Garage-find classics rule at this AACA museum exhibit

1913 Empire went into a barn after farmer's sons rolled it over | Nick Kurczewski photos
1913 Empire went into a barn after farmer’s sons rolled it over | Nick Kurczewski photos

To restore or not to restore, that’s the question many classic car owners face at least once during the lifetime of a vehicle. Do you keep the car’s original patina and celebrate the imperfections that come with old age? Or, is the better choice to undertake a complete restoration and make the car sparkle like it was new again?

In the case of the AACA Museum’s new showcase exhibit, “Garage Finds: Unrestored Treasures that Survived Time,” that difficult decision has already been made for you. Of the more than 40 cars on display, many are veritable time-warp examples, vehicles that have miraculously escaped the wraith of rust-inducing winters and fender-bashing shopping carts.

The exhibit runs until October 8.

Arguably speaking, some of the very best cars are the ones that were commonplace years ago.

When is the last time you saw a mint condition 1989 Ford Taurus SHO sport sedan, much less a pristine 1973 Dodge Dart Swinger showing only 43,000 miles on the odometer? There are far more glamorous examples in the exhibition, but for many visitors these such once run-of-the-mill automobiles may stir the most memories.

After all, how many people have actually saved or restored a 1970s Ford Pinto? There is a representative example in this collection, not to mention a similarly perfect 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT.

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Pinto preserved!

Fans of oddball collector cars, consider this your dream come true!

If your tastes run to something sportier, or sporting more chrome, the AACA exhibit has you covered there, too. Sitting not far from the pristine Pinto, one of our favorites has to be a 1968 Porsche 912, finished in an incredibly period-correct color combination of forest green with a tan leather interior. This 90-horsepower Porsche managed to survive being stolen in Reston, Virginia, and also being recovered (in one piece, thankfully) on the streets of Chicago.

American iron is more than well-represented, as proven by cars like a duo-tone 1959 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 that, according to the AACA, sat “on the second floor of a commercial building” for roughly 25 years. When it was finally rediscovered, the Olds had traveled barely 2,000 miles since new.

Representing the exact same model year is another gem, a mile-long 1959 Cadillac Series 62 sedan showing only 14,000 original miles. This incredible silver-hued Caddy has power windows, power front seats, and even its original “Autoronic Eye” headlamp dimmer.

Fans of true “barn-find” classics will swoon over the 1913 Empire Touring 31 that greets guests in the museum’s lobby. If this car looks like it was just dragged out of a hay-bale, well, that’s because it has led one very rural (though relatively lucky) existence for the past 104 years. Originally built in Greenville, Pennsylvania, this example has spent all of its working life only a few miles from the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The Empire had an inauspicious beginning, however, when the sons of the farmer who owned it somehow managed to overturn the car. Angry at their reckless behavior, the owner stored the car in a barn, and that’s where it sat untouched for decades. Ironically, there is no doubt that the car’s long-ago wreck saved it from succumbing to the ravages of time.

Photos by Nick Kurczewski

2 thoughts on “Garage-find classics rule at this AACA museum exhibit”

  1. Thanks Nick for a really good article on a section of the hobby that is so deserving of attention, well two really, the AACA Museum and garage finds – preservation class vehicles.
    When I started in this hobby nearly 50 years ago it was not too hard to find original examples of vehicles to use to guide restorations. But then they themselves were restored and it became alomost impossible to look at unmolested, Day One vehicles as reference pieces for authenticity. Thankfully these vehicles are now being properly appreciated and preserved for not only enthusiasts but the general community to appreciate.
    Sadly though some “enthusiasts” still don’t get it and once they’ve their hands on a good solid genuine original vehicle start by dismantling, sanding back the patina and the originality and replacing old with new repo parts – case in point, recently an incredibley original intact WW2 jeep that just needed a clean and a sympathetic tune-up appeared on the market, we’d have bought and preserved if we’d had the opportunity. The chap who got in first details his “restoration” online – starting with pulling the jeep apart and sandblasting everything, including its original WW2 markings!

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