Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Long-closed car museum loaded with incredible hidden treasures including Clark Gable's Auburn and a Stutz Bearcat. Amazing photo slideshow!

Everywhere you turn, there’s another story about an old car that has been sitting in solitude for a few years, and everyone gets excited about the prospect of a “barn find.” You hear it so much anymore that the term is almost becoming cliché.

Often, the barn find is nothing more than a dried-up ’78 Camaro Berlinetta that someone dumped in a shed for 20-years. Well this barn find, friends, is not like that.

Roll back the clock more than 70-years, and you will find a guy who loved Classic cars (classic with a big C), and on his way across the country, he decided to settle in a small, southern Missouri town. Even then, these cars had a novel allure, but they could be purchased for mere peanuts.

The man decided to open a classic car museum, and over the years, he amassed one of the finest collections of pre-war cars in the country. The unassuming original tin building and remote location would prove to distract passersby to what actually lived inside.

A couple of years ago, there was a woman who worked in our office who mentioned that her dad had a bunch of old cars in a long-closed museum. It was intriguing enough to the car guys in our department that we decided to take a field trip. I’ll never forget what I saw.

The museum and some outbuildings were full of dust and flat tires. There was a small, abandoned living quarters in the museum where the man’s late parents had lived when they ran the museum. But the cars in those buildings were nothing short of amazing.

We were given the tour by the museum founder’s son, who grew up there. He knew everything there was to know about every car in the place, but normally didn’t open it up for visitors anymore. His time was mostly consumed with his distributorship of whitewall tires for vintage cars.

One of the crown jewels of the collection was a 1914 Stutz Bearcat two-seat speedster that the man’s dad had partially disassembled over 50-years ago. He told us the car had competed in the Glidden Tour when it was fairly new. Every piece was there in the little room, and they were all in good condition. It’s not often that you see a $300,000 car that had been sitting in the same workshop for more than half-a-century. Nothing in the room had been touched. It was eerie and fascinating at the same time.

Out in the main museum sat a ’33 V12 Auburn Speedster. That would have been pretty amazing in-and-of-itself, but this one belonged to screen legend Clark Gable. Gable was known for his lavish taste in cars, and under the dust and dirt sat a magnificent Classic in all its glory.

There was an aluminum-bodied 1915 Pierce Arrow that cost more than $6,300 when new. There was also an old, yellowed letter from the Harrah’s collection that stated it was the finest example they had ever seen.

There was a ’56 Continental. A ’53 Packard Caribbean. A ’42 Packard convertible that only had 1,600 original miles. There were original custom-bodied Fords, Jaguar XKE’s, a ’78 Corvette pace car that had never been titled, a ’31 Cadillac V16. Everywhere you turned, you were hit by a forgotten treasure. It was enough to make any car nut cry.

If you want to see the most amazing pictures you’ll look at today, click through the slideshow below. You hear a lot of so-called barn find yarns, but this one has to be one of the best.  And for a better version of the slideshow, click this link.


  1. Incredible story Craig! It's really a shame that these cars are not on display. I would hate to see this collection broken up someday in an auction. Is there any chance that a museum might be willing to purchase the complete collection, or that someone might buy and reopen the museum?

  2. My guess is that the owner is going to have them until he dies, and his kids are going to deal with selling the collection. He's very sentimental for this collection, and seemed, at least to me, unlikely to alter the situation anytime soon.

  3. Any updates on this place? I came across this by accident.