Barn-find hunter Tom Cotter is on the road to promote new books

Author Tom Cotter (right) with writer, editor and road-trip pal Peter Egan and Carolyn Shaffer, director of the Black Earth Public Library | WIlliam Hall photos
Author Tom Cotter (right) with writer, editor and road-trip pal Peter Egan and Carolyn Shaffer, director of the Black Earth Public Library | WIlliam Hall photos

Acclaimed car-finder and automotive author Tom Cotter recently hit the road to promote his two new books – Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip and The Cuban Car Culture – that will be released at the end of August.

Cotter, a former Road & Track contributor and motorsports and auto-industry PR man, has made a second career of unearthing and documenting interesting classic cars and motorcycles across America. And what better way to promote books about road trips than to embark upon another one?

Every road trip requires a good wingman, so Cotter enlisted one of his favorites, Peter Egan, editor-at-large for Road & Track and Cycle World magazines. Cotter and Egan famously drove Cotter’s 289 Cobra across America 15 years ago. This time, it was a tour to a rural library in southwestern Wisconsin in Cotter’s hot-rod 1939 Ford Woody Wagon.

Tom Cotter checks under the hood of the 1939 Ford woodie wagon
Tom Cotter checks under the hood of the 1939 Ford woodie wagon

The hilly Driftless Region of Wisconsin is known for great motoring adventures, so it was a natural fit that Cotter appear as part of the BackRoads Wisconsin project, which celebrates touring those small towns and winding roads through books, music and film. The event is sponsored by the Beyond the Page endowment of the Madison Community Foundation in an effort to focus rural communities around their local libraries.

First stop was the quaint town of Mount Horeb, where Cotter narrated a slideshow about his latest two projects to an enthusiastic group of car guys and gals.

It becomes immediately apparent that Cotter’s books use the lure of the classic car discovery as a narrative, but the real story concerns the interesting people he meets in the process. In Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip, Cotter relies on gas-pump and roadside-diner conversations with interesting characters to steer his hunt for old cars, following leads as he traverses Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, in 15 days.

Each state that the famous road passes through becomes a chapter in the book, which can prove daunting in places like Kansas that have only 14 miles of Route 66 in which to find an interesting discovery.

Tom Cotter presents a slideshow of photos taken while researching his two new books
Tom Cotter presents a slideshow of photos taken while researching his two new books

In his other new book, The Cuban Car Culture, Cotter enlists friend, co-writer and chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Bill Warner, in a car-guy’s archeological quest to explore the automotive treasures of the time-capsule island of Cuba.

At first glance, the throwback nation seems a goldmine of pre-1960 vehicles roaming the tropical paradise like a scene from some automotive Jurassic Park. But Cotter’s book gives fascinating details of the true conditions on the ground and the travails of bringing back such dinosaurs to the mainland. Cotter and Warner managed to find some extraordinarily rare and special cars in Cuba, and the stories of how they got there and how they’ve survived are a great read.

And what does Cotter do once he finds these rusty treasures? He admits he can’t save them all, and during his presentation is eager to share the owner’s contact information, condition and pricing on each find, if only to make possible returning one more beautiful classic car to the road.

2 thoughts on “Barn-find hunter Tom Cotter is on the road to promote new books”

  1. Thanks for visiting the Mount Horeb Public Library! We were so honored to have Tom visit. He’s an engaging speaker and talented author!

  2. I saw your show for the first time the other week, nice job! We live in Davidson NC and just had the Americarna show with Ray Everham yesterday. Great show and for a great cause! If your ever in Davidson lets meet for coffee.

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