Great Stories of Motorcycle Archaeology By: Tom Cotter Hardcover: 256 pages; color and B&W photos Publisher: Motorbooks International (2009) ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-3535-2 Dimensions: 16 x 23.5 x 2.5 cm List price: $26.00
Everyone likes a surprise; good surprises are preferred. And there’s nothing better than a great “barn find”.
A “barn find” is a generic term for finding a real gem of a motorcycle (or car) covered with dust in some old farmer’s shed.
There have been plenty of classic barn find stories over the years; occasionally, some of them are interesting enough to make the evening paper, like the extremely rare Bugatti Type 57S Atalante recently found in superb condition in the garage of a deceased doctor.
The car is currently valued at something like $9 million USD and Bugatti fans around the world will be trembling for years to come every time they hear that classic barn find story told again.
But that’s just one of many stories, and just about everyone knows someone who knows someone who heard about some miraculous one-off prototype motorcycle wheeled into a farmer’s barn one day (why they always end up in farmer’s barns is a mystery).
Usually, the story goes, the lucky finder pays the unknowing farmer $25.00 to wheel the “junk” away, and ends up with an ultra-rare antique that only needs a dusting to look like it just rolled off the showroom floor. Right. Unfortunately, it only happens like that in the bar-room version of the story.
Tom Cotter is the King of Barn Finds — or at least he’s the King of the Barn Find Raconteurs, having also written Hemi in the Barn and Cobra in the Barn. The Vincent in the Barn is the third in a series of “In the Barn” books by Cotter, and it’s a real gem.
Subtitled “Great Stories of Motorcycle Archaeology”, The Vincent in the Barn is a collection of interesting, fantastic, believable and unbelievable stories, legends and urban myths about some of the best — and worst — motorcycle barn finds in history.
The book is divided into seven chapters, with tales that can be roughly categorized in each.
For example, the first chapter, “Crimes of Persistence”, describes several mysteries and the persistent detective work that pays off (sometimes) in following up vague leads and uncovering years of handovers, sales and the rest that sometimes follow a classic bike through the decades.
“Passion Plays” is one of my favorite chapters, with the story of “The Madman of Marin County” whose mission it was to take every Vincent off the road and stash them away among rags and garbage like a squirrel hoarding nuts.
He originally had a reason for doing this that I’ll let you discover and the end of the story has an interesting but sad twist.
I read a lot of books and I now have a fairly extensive and eclectic motorcycle book collection, and I have to say that The Vincent in the Barn is one of my all-time favorites. The story and the theme simply resonate with me, but it’s also an excellent read that should last a long time and can be perused over and over.
The book also has many color and black and white photos and illustrations, formatted with the text to enhance the story without overpowering the words. Definitely a recommended motorcycle book for everyone and anyone interested in two-wheeled adventures. By the way, The Vincent in the Barn would make an outstanding holiday gift for your favorite motorcyclist!