It can be purchased online at the Amazon bookstore.
101 barn-find tales sure to entice any car collector.
In recent years, the quest to find and restore forgotten automotive gems has generated a cult-like following – a very large cult-like following. So large, in fact, that the subject of automotive archaeology has inspired an entire genre of television programs, including Counting Cars, Desert Car Kings, Chasing Classic Cars, One of a Kind,What’s My Car Worth?, and numerous others. Author Tom Cotteris at the forefront of this movement with his In the Barn series, a line of books that inspired many of the above-mentioned television programs. 50 Shades of Rust collects 90-plus of the all-time best barn-find stories. Each story is accompanied by photographs from the scenes of the finds, creating a heavily illustrated book unlike any barn-find book yet published.
50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered
By Geoff Hacker
As Rick D’Louhy and I began our quest to document low production, handcrafted fiberglass cars from the 1950s, I was intrigued by a car called the ‘Chicagoan’ that appeared in literature at the time. Chicago is my home town, or at least now the home town of my parents. They have reminded me over the years that I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, while they were true ‘Chicagoans.’
Oh well. I thought it was a car worthy of study, and off I went on a quest to find the people who were responsible for building it. From the scant material available, a company called Triplex was involved, as well as a company called Ketcham, both located on the south side of Chicago.
So I started out with the easiest way I knew how — look in the phone book. And while there was no ‘Ketcham’ listed, there was a ‘Triplex’ located mere blocks away from the original location of where the car was produced. On closer inspection, the Triplex company had worked with automotive products since the ’50s, and they reproduced plastic parts for various manufacturers.
“Man, this research thing is easy,” I thought to myself. I called the company and arranged a conference call with the owner, the son of whom founded the organization. And while he was quite helpful and even interested, he assured me they never produced a car or body or anything like that. He was fascinated that a project such as the ‘Chicagoan’ was produced near him, but he claimed to never have heard of it. In times like this, research begins to feel not so easy.
So I took a deep breath and considered that maybe it was a ‘skunkworks,’ or secret project that the son never knew about. I contacted the Chicago Historical Association to learn more about the people who were officially tied to the company in 1953 and 1954, hoping that a lead would follow. It did not, and I was perplexed—most of the research we’ve done has resulted in finding the families and even individuals who produced the cars we’ve sought. This project seemed easy at first but quickly came to a dead end.
What’s a car guy to do? I took a page from Sherlock Holmes, who said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” I called the Chicago Historical Society back and asked, “Were there any other companies in Chicago called Triplex back in the ’50s?”
“Yes” they replied, and they provided the names and addresses relevant to the company from the 1950s. One or two phone calls later, I was on the phone with Steve and Sharon Hinger. Steve’s father, Frank Hinger, was the owner of Triplex back then, and indeed it was an entirely separate company located just blocks away from the other Triplex company still in business.
It turns out that Frank hired Robert Owens to design the car for his company, Triplex Industries. Then Triplex contracted with Ketcham’s Automotive Corporation nearby to distribute completed cars and kits to build the car. The Chicagoan project was also sponsored by U.S. Gymsum, and all involved produced the car to debut at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show, which it did in grand style. Three factory cars were made, and subsequently all disappeared after the show.
To date, I’ve found two Chicagoans and own one of them. My Chicagoan is currently in restoration, and I hope to showcase the restored car at the 2015 Chicago Auto show—61 years after its original debut in 1954.
Very enjoyable to read at your leisure.
Hey car collectors! Rust is in! You have to read this book!
50 Shades of Rust by Tom Cotter is not just another car book. It is exquisitely done. The cover, design, pictures and overall layout are very impressive and the color coordination with the varying shades of rust is masterful. It sounds strange, I know, but it is the kind of book you would want to display in a more prominent location than a bookshelf, so others can enjoy it cover as well as its contents.
Informative as well as entertaining, 50 Shades of Rust exudes the author’s deep passion for the collector car hobby as wells his great sense of humor. As I proceeded through one fascinating barn find after another, I actually learned to appreciate the artistic qualities of rust! Automotive archaeology, the author’s newly coined term to describe the discovery of rare automotive finds, is a very appropriate term. Some of the finds are serendipitous, others are well-planned over a period of time. All of them came about because the car collector is inspired by the “chase”. Also, there is something exhilarating about the “conquest”. The actual discovery, whether it is a long abandoned classic buried under garage paraphernalia or a rusty old dinosaur hidden behind an old tractor in a farmer’s barn, has the capacity to ignite the passion of anyone interested in the classic car hobby.
I guarantee you will love reading this book as much as I did.
Fantastic collection of barn finds and hidden treasures! The hobby is about the people and the car just bring us together. Cotter nails it with a mix of memories and tails of lost car loves. A must read for any car guy!