Jerry Heasley
June 19, 2015

The Legend is as old as the muscle car—a guy buys a cool muscle car, say a Boss 429, drives it 25 miles before getting shipped off to Vietnam, and never returns. The distraught family stuck the car in a barn to avoid dealing with the painful memory associated with it, until decades later when some gearhead stumbles upon it. Whether or not that has ever happened in reality, it makes for a good dream scenario and drives enthusiast like us to constantly be on the lookout for hidden gems. Sometimes a kid trips over a gold nugget, but rarely. After writing Rare Finds monthly for 25 years in four different car magazines, here are the 10 most common ways that Jerry Heasley has noticed people discover Rare Finds.

10. No-Secret

“I’m in a Ford car club. We’d sit around and talk about this car,” John Morris of Marydel, Delaware said. Nobody could buy the ultrarare 1968½ Cobra Jet coupe until Charlie MacFarland died. The heirs wanted the car sold so they could divide the money in the estate. John Morris bought the car that he found out about from his car club friends.

9. Dealer Call

Alex Mackenzie owns Mackenzie’s Mustang Supply in Palm Springs, California, and fields leads through his business. That’s how he got this 1966 convertible in Temecula.

8. Web Ad

Paul Pettigrew was “running reports for work” at 4 o’clock in the morning, while surfing craigslist ads for Mustangs when a 1968 California Special popped up for sale. The $5,000 price was reasonable and the car was about a 2 1/2 hour drive away in Buckley, Washington. The ad asked for phone or text responses, so Paul struck while the iron was hot and sent a text at 4:15 a.m. His first-responder status netted him the car.

7. Junkyard Dogs

A 1969 Mustang SportsRoof sat in a junkyard in Midland, Texas, for decades, until Michael Lightbourn made a stop on his way back from Dallas to his home in New Mexico. He checked the VIN to discover a Q code for 428 Cobra Jet. The front fenders were missing but the shock towers with Cobra Jet braces were not bent, and ditto for the framerails. The body was sound, with typical small rust holes in the rear quarters and the bottom of each door. Apparently nobody had checked the VIN on this rare car.

6. Weird & Wonderful

Rick Parker kept listening to the story of a lawnmower with a big engine. What could this be, a bored out Briggs & Stratton? The owner couldn’t say. So Parker took the time to drive 20 minutes for a closer look and discovered the lawnmower powered by a real Boss 429 engine. In other words, you never know what you’ll find.

5. Save-A-Mustang Program

Greg Gerken reclaimed a rusty 1966 GT fastback sitting for two decades in the flood region of the Susquehanna River in New York State. He paid $2,500 for the rusty fastback—a car too significant, he deemed, to destroy. Now he wins trophies with his classic. “I tell people I’m in the Save-A-Mustang Program.”

4. Freebie with Caveats

“Eddie drove a 1966 Mustang and saw that I had Mustangs sitting in my driveway, so he would come by and ask me questions,” Bob Becker said. The two became friends and helped one another out. Becker recalls giving Eddie an 1100-series Autolite carburetor, some tie-rod ends, and other parts. One day, Eddie lost his storage and gave Becker this 1966 hardtop (which needed lots of work) if Becker would buy his trailer for $300, which was a really good deal.

3. Estate Sale Mustangs

Single with no kids and very secretive with his Mustangs and Fords, James Heidenreich left behind 26 cars, some collectible and one very significant “135” series race car—one of the 50 Cobra Jet drag Mustangs that Ford built. Luckily, a cousin handling the estate was very careful and sold the car for what is was worth, not the $5,000 to $6,000 early responders offered.

2. Friend of an Uncle

Michigan’s Jim Paschen got a chance to buy an original-paint 1966 Mustang GT convertible located in California through a friend at church. This friend’s uncle, Barney Buice, had stored the car for 25 years and when the car came out of hibernation, Paschen got the deal. His friend knew of Paschen’s collection, plus Paschen also heads up a big classic car show every year at their church.

1. Hunt with Your Heart

In his pursuit of a 1965-1970 fastback/SportsRoof, 11-year-old Kevin Splichal of Hayes, Kansas, found Mustangs “here and there that were typical rust buckets,” as he said. His family got the word out and one day a call came about an Acapulco Blue 1967 fastback sitting in a garage since 1978. This Rare Find turned out to be a factory 390 GT.