One of America’s greatest obsessions is the automobile. What better place is there to explore that love than on The Mother Road herself, Route 66? That’s exactly what Tom Cotter and I did.
We set out on Route 66 in search of our favorite types of cars, Barn Finds. Now, keep in mind, a Barn Find car doesn’t necessarily have to be found in a barn. The term “Barn Find” is a catch phrase which encompasses all sorts of neglected automobiles. Any car that has been left to rot in a field, garage, parking lot, lawn or even upstairs in the kitchen (more on that one later) is considered a Barn Find.
We drove our official “Barn Find Hunter”, a ’39 Ford Woody, along the 2,431 miles stretch from Chicago to Santa Monica and found over 7,000 cars. This was a trip of a lifetime…fifteen days from start to finish and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Route 66 no longer spans the distance across the US like one ribbon of pavement. In fact, in some places, it no longer exists. Overrun by interstates and a country that has simply outgrown the two lane black top it once was. You can still find pieces of it here and there, and we drove as much of the original road as possible.
Throughout the eight states that connect Route 66, we found stories of hardship and inspiration alike. Yet, each and every state has it’s own nod of respect or lack thereof, for Route 66. Some states embrace it and celebrate it with roadside attractions and monuments, while others seem to have forgotten it all together. It all comes down to simple economics. If the old Route 66 is too far off the beaten path from the new interstate (I- 40), then it’s less likely to still have businesses thriving on it. Once the businesses go, the traffic and the attractions disappear.
But there are plenty of stretches along the way that still make this a trip worthwhile. We found some of the coolest cars along with some of the greatest people and stories we will be sharing for a lifetime.
We had the opportunity to visit with a retired florist in Illinois who now spends his time with the European cars he loves. He drives them, maintains them, and restores them all within the confines of his 1905 Livery Barn that resembles a slice out of the French countryside.
Bo Dannenberger shared stories with us for hours about the seven cars he had in his lower floor garage. Bo has collected MGs, Lancias, Renaults, Citroens, and a ’56 Morgan Plus 4. He asked if we would like to see one of his latest projects. The only trick was that we had to go upstairs to the kitchen to see it. So, Tom and I climbed the narrow staircase to the second floor. There in the middle of the kitchen was a small 2/3rd scale Jaguar D-type, Crosley powered, H-Modified racecar. You can’t make this stuff up folks!
These and more stories can be found in our newly released book, Barn Find Road Trip Route 66.
To hear more stories about the making of this book, you can join Michael Alan Ross at the Canon Live Learning Center in San Francisco on December 13 from 6:30-9:00 p.m. Don’t forget to pre-register here.