Send us your barn find stories; Drive Home travels I-70

Richard “Tiny” Thomas’ 1936 Chevy coupe, wearing a thick layer of dust, is pulled from the barn where it had sat for years before he made a deal to buy and restore the old survivor, which he nicknamed “Sweetie.”
Richard “Tiny” Thomas’ 1936 Chevy coupe, wearing a thick layer of dust, is pulled from the barn where it had sat for years before he made a deal to buy and restore the old survivor, which he nicknamed “Sweetie.” Courtesy photo

Looking back over the year just closed, it strikes me that I haven’t said thanks often enough to those who have made the Wichita on Wheels page work for so long – the car guys and gals who take the time and trouble to share their cars and their stories with me, and with our readers.

It’s been 13 1/2 years since we began this little endeavor together and they have afforded me some of the best times of my 37 1/2 years at the Eagle. I’ve always enjoyed meeting and interviewing interesting people in all of my various work assignments.

I have to say, though, that as a group, the car community is about the most interesting bunch of people it’s been my honor to know. I have learned a lot about cars and made some great friends in that time frame.

And no, this isn’t my long goodbye. I plan to keep on doing the Wheels page as long as I can. I sure can’t think of a better way to spend my golden years.

When people ask me if I worry about running out of cars to write about, I tell them I can’t possibly live that long, given all the great cars in this area. That got me to thinking about how some of us found the cars that we treasure.

I was fortunate enough as a high school student to stumble upon a true barn find, thanks to a classmate who knew an old farmer who had retired a shoebox Ford long before its time. I would like to hear about your barn-find cars, whether they were stored in a shed on a farm, or in an elderly relative’s garage, or stashed in a storage building, or just rusting away in a junk yard.

So send me your best barn find photos and pictures of the finished product. Tell me how you happened upon them, how you made the deal, how you got them home and how long it took you to get them done.

As you can see from the attached photos, sometimes an old heap can be turned into a world-class show car. Or maybe it’s still sitting in a shed, waiting for the time and money to come together so you can finally put it together.

I’d love to see photos of all kinds of barn finds – the good stories, the bad ones and the sad ones. The ones that got away or turned out to be disappointments.

As incentive, I have a couple of automotive-related books I’ve received as review copies from publishers I’ll give away to the best submissions.

One is “Barn Find Road Trip,” by Tom Cotter, with photography by Michael Alan Ross, which chronicles their cross-country journey with collector car expert Brian Barr looking for interesting old cars. The other is a graphic novel titled “Steve McQueen: Full Throttle Cool,” written by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and illustrated by Greg Scott. Both books are published by Motorbooks.

You can email me photos and info at:, or if you’re really old-school, send your stuff to: Mike Berry, Wichita On Wheels, The Wichita Eagle, 825 E. Douglas, Wichita, 67202. If you want the photos back, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

And if you would like to hear some more of my ramblings about the Wheels page, remember, I will be presenting one of Botanica’s Lunch Lectures at 11 a.m. Jan. 14. Contact Botanica for additional information.

Coming through Kansas – There’s an ambitious cross-country journey underway right now. Three collectible classics from the LeMay, America’s Car Museum, are attempting a winter road trip from the museum’s home base in Tacoma, Wash., all the way to Detroit.

It’s called the Drive Home, since that’s basically where most American made cars got their start. The cars are a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, a 1961 Chrysler 300G and a 1966 Ford Mustang, and if they’re on schedule, they spent New Year’s Day in Hays and should be in Kansas City on Saturday, traveling along I-70.

The idea was hatched by museum officials and the head of the North American International Auto Show with the three cars scheduled to arrive Jan. 7, just in time for the opening of this year’s show in Detroit.

The caravan was originally scheduled to stop at the McPherson College Auto Restoration Program, but with students, faculty and staff away on Christmas break, the decision was made to switch that stop to Hays.

The journey has generated some flak from auto purists who worry about what the salt and sand the cars are likely to encounter along the way will do to their undersides and sheet metal. But we agree, these are still cars, not just museum pieces, and driving them proves that point.

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