People love pirate movies because deep down we all love the idea of a good treasure hunt. And if you’re a gearhead like us, that treasure is more likely to be hidden away in a forgotten garage instead of a wooden box with an old lock. Now, finding a car that’s been strewn about is pretty cool, but what if you end up finding dozens of them? Well, those hordes of classic cars are still waiting to be rediscovered. A perfect example is something called the Firehouse Find. It’s a huge collection that will be auctioned at the Chattanooga Mecum event in early October.
So how do so many cars end up being stored in a place like this? Like many of these stories, it started with a young man and his love of cars. John Force (not related to the racing legend) was 14 when he bought his first car for just $35! That was nearly 70 years ago, and that first car was just the start of what would become a collection of around 70 vehicles stored in a two-story former fire station. Force, now in his mid-80s, decided it was time for his beloved cars to find new homes, so his son Mike contacted Mecum to help with the logistics of selling so many classic cars, including some have not moved for decades.
Force loved all cars, but his number one passion was Ford Thunderbirds. We had the chance to visit the old fire station in Augusta, Georgia, where the collection was housed, and Mike was able to show us around the two-story building. Let’s start by saying that we’ve never seen so many T-birds lined up in a private collection before. Most are in very good condition, with just a light dusting that dulls their shine. Fourteen (and a half) T-birds are in the collection, most from the 1950s. They feature just about every factory color option available.
As Mike guided us through the rows of cars, we noticed that almost every car had a story. One was a 1962 Pontiac Catalina (lot F8) that the family used for driving vacations. This black 1956 Chevy Bel Air was dented when a worker fixing a leak fell through the roof and landed on the passenger door (lot F15). A life of collecting cars often leads to a collection of stories.
One of the most offbeat rides is this 1978 Cadillac Seville customized by the Grandeur Motor Car Corporation in Florida. Back then, that was what you did if you wanted your neighbors to know you made something yourself. The neoclassical Caddy suffered damage when someone broke in because they heard Force storing his money in the trunk. No cash was found, but the rare Opera Coupe was badly damaged and pushed to the back of the shop where it has been since. See lot F24 for more details.
Although the collection is mostly made up of classics from the 50s and 60s, there are a few newer cars in the mix. This 1989 Ford Mustang GT convertible is super clean with low miles. The 5.0′ Stang is heavily optioned and, let’s be honest, it’s getting hard to find clean, unencumbered Mustangs like this. Check out Lot F28 for more on that mid-’80s Mustang you wish you had in your garage.
What collection would be complete without a first generation Camaro? This 1969 Camaro RS/SS Convertible adds variety. Featuring the 375-hp, 396-inch big-block, this Hugger Orange SS also comes with the preferable four-speed manual transmission and a host of options like the Houndstooth Orange interior and RS Package. Aside from a 1966 Mustang GT (K-Code) convertible and a 1965 Stang convertible, this is the only classic ponycar in the collection. We also get the impression that Force was a true convertible enthusiast, since soft tops dominate the collection.
Guess we should have included this 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in the ponycar bunch above, but this one is so cool it deserved its own mention. The Cougar was branded as a fancier Mustang (well, it cost nearly $300 more!) and a fully optional Cougar XR-7 that sold new for $4,500. That sounds like a bargain, but in today’s money, it’s nearly $40,000! The 1967 Cougar also has the distinction of being the only Mercury-branded car to win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award! This one is powered by a 302-inch Windsor V-8 and still rocks the stock Philco AM radio. If you want to bid, and we know you do, you can find more information here. Mecum also made a killer video on this Cougar XR-7.
Corvettes are also represented in the collection. Yes, there are only three, but they are three good ones. This 1962 fuel injected four-speed Vette (Lot F51) has all the right options. There’s also a 1966 Corvette convertible (Lot F5) that wears the correct color and uses a 427 big-block engine backed by a four-speed manual transmission. Rounding out the Corvette trifecta is a 40th Anniversary Corvette C4 (Lot F62). It must be said that Force is a man of very good taste. Check out the Mecums coverage of these Corvettes in this video they put together.
The collection weighs heavily on Force favorites like Tri-Fives and T-birds, but it also has a few cars we don’t see very often, like a 1971 Olds Cutlass Supreme, a 1955 Buick Century, a 1956 Continental MkII, 1954 Mercury Monterey, 1965 Buick Riviera, 1956 Ford Fairlane Sunliner, 1959 Olds Futuramic 88, 1957 Chrysler 300C and many more. Another one of our favorites was this 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 with a 427ci engine and four-speed transmission (Lot F58). By the way, if you like Tri-Fives, be sure to watch this video.
We have a thing for Bandit-era Trans Ams, so this one, alongside a drop-top Cutlass, caught our eye. Alas, these two cars are the only ones in the collection not heading to the Mecum auction; instead, they are destined for the garages of lucky family members. Still, over 60 cars and motorcycles pass through the Mecum Block in Chattanooga, and we’re sure these rediscovered treasures will truly brighten someone’s day. To see the full collection and hear some details from Mecum’s automotive researchers, be sure to check out their information page.