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A Ferrari Behind the Barn

Ferrari behind the barn

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. A busy holiday season and a terrible case of the flu took me out of commission for a while there. So, to make it up to you all, we are going to run In the Barn stories every day through the New Year! Today’s tale comes from The Cobra in the Barn and as the title suggests, is about a Ferrari found behind a barn. What more do we need to say? Enjoy. ~Jesse

Bill Locke thought he had uncovered the automotive equivalent of King Tut’s tomb back in 1984. That’s the day his Corvette buddy from Bradenton, Florida, called to say, “You wouldn’t believe what I just saw sitting behind a sports car repair shop!”

Locke has two automotive interests: Corvettes and Ferraris. Since the mid-1970s, the retired banking executive has owned at least one of each and to this day is the event director at the Bloomington Gold Corvette Hall of Fame. But he has always been smitten with the Ferrari mystique. He purchased his first Ferrari in 1975, a 330 GTC, but has owned a number of others—including a 365 GTB 4, a Daytona, two Dino Spyders, a 512 BB, an early ’76 fiberglass 308, and both a short- and long-nose 275 GTB. Like all diehard car collectors, Locke was always looking for the next project.

So when his friend called to tell him of the Ferrari he had discovered, Locke was all ears.

“Is it an open or closed car?” he asked.

“It’s an open car,” his buddy said.

“Does it have covered or exposed headlights?” Locke further asked.

His friend wasn’t sure, so he said he’d go back and check. “I just knew in my heart that it was a California Spyder, and only wondered if it was a short or long wheelbase, and whether it was one of the aluminum racing models,” Locke says.

“I didn’t care what condition it was in, I just had to have it.” His friend called again to tell him it had enclosed headlights. Locke’s heart nearly stopped. “One more question: does it have vent windows?” he asked as he held his breath. “Yes it does,” his friend responded.

Locke’s heart sank. With vent windows, the car couldn’t be a California Spyder, which restored could fetch $2.5 million. It was probably a GT Series II, but a car still worth following up on.

Locke says the price was right, so he negotiated the car’s purchase without ever seeing it. He then hooked up his trailer to his truck and went to retrieve his new acquisition.

Ferrari modified taillights

Locke’s hunch was correct. The car turned out to be a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Series II Cabriolet—one of only 202 built—that had been mildly modified by a previous owner to resemble a California. Even though this was one of the few 250 GT Cabriolets actually equipped with covered headlights, the rear fascia had been redesigned by a previous owner, resulting in the added spoiler and the altered taillights.

“Any twelve-cylinder convertible Ferrari has a special place in automotive history,” Locke says. But the car was in rough shape when he found it. It had been parked behind the foreign car repair shop for a number of years.

“The car was sitting outside with a ripped top and no cover,” he says. “I have no idea how long it was sitting, but the car was last titled in 1973, so it could have been a decade.”

The actual owner was a land surveyor, but Locke didn’t ask too many questions, fearing his enthusiasm would raise a red flag and spoil the sale.

Ferrari rat nest

Once he brought the car home, he put it in his garage and never touched it. “I’d walk around it every evening and ask myself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’” he says. The Ferrari’s floors and trunk area were full of rust. He also discovered a rat’s nest in the glove box and evidence that some critter had made its home in the trunk.

Rebuilding it wasn’t going to be cheap, even in 1984. “The mechanical rebuild alone could cost in excess of fifty thousand dollars,” Locke says. “Then you’ve got to buy the Connolly leather, the Wilton carpet, chrome, rubber, and electrical systems; even at just forty dollars per hour, at three thousand hours, that’s one-hundred-twenty thousand dollars in labor alone.

“At the time, we owned three very nice Ferraris, so my wife Pat thought someone else should own this project,” he says. So Locke sold the Ferrari six months after purchasing it, to a friend who was a fellow Ferrari enthusiast. His friend still has that car today, and is finally ready to begin restoration. “I found another Ferrari I wanted more, and sold the first one to produce some cash,” Locke says.

He figures the restored Ferrari would be worth about $225,000 to $300,000 in today’s market, and even in its rough as-is condition, it would probably bring $125,000, a number far more than he sold the car for twenty years ago.

“I wish that I hadn’t sold that car,” he says. “I’d love to have it back. But I’ve noticed that automotive hindsight is always 20/20.”


  1. Dolphin Member

    A 1961 Ferrari Series 2 Cabrio like this car just sold at auction in the UK for $1.1 million. It was in poor condition, with some rust and many minor defects, but it was complete and original, with a known history in the same family for 40 years.

    The car in this feature doesn’t come close: far worse condition, little known history, but even worse in today’s originality-oriented collector world, modified and molested to the hilt. The costs mentioned in the writeup are way out of date and will add up to a lot more, but even when completed, unfortunately this car will not have the history and originality that the market craves now.

    It would be interesting to know how this project turned out. I’m sure someone would have tackled it since there were only 202 cars like it built. What does it look like now?

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  2. Mark E

    If you’ve been into auto collecting long enough I’m certain you have your own list of hindsight moments. Loving Packards the way I do, all the Caribbean convertibles I could have bought for $3k or less would be at the head of the list. Then my best ‘barn find’ a Cord coupe that had been left in a shed by the owner who’d rented space for it & then left it years ago. Actually, if I’d purchased the Beechcraft 17 Staggerwing that I could have bought for $15k back in the early ’70s, I could restore it, sell it ($1-2 million) and have my own collection! Of course everything was cheaper back then. I remember trying to persuade my father back then that a Dusenberg advertised in HMN was a good investment at $75k. I figured it would break $100k by 1980 and sure enough, one sold for $100k in 1978…

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  3. don coats

    In 1969 I was a 16yr old pump jocky in Wasco Or. My friends’s Dad had a 1961 Ferrari 250gt 2+2 that had a bad cylinder and had been parked for a year or two. He coasted it down the hill to the gas station and I helped him get it running. After closing up, I had my first drive in a Ferrari. A badly smoking Ferrari, but I wasn’t looking out back too much. Nothing else sounds like a 12 cylinder Ferrari. Way cool.

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  4. jean lecointe

    Happy new year to all the BF fanatics.
    Everybody has his personal memory of BF or opportunity to own a collecting car.
    Mine goes back in 1967 when I bought my 1952 Citroen 11BL for 100 francs. Around 20$ of the time. She is still with me, her name is Penelope and we are very happy together.

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    • Bill (Melbourne, Australia)

      I hope all of you had a great Christmas with your families and I hope a great New Year as well.

      That Citroen sounds like one purchase that you never regretted doing and had the satisfaction to retain for all those years – HA – if only we were all so fortunate.

      One of many (unfortunately) regrets I had, was when I was 18 (in 1976) and looking for my first car, may dad told me that an old mate of his that had a big American Ford parked in his shed. Dad told me it had fibreglass guards, bonnet and I think some other parts as well with a big bulge in the bonnet. At 18 years of age I really didn’t want a big Ford that somebody had started hacking away at by putting plastic panels on and so I passed it up. Many years later did I find that it was a rather rare lightweight Ford Thunderbolt that was fitted with factory plastic panels, bonnet bulge etc etc, HA, not at all something that somebody had been hacking up. Not quiet in the same $ league as a Ferrari, but none the less a worthy vehicle in any collection.

      Looking back that was one of many car/motorcycle/aircraft regrets, but I console myself (HA – try) by telling myself it is better to have once owned and enjoyed some of them than to never at all owned (HA – that usually stops me from crying over lost ownerships)

      HA – such is life.

      Have a nice day to you all.

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      • Brian Spink

        Oh man!! a Thunderbolt?!?! Pretty rare car as well buddy! Dang!!

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  5. rancho bella

    I found and purchased several cars over the years. My problem is I sold them for what I paid as that was the going rate. Now the things are selling for stupid money……….and so it goes.

    On to this Ferrari. The back end looks like it was backed in…………..
    The original back end looks much better…………although my ex-1961 Fiat Spider OSCA had the same taillights……..I think…….Dolphin a little help with my statement?

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    • Dolphin Member

      The ’61 Fiat Spider OSCA had tail lights that were very similar to the proper Ferrari ones, but had small reflectors at the bottom. All the links I could find were very long but Googling 1961 Fiat Spider OSCA will bring some up.

      For those who are wondering, this is how a 250GT Cabrio Series 2 should look. RM also sold this one for $1.1 million in California recently:

      The differences are big, especially at the rear. A few 250GT Cabrios did have original covered headlights, which look better to most people and add value, but to me even the open headlight version looks better than the modified one in this story.

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  6. Trickie Dickie Member

    I submit these facts along with my tears: In 1962 I bought a virtually new red 1955 Porsche Super Speedster, with a roller bearing crank, from the guy who custom ordered it from Germany, went over and got it, drove it there on vacation shipped it home. Got it for $2700. Sold the Speedster in 1965 for $1750, and got a 1964 Porsche SC coupe for $4000. Sold the coupe in 1985 for $7500 (woooooo hooooo, eh?) was way over blue book then. Next I got a nice low mileage 1967 Porsche 912, kept it for 15 years then sold it for twice what I had paid. All three of those cars I could not now afford as a sports car, especially the Speedster.

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  7. Dolphin Member

    Well, I’ll chime in with this: I test drove a nice 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC coupe in 1975 but could not afford the $8K ask price. Then I got a real job and found the same car for sale again in a different city in 1978 for $15K and bought it. Kept it for 3 years and sold it for $30K to help finance a house. There seems to be a pattern here. Since then the pattern has kept going and I can’t afford the $500K it would cost to buy it back.

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  8. Don Andreina

    Drool. Peter Collins had a similarly-bodied cabrio fitted with discs. They persuaded a reluctant Enzo to take the (Dunlop?) discs Collins had fitted to his street Ferrari and put them on his sports racer.

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  9. paul

    Horrible rear end treatment to this Ferrari.

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  10. paul

    I would never think to alter a Renoir.

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  11. TomE

    I encountered a similar car in much the same shape at a vintage race event about 10 or 12 years ago. It was also on an open trailer and offered by two older men. I failed to see the value at the price they were seeking at the time. If only…

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  12. Bryan Cohn

    Here are my best (worst?) car story:
    I 1989 I was able to purchase a 1966 911 that was in need of a complete restoration. The car had been stored in an open car port for years and was owned by 4 friends, one of which also happened to be a friend of mine (still is all these years later). One owner wanted out and I was in the right place at the right time. Paid $800 for it. The engine was out, windows down so it was full of leaves, dirt/dust and who knows what else. Parts were piled in boxes all over the carport.

    The next day word got around town and a young man offered me $2000 for it. I hadn’t even picked the car up! Of course I took the offer, being young and dumb I didn’t even negotiate him up as I took his first offer.

    He arranged for a flat bed to come haul it away and he picked up the boxes, the engine, etc.

    Same year I was offered a 190SL for $800 but said no as it was rusty and had been poorly repaired. It ran, stopped, everything worked, it was just ugly as sin with a horrible red paint job over all the bond.

    Two that I let get away or ? I tend to think I did the right thing I did not have the ability or funds to restore the 911 nor the 190SL.

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  13. Mark 'cuda man

    In 1980-ish I found a 1970 Ford Cobra (Torino body) with 385 miles. The original owner wanted what he paid for it which I believe was around $2800.00. I was 20 years old and making $3.75 an hour and looking at marrying my girlfriend (which is now my wife 33 years later this week). It was a 4-speed with the shaker hood, locking pins and dog dish hub caps. Yellow with flat black hood and black interior. I often wonder where that car is today. My father was an “antique” car guy and never would consider any muscle car, so he wouldn’t help me buy it in any way. This was also the case when I had a high school school mate offer his 1968 Shelby Mustang that his dad bought new for $4500.00.

    Like 0

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