Watch as Tom Cotter brings Barn Find Hunter to Britain

by James Mills
18 June 2020

Tom Cotter is Mr Barn Find Hunter. Travelling America by 1939 Ford Woodie Wagon, he lives and breathes Barn Finding, even rediscovering his Woodie, 26-years after selling it to fund his education.

Those that follow his travels from the UK will appreciate that most of the time, Tom turns up interesting cars with stories to tell in America. But for a recent episode, filmed just before the Covid-19 lockdown began, he stepped off a transatlantic flight and set to discovering interesting but neglected cars across the driveways of Britain.

First he meets Pete, and has the pleasure of the company of three cars that have all seen better days. Take the Nissan “Zee” car, a 260Z. Pete bought it when he was 18 (he’s now 57) and soon decided that it was “…the slowest thing on four wheels. It was like a pigeon with no wings.”

Pete turned to friend “Hippie Paul” to perform an engine transplant on it. The rest is for you to hear about.

Behind it sits a Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC AMG sporting a supercharger. Bought from “a double-barrelled surname yuppie”, it was driven until it was no longer driveable, and hasn’t moved since.

Alongside the SEC Merc is a natural contemporary from its heyday, the Jaguar XJS. Not any old XJS mind you, but a TWR Jaguar XJR-S, from 1984. Appropriately, the number plate of the XJS has a ‘GUV’ registration suffix.

The 150mph bruiser Jag cost £37,400 back in the day and featured a balanced and blue-printed 5.3-litre V12 engine with around 320bhp. All it appears to feature now is a whole lot of rust and moss. You can find out about XJS history and values, here.

Pete has one or two more surprises lurking in his garage. Then Cotton is off to meet Richard, whose father handed him down a 1951 Allard P1.

Tom and Richard discuss the story of this P1, and Richard recounts how his mother and father were always unsure whether he might have been conceived on the front seat, back seat or bonnet. Such was life in the 1950s.

Designed by company founder Sydney Allard, the five-seat, two-door saloon was underpinned by a box section chassis shared, at varying lengths, with other Allards of the time. Richard’s father’s car originally came with the Ford flat head V8 as standard but Richard says “I’ve changed it a few times because it kept breaking!”

It makes our hearts glow with pride to see Tom Cotter doing his thing in little old Blighty. Stay tuned for more episodes of Barn Find Hunter, soon.


  • Steve Cronin says:

    There is an underground car park near to St John’s Wood tube station that has an amazing collection of “Barn finds”. Many look un-loved or even abandoned.

  • David R says:

    Tom did great driving on the correct side of the road and negotiating the North Circular too. Loved the attempt at emulating Pete’s accent – was Dick van Dyke the dialogue coach ? Pete should be given his own programme, and as for the next guy’s description of the local traffic wardens – you don’t see that on the US version. Great to see Tom in the UK, what car is he driving though ? Repeat after me – Jaguar, aluminium, tomato….

  • John Harris says:

    I’m afraid James Mills has been watching too many of the Austin Powers International series. Life wasn’t like that in the ’50s! Sadly I am old enough to have been around in those far off days. There may have been some strange goings-on in & around Carnaby St. and Soho but I recall that it didn ‘t extend much further than the N. & S. Circular! At the time I was working on various projects up and down the country, having a whale of a time in my 1954 3 1/2 ltr XK 120 DH.C., purchased for £90.00. I’m afraid the activities that Mr Mills refers to came very rarely and were sparsely distributed around the UK. As far as fashion was concerned it couldn’t have been further away from that described in A.P.Int’l. Women and girls in the main dressed very demurely when they attended the local “hop”. The band was usually a poor imitation of Miller or Goodman or from the burgeoning Trad Jazz explosion. Men dressed in Daks suits, smart, crisp shirts and ties with well polished shoes. Just have a look at You Tube and look for the early jazz clubs or Ted Heath concerts. The best one could hope for was a glimpse of stocking top when the wearer of a wide dress spun too energetically and we all held our breath, hopefully! My (Northern) University days were spent studying engineering, non stop lectures, exams, laboratories, which again massively limited ones access to the opportunities he describes. One heard from some Arts and Literature students of their experiences in this direction but it was usually fanciful non sense anyway!
    No, it all went wrong in the mid sixties, or possibly right if you are inclined that way but many found that the land of “Free Love” soon turned out to be very expensive in more ways that one!


    John H.

    p.s. Even so I wish I had been ten to fiften years younger just to prove my point

  • Frank Price says:

    Hi Tom
    If you are still filming in the UK, you need to meet with my buddy Mark Fishpool. 25 years a car restorer and collector. He has 30+ cars in assorted condition.
    He is based in Peterborough.
    If interested, call me:
    [Number removed]

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