The Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals is widely regarded as the best show of its type in the world. The show celebrated its tenth anniversary earlier this month, once again filling the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois, with a mind-bending array of vintage and not-so-vintage American muscle cars, race cars, Corvettes, street machines, and auto-oriented collectibles and memorabilia.
Every year, MCACN delivers an amazing selection of painstakingly restored vehicles with mirror-smooth paint jobs and a near-fanatical attention to detail. However, one of the most popular display areas in the show is full of dusty, crusty, rusty relics–most of which aren’t running, and a couple of which are barely even rolling.
This is the Barn Finds and Hidden Gems section, and each year it features a new crop of recently “disentombed” vintage cars that are displayed in as-found condition. Most of these vehicles have been in storage for decades, and all of them have been ravaged to varying extents by time and the elements, as well as hard use.
To some, the idea of fawning over dented, weather-beaten junkers with faded paint, rust holes, cracked glass, rotting upholstery, and missing parts is perplexing at best. But all of these cars are rare, and some of them are one of a kind. They’re valuable enough to warrant a full restoration back to their former glory, or, at the very least, focused efforts to preserve them and prevent further deterioration.
But there’s also more to it than that. Over the past twenty years or so, the collector-car hobby in general has developed a much stronger appreciation of authentic, unrestored vehicles. The blemishes and battle scars on these old soldiers are a testament to the lives they’ve lived, the history they’ve accumulated over the years, and the “if only they could talk” stories they could tell.
The MCACN Barn Finds and Hidden Gems display offers the opportunity to experience this history in person, and also gives a taste of the simple pleasures of automotive archeology—the thrill of hunting down these elusive machines, and the joy of finding something special. None of these cars is the Ark of the Covenant, but for diehard muscle-car enthusiasts, some of them might as well be.
1964 Plymouth Satellite II show car
This is a one-off factory show vehicle based on a 1964 Fury hardtop. Note the “targa-top” convertible roof (the removable forward roof panel is seen behind the vehicle), custom grille treatment, and 2+2 bucket-seat interior.
1972 Dodge Charger
1968 Plymouth Road Runner
1970 Ford Ranchero GT Twister Special
1969 Hurst/Olds drag car
1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda 383
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle L78 SS396 convertible
1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
1968 Shelby GT500KR
1968 Plymouth GTX Hemi convertible
1963 Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire
1970 Dodge Challenger
1963 Dodge drag car
1969 Oldsmobile 442 W-30
1968 Dodge Charger drag car
1967 Chevrolet Camaro drag car
1968 or ’69 AMC AMX drag car
1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS396 Z16
1965 Plymouth Satellite A990 drag car