The barn find trend may be dead, and as some of you noted last week, maybe that’s a good thing.

The trouble with barn finds, at least generally, is how expensive they really are. They are thrilling to some, at least in the moment when one is on the block, sitting there in an untouched state. But the premium for that thrill isn’t usually worth what it takes to bring one home, or bring one back to life. 

People don’t park cars and forget about them because of how good they are, or how well they were running the last time they were driven. Nope. They’re usually broken. And at least somewhat disassembled. 

That got me thinking. If a barn find is the opposite of a cheap thrill, what’s the best actual cheap thrill you’ve had with regard to buying an old car?

For me it was a faded maroon and white 1965 Tempest my old boss bought at the auto shop where I used to work. It was about 2002. Full disclosure: I didn’t own it, but I was the one who took it from $2k ratty old grandma car to $3k ratty old wanna-be muscle car.

My boss demanded we make it into a GTO, so we did that. We added 275-series BFGs on Cragars out back, which rubbed. Didn’t matter. The wheels and tires were off another project, so they were already there, and the car was cheap and not that good. Air shocks took care of its attitude problem and most of the rubbing, and although the little 326 was a 2-bbl motor with a lot of miles, it was still a fun car to drive.

I learned how to replace lower rear quarters on that car. Then I used it to pick up parts for the less-cool stuff that came into our shop.

I can’t remember where that car went. Maybe it sold to a customer, or maybe it went to the boss’ kid. Either way, it was cheap fun while it was around. We didn’t worry about hurting something rare. Instead, that car was just about building something cool. I don’t know if I’d treat it the same way today, but I’m glad we did what we did back then.

How about you? What was the cheapest car thrill you’ve had? 

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