What car guy doesn’t dream of stumbling into a "barn find" — a classic, possibly rare, car stashed in an old farm building, just crying out to be hauled home, cleaned up and put back on the road?
Steven Neitzel has amassed his own collection of "barn cars" in varying stages of repair, enough to keep him busy for the foreseeable future. He figures he has more than 50 major projects stashed in metal buildings on properties he owns in Butler County.
"I only collect odd stuff. I’m always working on projects," Neitzel says.
He admits that for a while, he kept busy collecting and erecting metal buildings just to house his projects. There’s one stacked in pieces right now, waiting to be put together.
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Many, if not most, of his old cars are either Fords or Ford-powered vehicles. We were given a rare chance to tour a couple of Neitzel’s buildings earlier this week.
"I’m a real recluse," he said as he opened the first set of shed doors. A fiberglass-bodied green Griffith 200 coupe sat waiting for a fresh Ford 289 Hi-Po engine. Nearby was a heavily-chromed 390 Thunderbird engine topped by a huge supercharger and twin 4-barrel carburetors.
Further on, there was one of two Talladega Torinos sold in Wichita. "It’s been repainted but it’s a righteous car. It only has 69,000 miles on it," Neitzel said. There were a pair of Sunbeam Tigers, a ’65 and a ’66, as well as a ’67 Mustang that came with a blown-up 427 SOHC engine.
Way back in one corner sat a 1963 Galaxie with the square roof, a 390 car with a 4-speed transmission. "This was my high school car. I’m one of the few who still has their high school car," Neitzel said.
"I started out with FE’s (big block cars) and kind of wandered off into small blocks," he said. Among the big blocks is a bright red 1967 Shelby GT 500, 428-powered with two 4-barrel carbs and a 4-speed transmission. It shows only 33,000 miles on its odometer and was sold at Standifer Ford in Derby.
Nearby is an equally red 1970 Torino Twister Special sporting a 429 Cobra Jet Ram Air engine and automatic transmission. It first rolled off the showroom floor out in Ellis, Kan.
Elsewhere there’s a Mercury Cyclone GT, several Fox-bodied Mustangs, a rare ’67 Trident Clipper, a ’57 Ford panel truck awaiting an all-aluminum 1,100 cubic-inch Ford V-8 engine salvaged from a WWII Sherman tank and a mid-engined Pantera with just more than 4,000 miles on it.
"Everything around here is Ford-powered," Neitzel said. Even the wood-chipper he uses to help clear away trees is powered by a 390 Ford V-8.
"It’s a tree-eating son-of-a-gun," he says.
Neitzel clearly has his work cut out for him, but he’s not interested in selling any of his projects. So don’t bother trying. Just appreciate the fact there’s another car guy out there saving cool old cars from the crusher.