Book Review: Barn Finds Unveils Treasure Hunting in Your Back Yard

9780760349403Barn Find Road Trip: 3 Guys, 14 Days and 1,000 Lost Collector Cars Discovered


Hidden treasures are often found after historians pour over maps, check charts and make repeated efforts to see if they can recover sunken gold, vessels or artifacts off relics.

For the autoaficiando, it often means forcing an old barn door open and pulling a faded, mold blanket off a metal hulk to see what lies beneath.

Two guys (Tom Cotter and Brian Barr) with an idea, a willing publisher and a photographer setout on a 14-day adventure to see if they could find and document 100 old cars after hearing all the old cars are non-existent.

Cotter, who with school age buddies used to inspect his neighbor’s old cars pining in the back yard, sold Motorbooks publisher Zack Miller on the premise that the fortnight foray could be done the old fashioned way – sans TV crew and producers finding and vetting “finds” ahead of time – with their own gumshoe work in his ’39 Woody.

In 2014 they spent 14 days traveling from North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia and up to Hershey, Pa., using little more than intuition and hunches. Each day is represented in a chapter, beautifully illustrated by Michael Alan Ross’s photographs.

At each stop, with their Woody attracting attention, the trio would tell their tale and inquire at local diners, a Waffle House and watering holes about any old cars restfully rusting nearby that they could see and document. The responses far exceeded their expectation, allowing them to hit their target goal.

The result is a beautiful hard-cover book that uses nearly 200 pages to display more than 400 color photos that accompany anecdotal stories that can best be gotten one way, the old-fashioned way: in person.

As if to erase any doubt that duplicating the task that resulted in them finding 1,158 cars, truck and motorcycles (not to mention a 1940 American LaFrance Hook and Ladder with a 100-foot tiller, a Willy’s car and a Corvair pickup truck) is unattainable, the authors’ provide their “Top 10 Rules of Barn-Find Hunting,” that is worth the $35 price for its common sense approach.

Gerry Miles is a two-time past president of the New England Motor Press Association and a N.H. based freelance writer.

Anyone up for a road trip?


“100 Things for Gear Heads to do” by Jason Fogelson


The words “road trip” were perhaps never declared with such vigor as in the fraternity spoof “Animal House,” or meant as much coming from Chevy Chase’s character Clark Griswold.

Motoring to a new destination surely holds a great allure and adventure for many. Remember the old Chevy tag line “See the USA in a Chevrolet?”

Anyone making a list of things to do for the new year with the fervor of a resolution to read certain books, take up painting or lose some weight, will find Jason Fogelson’s “100 Things Every Gear Head Must Do Before They Die,” a great resource and reference guide.

Fogelson’s book offers adventures broken down to Ride and Drives, Auctions, Car museums, new Car shows, Classic Car shows, Factory tours, Concours d’Elegance, land Speed Records, Motorcycle museums, off-roading, racing, rallies, and more in the 160-page soft cover book.

Interspersed are a few quick-read Q&A’s with celebrity gear heads such as Andover native Jay Leno, (he picked, when pressed, F1 McLaren as the pinnacle of the last century), Adam Ferrara, and Alonzo Bodden to name a few.

Locally the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, made the cut with such national houses as the Henry Ford Museum. The Land Rover Experience in Vermont is included with such rock roads as the Rubicon Trail and the Jeep Jamboree.

The Esta Manthos Indian Motocycle (c.q.) Museum in Springfield was the original home of the company founded in 1901 that closed in 1954. Its museum close di 2006, but Manthos donated more than 24 bikes from her collection to the Museum of Springfield History, which has them permanently displayed. The museum is also showing a 1904 model formerly owned by cofounder Carl Oscar Hedstrom. And yes, the “r” was purposely omitted back in the day.

Fogelson’s book offers times of tours, historical anecdotes, and best times of the year for some exhibits in this thoughtfully written page turner.

A part of the Reedy Press’s “100 Things to Do Before You Die” series, the 6×9” softcover retails for $18.



Book Review: Steve McQueen lived life at full throttle

stevemcqueencoverBOOK REVIEW: Steve McQueen: Full Throttle Cool

By Gerry Miles

Did you know what made Steve McQueen cool?


Coolness or sprezzatura, according to, is derived from the creative class in Renaissance Italy where the effort needed to achieve a great performance is never seen yet perceived.

Or, to paraphrase the tagline of Dry Idea’s deodorant in the 1980s, he never let them see him sweat.

McQueen’s legacy coolness might have just gone up a few degrees with his life chronicled in a black-and-white graphic novel format, “Steve McQueen: Full Throttle Cool.”

While today’s graphic novels written that are underbelly-centric with gossipy celebrity details, McQueen’s also features the travails of his life in illustrated panels with dialogue bubbles sans the Biff! Zam! Zowie! callouts of Batman.

Rather Dwight Jon Zimmerman , who spent time at Marvel comics and has researched military histories as well as Bill O’Reilly books, chronicled McQueen’s life in detail that provides a thorough roundup of childhood to his final days when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and passed after suffering a heart attack after the surgery at age 50 in Mexico.

McQueen, whose first name was Terrence yet used his middle name, achieved his coolness due to a simple matter of timing, according to Zimmerman.

“(McQueen) started coming into his own in 1960s,” explained Zimmerman, who has worked at Marvel comics where he worked on Spiderman, Ironman, X-Man and also researched military history books. “His upbringing gave him an edge. In his movies he has a presence. He had star presence especially in way he carried himself that resonated with a lot of people.”

McQueen_pg15Illustrated by Greg Scott, the comic book style compares to the look of the “Speed Racer” TV cartoon as well as the pencil-sketch animation video, “Take On Me” by A-ha, a Norwegian band in 1985, which used a technique called rotoscoping. The video won six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.

“Full Throttle Cool” can be picked up at any point and draws the reader back in. It’s a brisk read that hits all of the salient points without the weight some 200-plus page turners bogged the reader down.

While McQueen’s life was played out on movie theaters, and perhaps immortalized in “Bullitt” where he arguably set the standard for action-movie car chases in a Mustang through the streets of San Francisco. Those factors, plus how his life unraveled as a child and evolved with some hard work and “timing” or a lucky break, without the stress or strain on the silver screen, perpetuated McQueen’s coolness that is synthesized into a 96-page biography. Does that arguably him that much cooler? In the graphic novel genre, it might.

“He had successes and failures. His successes were definite successes – like ‘Bullitt’ – because of his motorsport experience he focused on the chase scene,” Zimmerman said. “It defined car chase scenes on TV and movies screens from that moment on.”

Zimmerman felt a kinship to McQueen and other motor sport enthusiasts for details, having owned a British Norton 850 Commando motorcycle that he rode across country, and as a child watching “Magnificent Seven,” “Great Escape” and “LeMans” used the Internet to ensure his period details were exact and paid homage to the man, the myth and the movies.

“He asked himself ‘am I an actor who races or a racer who acts,’ “Zimmerman said.

“I found myself in this almost unique decision because I owned a motorcycle and was sensitive to motorcycle side and as a fan of his acting roles. This is the only book that I’ve seen that actually is as much as possible of equal time to his two passions: motorsports and acting. I’m proud of that.”

Experiences like McQueen’s struggles in his marriage to Neile Adams, driving in LeMans with a broken foot, and wrecking a car to get out of his contract – with a rented Cadillac in Boston – a publicized romance with Ali McGraw before he married Barbara Minty, his time in the Merchant Marine and later the U.S. Marines are just a few of the interesting details.

“If it wasn’t for his time serving in the Marines, McQueen would never have gotten the permission to film ‘Bullitt’ because he had the connections,” related Zimmerman.

McQueen’s time behind the wheel of race cars is well-documented, especially in “LeMans,” which was a commercial failure.

steve-mcqueen-lemans“When I rescreened LeMans decades later, I’m saying he did (‘LeMans’) as a French existential movie. It required the audience to be proactive and step forward and think about what was taking place because the dialogue was minimalist.,” Zimmerman exclaimed. “I was impressed by what he achieved there even though it was not a commercial success. Of course the racing community loved it for its action and being true to form.”

You may or may not judge McQueen’s life to be a success despite his short life. He was abandoned by his father, sent to reform school, had almost as many failed movies and TV shows as hits while succumbing to lifelong habits of what the book called “smoking marijuana, drinking beer, riding his dirt bike and bedding blondes.”

“He was a very complex individual. I found there was a lot to his character and in one sense a very private man,” Zimmerman said. “And he was also emotionally hurt through his early experiences that definitely impacted upon his relationships with women and his promiscuity.

“I think I discovered the man behind the image. Anyone who comes away from it at least knows there was a person there that was not an iconic actor or a dedicated racer,” Zimmerman said. “There was a man, flawed, but also who had good traits and some bad traits, but that they know the person.”

Gerry Miles is a New Hampshire-based freelance writer, and a two-time past president of the New England Motor Press Association.