Some barns contain more than cows, chickens, and feral cats. As a matter of fact, some may even contain old, restorable 4x4s. Now for the uninitiated, if you find a cool but decrepit old 4x4 in a barn, you have found the quintessential “barn find,” which can be a very good thing. The term barn find is actually a catchall phrase that encompasses more than just a vehicle specifically found in a barn. It includes just about any abandoned vehicle found in, near, next to, in front of, or behind a barn, in a pole shed, an old garage, a granary, or wherever.
In the May ’12 Trail’s End column we revisited a story that ran in the September ’01 issue, which told the story of a barn-find ’46 Jeep CJ-2A. We ended the story by asking if you had ever snagged a barn find, and if so, we invited you to tell us about it. And wow, did you ever. Almost immediately we started receiving fascinating stories and photos about old rigs you’ve rescued and put back into service.
Wheelers who buy and restore these old rigs deserve a pat on the back. After all, there are easier ways to procure and equip a rig. Often, barn finds are not in running condition and many times they were parked and abandoned for a reason, like due to major mechanical failure. Some barn find recipients just get ’em running and relish the fact they got a classic rig for cheap, while others thoroughly restore ’em to like-new condition.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy reading these stories of rescued rigs in (mostly) the owners own words.
1976 Jeep CJ-5
Owners: Seth and John Clark
Resides in: Westhampton, Massachusetts
The story: Clark says, “Working on a small dairy farm in Westhampton, Massachusetts, I stumbled across an old Jeep hidden beneath years of dust and behind mountains of unused equipment. Upon questioning, the farmer said it was just an old beater he had picked up long ago, but never had the time or money to keep it useful. Turns out it was a ’76 CJ-5 with a 4.2L (259ci) inline-six and a three-speed. Using a fresh battery and a little spritz of love juice down the carb she fired right up! A deal was struck for $500 and I drove it home the next day (with no brakes).
“Although the seats were torn and the body rusty, I had a hunch there might be a hidden gem somewhere underneath all that mud and dust (and cow manure). There were no visible leaks; the four-wheel drive worked fine; it had a nicely done six-point rollcage; rock guards; and upon further inspection, the Dana 30 front axle had 4.10 gears and the rear AMC 20 matched and had a locker with one-piece ’shafts! Yes! My instincts were right.
“It has been a slow build but I still own it 10 years later. Since then it has received a new radiator, new seats, stainless steel brake lines and fuel lines, 3-inch lift kit, and some hand-me-down mud-terrains. My father and I take it out whenever we can and we love advocating the idea that you don’t need a high-dollar rig to have fun. Also, whenever we go out we always bring a trash bag to pick up any litter we see because we love this sport and want to make sure it stays around for a long time. That’s why we are a part of Tread Lightly! and always make sure we leave the woods looking better than when we found it.”
1920 Nash Quad
Owner: Bruce Rice
Resides in: Snohomish, Washington
The story: Rice says, “I found an early four-wheeler near a barn in Calder, Idaho, in the summer of 1988. It was a ’20 Nash Quad.
“I’m sure you’re familiar with the story about the Nash Quad. It was a truck that ‘Drives, brakes, and steers on all four wheels.’ These trucks, much like the Jeep did in World War II, helped win the war in Europe in World War I. They were the standard truck for the Marine Expeditionary Forces. There were almost 12,000 of these trucks built for the war effort, initially by the Jeffery Company and then Nash after mid-year 1917.
“My truck, however, was not a military version. Being built in 1920 it was used as a logging truck in the Idaho mountains up until World War II. It was abandoned in place after the war where it sat until 1963. The guy I bought it from (the son of the original owner) dragged it out of the woods in 1963 and it sat in his ‘yard’ in Calder, Idaho, until I bought it in 1997. That’s right, it took me from 1988 until 1997 to convince him to sell it to me. As you can see, it was almost unrecognizable when I found it.
“Anyway, it was a five-year project that became a great patience-building exercise. It runs and drives great and as a logging truck it fits right in here in the Pacific Northwest.”
1947 Jeep CJ-2A
Owner: Mark Harris
Resides in: Brentwood, California
The story: Harris says, “Here was my barn find. It is a ’47 CJ-2A that was sitting behind a shed at a pest control business out in the sticks around 1989. Never mind the bitchin’ Pontiac headlights that were cobbled on the grille, most Jeeps this old have bad eyesight. I think with four headlights it makes it look like it has glasses on.
“I brought it home in October, and then had it running to go to King of the Hammers as a get-around rig. It’s much cooler to be in a flatfender than in a side-by-side.
“It already had the mounts done for a 289, but sitting outside in the rain with no intake and a 6-inch hole in the hood, I knew the motor was no good. I had an extra 302 I just swapped in. It’s a really good find though, as the power steering swap and overdrive was already on it. It just needed some clean-up. I swapped in early CJ-5 springs, moved the rear axle back so I could get a little legroom, and I’ve been driving it ever since.
“Twenty-twelve is the year of the flatfender. I take it everywhere. It also just drove from the Bay area to the 60th Jeeper’s Jamboree and back home without any issues.”