Barn Finds, Jay Leno, And A Mirage

The ultimate barn find, a stunning 1929 Duesenberg J Town Sedan, the ultimate barn find story ©Jidy Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America

For car obsessed enthusiasts the urban legend of barn finds has become a mania. At most any car show you will hear stories of the Corvette (or sportscar, or rare Chevy Cameo, or low mileage Ford Pinto) put into storage just after purchase and never driven again. The barn find has even found its way into popular music. Hacve you heard the song entitled Riding with Private Malone by David Ball?

On occasion, however, there is a grain of truth to the stories. And sometimes the discovery eclipse’s the legend. A superb example of this is the stunning 1929 Duesenberg Town Sedan that Jay Leno tracked down several years ago. It was in the possession of the original owners son, and had been parked since the 1930s with a mere 7,000 miles on the odometer.

I will be sharing a bit of this amazing story on an upcoming episode of Car Talk From The Main Street of Americaa Jim HInckley’s America podcast. And for next weeks blog post the plan is to share the full story of this car that has a connection to President Hoover. Having an opportunity to see this long neglected mechanical masterpiece on the road was one of many delightful surprises on the recent trip to California.

Before the COVID induced apocalypse of illness, masks, and shutdowns, traveling to Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank, California for a book signing was a December tradition. This was our first visit to the iconic store since 2019.

Book stores, like the Duesenberg, are a rarity in the modern era. But as I learned this weekend, a book store dedicated to automotive titles is truly an endangered species. According to the owners, this store that dates to the 1950s is just one of less than a dozen in the entire world.

My dearest friend and I have a love/hate relationship with the Los Angeles metro area. We always enjoy the new discoveries made on each trip, and the visits with old friends such as Chuck and Tina, owners of the book store.

But the traffic is crushing. As we travel early on weekends it is usually frustrating and anxiety inducing but manageable. Still, I can’t imagine having to battle eight lanes of traffic on a daily basis. That level of stress is something I prefer to avoid.

On this adventure new discoveries included Charlie Brown Farms in Little Rock, California that was estbalished in 1929. This road side store is a throwback to a time I remember from childhood. Aside from fresh produce they offer deep fried oreo cookies, date shakes, Texas style barbecue, jerky, ice cream and novelties.

A Burbank treasure ©Jim HInckley’s America

Another gem that we discovered was Tallyrand restaurant on Olive Avenue in Burbank, California. This charming little time capsule that opened in 1959 is just one block from another treasure, the Safari Inn with towering neon sign that opened in 1957.

The highlight of the trip was Jay Leno stopping by the book signing. He has popped into most of our Burbank signings for many years but in light of his recent accident we hadn’t expected to see him. And we surely didn’t expect see him driving the barn find Duesenberg.

This trip was also a first for Jim Hinckley’s America. The Singleton Foundation purchased several case of my books for inclusion in Christmas gift boxes. So, this was my largest book signing.

Their representative arrived at our motel in Burbank in a Ford Flex filled with books. She also had a small table, and a portable chair. So, for an hour I signed books in the parking lot and got to know the fascinating Michelle Matisse. This was my strangest book singing, it almost eclipsed the bizarre setting for my presentation at the long empty Hackett automobile factory in Jackson, Michigan that was missing most of the roof.

But on this ocassion the sunrise was beautiful and the weather cool but mild. At the event in Jackson it was cold and rainy.

This trip was also an opportunity to take an exended test drive in a 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage as we used a rental car. As an urabn commuter the car is ideally suited. It is so small they ask what size you wear before putting you behind the wheel. And it is frugal when it comes to fuel. On our trip we averaged just over 38 miles per gallon.

It served our purpose well. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it for a long distance cruiser. It had some surprising get up and go, but the engine strained on long grades, especially when trying to keep up with traffic. And I wouldn’t make that long of drive again without adding some padding to the back side. I have ridden on saddles that wer more comfortable.

Dating to the late 1950s, the Safari Inn in Burbank, Califronia is a delightful time capsle that has been tastefully updated with modern amenities. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

For detractors of electric vehicles it is has become fashionable to toss around the term “range anxiety.” These folks forget about the range anxiety experienced by early motorists more than a century ago. And they overlook cars like the Mirage with a 9.3 gallon gas tank. Talk about range anxiety! Drive this across the Mojave Desert. We arrived in Barstow with a hair over an eighth of a tank of fuel.

One of the things that fascinate me about the modern era is how spoiled we have become. The Mirage is obviously a budget car. And yet it has back up camera, power windows, etc. When did these gadgets move from the luxury option category to needed standard features?

This past weekend was quite the adventure. But in all honesty it’s always an adventure in Jim Hinckley’s America. But that gives us lots of fodder for stories, for shared adventures, for an opportunity to tell America’s story, and for telling people where to go. America’s story