Gallery: Barn find bliss at the NEC Restoration show

by Antony Ingram
29 March 2023 3 min read
Gallery: Barn find bliss at the NEC Restoration show
Photos: Antony Ingram

The Classic Car and Restoration Show held at the National Exhibition Centre each March is a little different from its conventional classic car counterpart in November, focusing more on works-in-progress than shiny show cars.

That doesn’t make it any less appealing though, because whether you’ve restored a car in the past, are intending to in future, or have your own project on the go and need inspiration, seeing not-quite-complete cars, and talking to their owners, can be great motivation. But some, like the show’s barn find display, are equally as appealing for their slightly morbid nature.

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Barn finds seem to occupy their own, almost mythical corner of the hobby; who hasn’t wished that hidden at the back of a new house purchase was a suspiciously untouched shed, squeezing a collection of long-forgotten cars between its walls? The term has become overused if anything, wheeled out to flog slightly dusty cars that might have been sitting in an urban garage for five years and at worst gained a few boxes of Christmas decorations on the roof.

The cars at the restoration show were the real deal though, in various states of disrepair and in need of significant work in most cases to return them to the road.

Take this pugnacious little Mini for instance, most notable for an oil cooler and radiator both sprouting through its roughly-cut, fine mesh grille – certainly not a factory accessory from its 1964 model year. A Mini 850, owner Ian Mills spotted it in the corner of a barn while on a parts hunt for his MG, and couldn’t resist picking up a classic Mk1.

The modifications suggest it was a racer at some point, and the owner plans to preserve as much of that racing history as possible – but the car will certainly need several areas of corrosion dealing with, as well as a new interior and a full mechanical overhaul. Thankfully, Mini parts are easy to come by.

Similar might be said of Ford spares for the 1982 Ford Capri Calypso sitting nearby. Brought to the show by M25 Classics, it’s apparently a one-family owned car from new, though the family presumably had other things on their mind over the years, slowly letting the special-edition Ford deteriorate.

We rather like the steel-wheeled and front-wingless aesthetic, which probably says as much about how good the Mk3 Capri shape looks in general as it does any unusual taste on our part – it’s just a fundamentally cool-looking thing, no matter how rough around the edges. The two tone on this one will look excellent if and when it’s ever restored too. Would you bring its 73bhp 1.6 back to life, or drop in a modern Ford Duratec engine?

No such engine-swap dilemmas for the 1952 Jowett Javelin Deluxe on display, unless you were tempted to exchange its 1.5-litre flat four-cylinder for say, a Subaru unit. Jowett disappeared in 1955 but the Bradford firm and its cars have a real following, with the Javelin being among the best-known, for its striking streamlined styling (allowing an 80mph top speed), that flat four, independent front suspension, and the first curved glass windscreen ever fitted to a production car.

Hanne Taylor’s car has remained in the family since 1952, and untouched in the garage since 1966. This makes it incredibly original, and the car has never even been welded. As the basis for a restoration goes, this Javelin is off to a good headstart.

Parked not far away, the future of a 1971 Austin 3-litre, converted to an ambulance in period, looks less certain. Another being displayed by M25 Classics, it’s in rough shape, but has an interesting history – it’s believed to have been used at the factory of Lockheed Industries, and thought to be one of only two in existence.

Elsewhere on the stand, we spotted a slightly crusty and slightly mossy A-reg Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a Reliant Scimitar GTE whose fibreglass bodywork actually leaves it in quite good shape next to more ferrous vehicles, and a 1971 Austin A60 van once used by a church furnishing business (which probably needs more than prayers to get back on the road). Barn finds really are still out there. Some just need a little more digging out than others.

Read more

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  • Roger+Blaxall says:

    Lots of cars to be rediscovered yet in my neck of the woods including two UMMS at rest in a field near Ormskirk and a field full near Southport, Lancashire

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