The Really Truly Last Barn Find. Really. For Sure.
Kevin Watts has spent the past 15 years looking for the proverbial barn find and he really figured they all had been found, the barns and the cars.
But, as Kevin explained, “Behold the Last (as of today) Barn Find!”
“I got a phone call in late November this year from a fellow in Washington state about a 1966 Porsche 911 ‘sitting in a barn’. “What’s it worth?” the caller asked.
Didn’t he know? Didn’t he understand this was one of Kevin’s favorite set-up questions?
“My usual answer to that question is to ask them ‘How do you like my tie’?” And so the game began. Kevin lobbed an easy ball into the caller’s court. “They reply ‘What Tie?'” Ball back to Kevin.
“The tie I’m wearing?” Kevin’s return arced toward the word-game’s out-of-bounds line. This broker, not yet fully aware of the match Kevin had set in play, was scrambling. A reach, a wild swing, a lucky connect. “And like clockwork they tell me “I can’t see it”. Ball, and advantage, back to Kevin.
“Well, I can’t either so how should I know what this car’s worth?” It was another typical conversation with a broker and Kevin gave him “a value range – let’s say as wide as the Rocky Mountains. And I figured that was the last I would hear from him.”
Kevin was right about that. But the car had a life all its own. A few days later he received an email inquiry about a 911 that the writer said was his, and that he had parked it in his barn 27 years ago. “It seems every broker on the planet was low balling him – offers like $35,000 – and pressuring him to sell the car now,” Kevin said. “As I put two and two together, I e-mailed him a picture of his car, one I’d received from the broker, and I asked if he would like to chat.”
Kevin was in Detroit inspecting another collection for purchase and as he processed that deal, he reckoned sleep was not high on his priority list. John had no idea where Kevin was located at that moment so he had taken a chance and dialed him. It was 9 p.m. Washington state time, midnight in Detroit where Kevin worked on his ideas for the other collection.
“And our conversation began. As a young dentist in Fresno, California, John had purchased this summer 1965-production 911 in special paint – Champagne Yellow – from its original owner in the spring of 1966. The first owner had a 356C in Champagne Yellow so he ordered the new 911 in the same color.”
The original buyer opted for European delivery on his new car and, enjoying his continental driving experiences, he got its first service, complete with authorized stamp, from a dealer in France. Then he shipped it back home to the San Francisco Bay area. But once it was there, he rarely got to drive it far enough to warm it up. Growing disillusioned with this reality, he decided to sell it.
Enter John. The previous summer John had driven his VW to Alaska and back “searching for adventure.” John purchased the 911 and it remained with him until he parked it in his barn after just 72,000 total miles on the odometer. He has stories to tell.
This 911 still wears the majority of its original Champagne Yellow paint. The front deck lid and roof had to be reshot after he made a wrong turn while he was visiting Boston in 1968, turbulent times everywhere. “A couple of young punks crawled on the hood and tried to get me out of the car by beating on it,” he explained to Kevin. John sped away, saving himself and the 911. After a couple of home tune-ups, he had his mechanic bolt on suitable Webers and he packed up the original Solexes. Through the years John tweaked and tuned the car himself, keeping everything he took off because, he confessed, he was a self-proclaimed hoarder. In the late 80s a dental patient who was a Porsche mechanic couldn’t afford some essential dental care so John traded his skills for a complete engine rebuild. After that work, he drove his beloved 911 only another 1,100 miles before he moved to one of the northern San Juan Islands in Puget Sound. Then, for a variety of reasons he parked his car in the barn. And there it sat.
A few days after this call, Kevin explained, “the curiosity was killing me and off I went.” He was heading to Road Scholars’ Washington office on Friday Harbor, so for him the hunt was on. “I flew from Raleigh to Seattle,” he recalled, “arriving in the middle of the night and [SeaTac airport was] on lock down for the last hour of the flight.” A severe storm this past December 11 assaulted the West Coast with 60-mile per hour winds and lashing rain. Kevin expected the worst for his single-engined Cessna charter flight the next day to an unmanned airfield on a remote Island in the middle of the Sound. “What could go wrong?” he optimistically asked himself.
“I woke up to clear skies. Really! In Seattle, in December, who’d have thunk it! After a spectacular flight on a clear sunny morning, we landed on what looked like a bike path a few miles south and east of our San Juan Island office across the channel from Victoria, BC.”
John picked up Kevin from the airstrip/bike path and drove straight to his 140 year-old home about 20 minutes away. “He unlocked his barn, pulled the door back, and behold, ‘The Last Barn Find’ and my first! Wow. A rust free, original 1965 911 with an inch of dust on it.” Road Scholars has purchased this car and they currently are completely servicing and detailing it.
“She needs lots of love and massaging to bring her back to her July of 1965 glory,” Kevin said. “She’s been around the block a time or two but with some make up and a little Botox, she’ll clean up as good as ever.”
More from this months RS Magazine