Paul Sadler
January 15, 2015

Many of the stories we run of barn-find cars have happy endings: A long-lost diamond-in-the-rough is discovered, recovered, and goes on to lead a new life either in a well-preserved original state or following a total restoration. This story is different, at least for now. These cars belong to a very private owner in the desert Southwest, a man who loves Fords and loves having a collection of them. Prospective buyers have approached him, and he doesn't want to sell, even though his poor health prevents him from working on the cars anymore. "If I was to sell them, when I go out to my barn I would have no cars to look at," he explains.

Neil (he doesn't want his last name used) was a mechanic by trade and used to drag-race a '69 Torino, a 428 Cobra Jet/four-speed/ram air car that was essentially stock except for a 427 dual-point distributor and exhaust cutouts. On the street he was undefeated "except for a hopped-up 'Cuda set up for the strip," he remembers. He'd race the Torino on the strip with slicks and the exhaust open, and on street tires with the exhaust capped. In that form his best e.t. was 14.09 at more than 102 mph, and he earned 13 class wins. Family priorities forced him to trade the Torino for a '72 LTD.

His long-term goal was to restore as many of the 428 cars as he could

From the mid '70s to the mid '80s he collected the Fords in his dirt-floor barn (along with tractors, another passion of his). Most are '69 models, and most have big-blocks. You'll note that the engine bays in most of the cars are empty; Neil has pulled the motors and stored them in his basement. Down there he has also stashed blocks, cranks, heads, pistons, doors, seats, dashes, center consoles—basically "every component you'd need to finish a car, from driveshafts to ram air cleaners," says Paul Sadler, who photographed Neil's barn.

The most complete car of the bunch is a fully restored '69 Talladega, its 428 Cobra Jet out and torn down. It took Neil three to four years to complete the car, and he fondly recalls driving it at its 20th anniversary celebration. He was "one of only three picked to lead the parade," he says. Following that gathering, he brought the Talladega home and got into the motor for some additional work. But that's when his health started to fail, and that project—along with all the others—stopped.

He doesn't want to sell, even though his poor health prevents him from working on the cars anymore

"His long-term goal was to restore as many of the 428 cars as he could," Paul says. "So the cars have been sitting in the barn he built, along with the house he also built 35 to 40 years ago. As of now all the cars sit untouched, and may never be worked on. What will happen to them? It is sad to see a man who did all that and now cannot do any work."

Out of respect for Neil and his privacy, we won't provide any contact information, frustrating as that may seem. We hope he and his family will find a suitable buyer or buyers for the collection when the time is right.

The Mustang in the center belonged to Neil’s daughter. It was originally equipped with a 351, but Neil planned to drop a 429 Cobra Jet into it.

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The dark blue ’69 Fairlane in our lead shot is an original, numbers-matching, 428 Cobra Jet ram-air car.

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Neil poses with the Torino he drag raced. The photo was taken in the early ’70s.