50 SHADES OF RUST
Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered
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Published on Tue, Dec 16, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered
50 SHADES of RUST
By Tom Cotter
Forward by Wayne Carini
Published by Motorbooks
192 pages, $30.00 US
Review and pictures by Doug Stokes
I hate Tom Cotter.* I told him so at a book signing at Autobooks in Burbank a few years ago. ’Had never met the man but I strode right up to where he was sitting and called him out , first person. Personally. An altogether affable man (you know, mostly kind to small animals and stuff like that), Cotter just smiled beatifically and put his hand out. He’d heard the sentiment before.
His SIXTH book of barn-finds is just as vexing as the five that preceded it. “50 Shades of Rust” is another Cotter volume that regales with 94 short (one or two pages, three at most) stories of the unearthing of some of the most interesting, delectable, desirable vehicles in some of the most unlikely of places. And that entertains and pisses me off at the same time. Why does this guy find the damn Lang Cooper? I know that Bill Warner actually found it in a junkyard, but Cotter gets to write about it and rub it in my face. Oops, I’m taking this a bit too personal, I guess. Deep breath.
Why does this happen to Tom Cotter so often? The score is now six books chronicling the discoveries of hundreds of wonderful wheeled derelicts. Why indeed? Because he’s a damn barn-finding magnet, that’s why. After his second or third book on the subject, barn-finds began to find him. Now he hardly ever has to get his hands dirty pulling dusty tarps off dirty derelicts, and in his latest, “50 Shades of Rust”, he pulls more tarps off of fully 94 more incredible cars, motorcycles, trucks, and a motor scooter.
Among the unpolished gems that Cotter writes of in this one, there’s a personally poignant passage about a Lotus 18 Formula Junior. I had one long ago, Bill Simpson (yeah, the safety equipment maven) got his SCCA competition license in it one weekend. I raced it a couple of times, threw a rod and then I sold it (cheap), taking the payment in three post-dated checks (only one of which cashed). After that, I’ve stuck my head into every 18 that I’ve come across, trying to see if the chassis was welded back together after it had been nearly cut in half in a bad one that happened before I bought it. You’ll understand that the Lotus story (Chapter 4) was the first one that I turned to in this one.
Further along, you’ll find NASCAR stockers, Porsches, a lakes racer, a drag-racing Cobra, a Cunningham coupe, some MG’s and Jags, and a couple of Corvettes. And there are 80+ more short stories that talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk. Never much of a math-major, I take calculator in had to figure that at this book’s $30 MSRP, the individual tab for of each of these valuable tales about often priceless machines is rounds off to a bit under 32 cents each.
For the record, fourteen of the 94 chapter/stories in this one were written by other car nuts and car finders—John Barron, Wes Eisenschenk, Mitch Goldstein, Dr. Geoff Hacker, Mark Henderson, Somer Hooker, and Peter Ryckaert all contributed stories, with Hacker and Henderson each writing multiple pieces.
In truth, I really have to give Cotter highest props for writing 94 individual titles for each story (chapter). I think the toughest job that Cotter has with these books is coming up with all of the clever magazine-article-like titles for each story that are each set off as a chapter.
For the years before Mister C started hanging out in dank garages and crumbling barns, he was in the PR trade regularly putting BIG companies in bed with BIG racing teams and beating the drum for the process. In that biz, he had more than his share of time to write catchy titles and intriguing lead lines for press releases.
Here he has (almost) as much fun with the titles as the copy, like Chapter 3: “Low-Mileage Mouse Hotel (a Porsche 914/6)”, Chapter 21: “Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola” (what else, a T70), Chapter 42: “Otherworldly Orbitron” (one of Big Daddy Roth’s wild-ass Beatnik show cars), Chapter 90: “The Old Lady And the Continental” (a rare 1995 Porsche Continental), and 91 other similar gems of title-writing.
There’s an old card shark saying: Read ‘em and weep. I have to admit that, while reading this book, my peepers clouded up a couple of times, which leads me to believe that anyone who digs cool old cars might just want to have a box of Kleenex handy when they crack this one open. ’Just sayin’.
In all honesty, I can hardly wait for book seven! - DS
*I kid about hating this guy. It’s like I hate Wayne Thiebaud or Bob Dylan. In the end, the Zelig-like Cotter is an asset to the cause and something of a morality tale-teller. Read this volume or any of the five that rolled out before it, and be encouraged to keep an eye open for that still-missing fourth Corvette Grand Am, or one of those Ferrari 156 Shark Noses that were “destroyed by order of the Pope”. Or the ninth (of the seven that were said to have been built) Bugatti Royales.
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