1957 Chevy Wagon Freed From Barn After 35 Years and Driven!

I would bet most of you reading this article would love to come across a car like this! I think we’ve all dreamed at some point about finding a really cool car, putting lots of elbow grease into it, and driving the fruits of our labor. But what if I told you the story of this 1957 Chevy 210 Townsman wagon was a little different? What if I told you that the car pictured above was cleaned up and driving 24 hours after this photo was taken? Yep, that’s right. Owner Danny Rathe of Rapid City, South Dakota pulled this ’57 Chevy out of the barn where it sat for 35 years and was driving it the next day! Let’s take a look at this amazing story and if you’d like to read more, check out the article by Taylor Kempkes that can be found here on automobilemag.com.

Apparently this car was driven into this barn in 1985 where it sat until last month. The original owner was a gentleman named Donald Russell. Don had driven this car cross-country in his college years, towing an Apache camper. It had a repaint in the 1970s, but other than that was all original. Don parked it in that barn in 1985 for an undisclosed reason and after his passing, his son-in-law had the task of selling his 40-acre property. Not only did the property contain the awesome 1957 Chevy wagon, but it also contained the following: A 1977 Chevy El Camino and a 1952 Buick Special (which you can see under the lean-to), a 1937 Ford ½-ton truck and a 1961 Apache pop-up camper. Inside the barn sat a 1965 Buick Wildcat and a two-door 1975 LeSabre along with the ’57.

Here you can see the car cleaned up really well. There are photos of Danny washing the car in the original article, which shows just how much debris was cleaned off. Danny says the process of getting it running was pretty simple. “We drained all fluids, pulled gas tank, blew out fuel lines, changed oil, trans, and rear end fluids. Pulled wheels and ran to Walmart—only place to get 14-inch tires on a Sunday—got a battery, carb cleaner, Sea Foam, tires, and bug bombs. Got back to shop, checked brakes, bearings on hubs, put car back together, and set it on the ground. After pulling the top off the two-barrel carb to free the check ball and allow fuel to flow, we hooked a gas can to the fuel pump, poured a prime down the carb, and the 35-year sleep was over! She fired up and blew the cobwebs from the tailpipe—literally. 35 years in the barn and 24 hours after it reaching the shop, I was driving a one-owner, original titled, ’57!”

Here you can see the inside. Aside from a couple of tears in the driver’s seat, this thing looks awesome! What do you think about this find? If you had the choice to find any car/truck in a barn, what would be your ideal find?

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  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great story Montana! Enough to make a grown man cry. Not sure what my barn find favorite would be, be happy with a Gullwing. Or just about any nice old rig in this shape. Congrats to the saving crew!

    • Weasel

      The tear in your eye could be caused by the tear in the upholstery.

      Sorry everyone, I’ll let myself out now.

  2. Rex Kahrs Member

    I ain’t buying the one-day-back-on-the-road story. Certainly all of the outboard engine components (belts, hoses, wires, points, pumps) were shot. And surely the brakes weren’t up to snuff, no way. I’ve revived many cars out of decades of dormancy, and it doesn’t happen in one day. If you believe that, go to church on Easter Sunday, there’s nothing to worry about.

    • Russell Ashley

      When he said he was driving it he might have meant yard driving it, or just around the block. I can identify with being eager to get behind the wheel and feel it move under it’s own power for the first time.

      • Dickie F.

        Yes, driving it with a gas can hooked up to the fuel pump, probably located inside the engine compartment ?
        Or the front bumper?
        Surely not inside the station wagon?

  3. Camaro Joe

    Rex, it might be possible to get it back on the road in one day, the guy says “We” did it. If he had a team of good, fast people (say 5 or so) with tools, parts and supplies, and you get really lucky, maybe you could make it happen. It would take a NASCAR style pit crew worth of 57 Chevy mechanics to do that in a day.

    I’d bet that my Dad, my Uncle and three of their co-worker mechanics from Wyatt Chevrolet in the early 1950’s could have done it. The beer bill would have been a killer though. It’s still a really good story, just not sure about the time line.

  4. Fred W

    Sure, and those cable TV car restoration reality shows turn a rusted turdbucket into a concours quality show car in a week and a half.

  5. Bob_in_TN Member

    As I was reading the story, that’s what my mind’s eye was seeing: a group of guys working on it. My other thought was: what they accomplished would be several months of work for me, if I could even do it.

  6. 370zpp

    Much like a “10 minute” oil change. Why would anyone in their right mind want that?

  7. Bob

    I had a similar ‘57 wagon, pulled home on Tuesday, driving on Thursday after sitting 22 years in a garage. Oil down the cylinders, four used tires, and a bit of rocking while in gear, freed the engine, A 3 speed with overdrive, and a 265.

  8. deak stevens

    Are they selling it, or justcwanted to write a story!!!

  9. Gaspumpchas

    The devils in the details. Brake cylinder, brake lines, clean/flush/recondition the gas tank, full tune up and plug wires. etc etc etc. was the clutch stuck? I find it hard to believe also. maybe he patched together with no brakes to drive in the yard. I never found it that easy especially working on this old stuff. One simple snafu and you lose 2 days. Exactly why I don’t watch the tv shows. They make it look too easy. One ol’ grey hair’s opinion

  10. Stuart uk

    Wot a nice Chevrolet its one I would like to have. You guy’s have got some of the best looking cars form 1930 to 60)(70.not like uk were I am .yes I love American cars.keep up.the good work.do hopeing to get a American classic.ido have a 1943 dodge wc 54 ambulance.I important in to the uk about 10 years ago
    Form the us

  11. Jack

    What would be my ideal find? Would love to have a ’57 FORD Fairlane 500 2 door hardtop (NOT the Skyliner), have to be red and black like the one I had way back. Think I read a number of years ago there were less than 100 thousand made, and the few still on the road are way out of my price range. Wishful thinking, I guess

  12. Ken Carney

    Hi Mike! I did that with the ’52 Chevy I bought for $10 in April of
    ’71. Dad and some of his friends helped me pull it from a barn
    near El Paso, Illinois. Sure, we changed all the fluids, aired up the tires, and tuned the engine BEFORE we drove it home. And yes, we drove it with no bakes, using the E-brake to stop it.
    Looking back on it now some 50 years later, I gotta wonder what the hell was I thinking? What we should’ve done was to
    tow it home instead of driving it. Dad and I rode in the Chevy
    while our friends followed behind in the chase car. What a hair
    raising trip it was too! Back roads all the way home and more
    than a few unwanted thrills when the E-brake started to fail.
    But all that was nothing compared to the fit that Mom threw
    hen we pulled into the driveway while she was having a yard
    sale! Forget having 1 cow, she had the whole herd! We lost Mom a week ago to bone cancer and my sister and I had quite
    a laugh when we recalled that story. For years, she was mad
    about that until 2015 when she finally had a good laugh over it.
    God luck Danny, you’ve got a nice car there.

  13. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    What I always wonder when something is parked, in this case for 35 years, is what put it in that barn in the first place? It’s all fine and good to say you revived it and in 24 hours had it cleaned up and driving. Was it some major failure that mothballed it–something that might not rear it’s ugly head until you push the car a little harder? Clutch and OD stuck in 2nd gear? Suspension, steering, springs, anything that holds the car on the road might give way and your story won’t have a happy ending. Electrical demons that made the previous owner loose lights or wipers in certain weather? Final nit pit…if they went to Walmart on a Sunday to get new tires, the ones in the after photo don’t appear to be those!


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