Rusty cars that could be worth millions

Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer

1937 Bugatti Type 57S: $4.4 million

It seems too good to be true. A car that was abandoned and forgotten in a garage for decades is discovered -- and it's worth a mint!

Case in point: This supercharged Bugatti was parked in a garage by its then-owner in the early 1960s and, for some reason, simply left there for half a century.


In February, 2009, this unrestored car was sold at auction for $4.4 million.

But how is it possible that a car worth $4 million can go unnoticed for so many years?

In some cases a car that may not seem particularly exciting to its owner at the time is parked in a barn or garage and forgotten about, said Tom Cotter, author of "The Cobra in the Barn" and several other books about this phenomenon. Only later, when a knowledgeable person finally cracks open the barn door, is its true worth revealed.

Then it's known as a "barn find," and it's rare. For car buffs, it's an almost mythical concept. But, unlike Big Foot and Mermaids, barn finds really do exist.

1964 Shelby Cobra: Up to $625,000

This Shelby Cobra was parked in a shed in the early 1970s and, for the most part, just left there until 2004 when it was finally purchased by a new owner and restored. It's value was really listed by the auctioneers at Gooding & Co. at between $525,000 and $625,000.

1948 Tucker: $800,000

Tuckers are rare cars. Only 51 were made before the company ceased operations in 1949. This one spent 50 years out of sight in a garage. It's not clear why the car was locked up and left in 1956, especially since its owner was a noted Tucker enthusiast. Only after his death was the garage unlocked and the car brought out with only 10,000 miles on the odometer

It was sold at a Gooding & Co. auction last January for $800,000.

1937 Bugatti Type 57S
1964 Shelby Cobra: Up to $625,000
1948 Tucker Sedan: $800,000

1965 Ford GT40: Up to $600,000

This Ford GT40 roadster prototype, one of only five like it ever made, was thought to have been ripped apart and sold off in parts decades ago. Then, in 2006, it was revealed that it had been resting atop an old mattress in a London warehouse with many of its parts, indeed, gone. Restored, it's now thought to be worth between $500,000 to $600,000. The car will be auctioned off at an RM Auctions event in Cernobbio, Italy, later this month.

1953 Ferrari 212 Inter Coupe: $660,000

This car passed through the hands of a few owners after first being displayed at the 1953 Turin Motor Show. Finally, in the mid-1980s, it was parked in a garage somewhere in the American Midwest, according to RM Auctions. There it sat for years.

The car was sold at an RM Auctions event last March for $660,000.

1958 Porsche Speedster: $150,000

This valuable Porsche Speedster, featured in a column by author Tom Cotter, was left covered by a tarp under a lean-to roof for about thirty years before its owner finally sold the car in 2007. A car like this would be worth about $150,000 today.

And that wouldn't be for a fully restored one, either, said Cotter. Today's car collectors often prefer their cars unrestored, in what is called "preserved" condition, looking every bit as old as they are.

"A car's only original once," said Cotter.

1965 Ford GT40: Up to $600,000
1953 Ferrari 212 Inter Coupe: $660,000
1958 Porsche Speedster: $150,000