18th October 2018

Stop your classic becoming a barn find

Most classic car enthusiasts daydream about a barn find. The thrill of discovering something rare, a classic car or something potentially very valuable, and dragging it into the daylight.

The reality is, barn finds happen more frequently that you might imagine but only the biggest gain wider internet or even newspaper fame. Back in 2015 60 almost-forgotten classics were unearthed on a French farm. The headline car, a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider, later sold for a record-breaking £12.1 million at auction.

However, in the UK, you’re more likely to find an unloved and rusty Austin Allegro hiding in the local cowshed.

Any classic or cherished car can attain barn find condition if it’s not stored with some care and attention. This applies to those just spending the winter in storage, as well as those awaiting an often-delayed refurb or restoration.   


Excess moisture is the biggest enemy because it leads directly to tarnishing, surface corrosion and finally rust. An old-fashioned wooden garage can be surprisingly effective at moderating humidity, but modern brick-built garages can offer poor protection – especially when fitted with an ill-fitting up-and-over door.

These allow damp drafts to enter and if the moisture can’t escape raise the humidity inside. Using a car cover will trap water next to the bodywork, so instead consider a cost-effective dehumidifier to keep Relative Humidity between 40-60%. There’s a wide range available and it’s best to select on specification rather than just buying the cheapest.

If you have a dry space, a soft car cover makes sense and will help protect from dust and debris as well as small knocks and scratches if the space is in regular use. However, if you’re dealing with a true barn-like structure, bird droppings may be an issue. Here a quality fully waterproof outdoor cover should offer high protection while letting the car breathe at the same time.


Other local wildlife can also ruin your pride and joy with rodents the main culprits. A dry and quiet lock-up is the perfect place for them to wait out the winter but the resulting damage to upholstery, fabrics and even electrical wiring may leave you feeling aggrieved.


The final issue on the storage hit list is temperature with both high or low extremes proving problematic. In truth the temperature of a garage will contribute to humidity levels, and big temperature swings lead to condensation so you should try and keep it steady between 20-25 degrees Centigrade.

Appropriate ventilation in the summer will stop excessively high temperatures but consider a suitable space heater for the harshest months. These don’t need to run continuously, just when it’s coldest. Car batteries also work better if not subjected to extreme conditions, making it more likely that your car will start when you need it.

Of course, the best way to keep your vehicle from becoming a barn find is to use it regularly. Waiting until the weather is right and going for a drive will ward off many of the issues associated with poor storage and ensure that you’re making the most of your perfect motor.

Join the conversation

What are your top tips for keeping your vehicle in tip-top condition? Let us know in the comments section below!

I have found over the years that GT85 spray protects everything from chrome to paintwork

Silky, 26/10/2018

The absolute killer for a stored car is not cold or heat but condensation due to fluctuating temperatures in a garage with poor ventilation, an understanding of relative humidity helps. During very cold weather the air is coming from the north or east and is dry as cold air cannot hold much moisture. When the winds turn and the weather comes from the west bringing warmer air which can hold more moisture this is when the problem starts. The warm air will seep into the garage settle on the cold surfaces inside, the car and the walls of the garage, since it has cooled will deposit it the moisture it cannot now hold as condensation. This can sit for days before it evaporates and will be repeated if the cold to warm cycle repeats itself as it will over the course of a winter. Solution is to either completely seal up the garage and dehumidify which is not often practical, keep the internal temperature raised which is expensive as garages often don't have power and anyway are poorly insulated or use one of the car coon type products which create constant airflow conditions. If none of these are possible, use the car for a good run straight after the above weather conditions occur, regular usage being a good policy regardless.

graham, 26/10/2018

I have learnt from experience that using a brick built garage can be very bad for a classic car if a tumble dryer is being used in the same garage. Tumble dryer warm air & condensation rusts your classic. It is better to keep the car outside of the garage has a tumble dryer.

Cos, 26/10/2018