South Africa’s biggest ‘barn find’ ever: 200 dusty classics going under the hammer

Published Feb 19, 2024


“Surreal and staggering”. That’s how Joff van Reenen, Lead Auctioneer at Creative Rides, describes the moment he first stepped into a barn in the Eastern Cape filled to the brim with classic cars that had been untouched for decades.

It all began with an estate sale initiated by the children of the late Oom Louis Coetzer, who was known as South Africa’s most avid and prolific car collector.

Louis and his wife Hermien were tragically killed in a car accident on a remote mountain pass in the Eastern Cape in early 2020. Hundreds of his cars were auctioned later that year, and in 2021, his three children reluctantly let a large portion of them go due to the sheer magnitude of the task of preserving them.

The latest barn find brings Oom Louis’ car collection up to a total of more than 600 vehicles, making it South Africa’s biggest car collection ever.

After discovering there were barns on a remote piece of land that the Coetzer family was auctioning off, the siblings decided that a barn inspection was in order. Because they knew their father all too well.

After being invited to the Eastern Cape to view the newly discovered vehicles, auctioneer Joffe Van Reenen found himself facing a surreal scene.

“It’s difficult to put into words the emotion I felt taking those first steps over the threshold into the dim expanse of a barn at least the size of three tennis courts, and seeing row after row of cars disappearing into the distance like a slumbering regiment awaiting a call to arms,” Van Reenen exclaimed.

As it turned out, over 200 cars were hidden in the shadows of that barn, and subsequently also across a few farms near Barkly East.

“It literally took my breath away stepping over the threshold, sunlight behind me and ahead disappearing into the gloom row after row of cars; all coated in decades of undisturbed dust,” Van Reenen added.

“That first day, the dust lay so thick that we couldn’t even begin to guess at paint colours, never mind makes or models.

“What was clear, though, was the historic importance of the stunning find. Little did we know at the time, that this was just the first secret the barn would reveal.”

Creative Rides CEO Kevin Derrick said the true scale and global significance of the find only became apparent after the cataloguing process got under way.

“I’d struggle to name a single undiscovered, completely unknown barn collection of this size ever found outside of the United States. It’s crazy; more than 200 cars! Collectors don’t know about any of them; they’ve never been on public display,” said Derrick.

The auction house is leaving the vehicles as close to “discovery condition” as possible so that collectors can better appreciate the historic magnitude of the find. The cars are being sold very much “as is” and numerous engines and other components discovered in the same barn are also up for sale.

So what’s in the barn collection?

Coetzer was an avid Mercedes collector, so it’s no surprise that around 70 of the 200 cars bear the three pointed star. These include numerous Fintails, Pontons and even a few bakkies, some of which are believed to be local conversions.

Muscular American metal is also on the menu, with a Cadillac De Ville Sedan, two Chevrolet Brookwood Station Wagons, Ford Fairlanes as well as various Pontiacs and Holdens.

You can view the vehicles on auction by downloading the Creative Rides app from your app store.

According to Creative Rides, the Lost Barn Find Collection marks the final chapter of Oom Louis Coetzer’s 50-Year automotive journey. The online-only auction will take place over 10 days, starting at 8am Central African Time (CAT) on Monday, March 25.

IOL Motoring