombo engine as it was still ringing in my ears.

The Ferrari 275 became my little secret. Whenever I was down or had the time during that month or two I was on holiday, it was off to the secluded barn, which I thankfully found a quick route to get to, always in a rent-a-car full of Super-Unleaded and a jerry can half-full of the cheap stuff for the trip home (the fuel tank is bigger than a jerry can, so I still syphoned fuel from the saloon). Each different day I was in it blurred together into one blissful montage of joy and emotion behind the wheel of that wonderful car, and by the time my holiday was over, I simply locked it up good and tight, sighed a sigh of sadness and whispered "goodbye" to it before I went back home. Needless to say, I knew where to go next year: the same place as the year before."

Then I came to and started being rational and considering details such as where the power to keep the bag inflated was coming from and the eventual wear-and-tear on the car requiring service of a vehicle belonging to a dead man, and the dream was spoilt...

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