It's hard to understand how a car becomes forgotten. For most of us, a car is an arterial attachment, a functional need that connects us to our lives and, in the case of the fan of the car, an extension of oneself. The very idea that a car could become forgotten, left to seed, is an enigma. There are cars that die, that contract that terminal problem that we don't let go. When you have the time, when you get a little extra bit of money, you'll get the old beast rolling again. That's the story of the car in the yard, how that barn find finds its way into the barn, to begin with. But for cars to be forgotten, lost, that's another story.
The search for and discovery of these lost cars has become a pursuit more and more of late. Urban explorers opening up abandoned spaces have found treasure troves of lost automobiles and automobilia and opened up new mysteries as to how those cars got there and who left them behind. The pictures of these sad machines hidden away from the roads they once ruled can be a bittersweet sight for the car enthusiast; we feel that sting of loss and the allure of rescuing these cars and putting them back on the road. Here are 10 cars sadly hidden underground until their recent discovery.
10. LOST ROVER
Rover isn't a car well known to most U.S. citizens, but they're familiar with the truck they helped make an icon. Rover was the parent car brand of Land Rover before Land Rover became its own company. Once upon a time, they were renowned for build quality, being compared favorably to Rolls-Royce yet still being affordable. That was before being bought by British Leyland with all the trouble that entails. For as nice and well built as the Rovers were, they didn't manage to withstand competition from other British luxury manufacturers like Jaguar. Another victim of the Liverpool tunnel collapse, this otherwise presentable Rover has sat far from the roads in the tunnel for decades.
9. BURIED DINO
In 1974, a plumber bought his wife a 246 GTS Dino as a present for $22,000. On December 7th of that year, while visiting the Brown Derby restaurant, the car was stolen, supposedly never to be seen again, the problem being that it was all a setup. The owner had arranged for the car to be stolen to divide up the insurance money and chop the car for parts—only, the thieves had a different plan in mind.
According to a report from Jalopnik, an informant had told the police that a stolen Dino had been buried with a half-hearted attempt to preserve the car by the thieves who were supposed to chop it for parts.
When the car was dug up in 1978, it became a national sensation. The car today has been restored and lives on.
8. THE CORVETTE COLLECTION
In 1989, music television channel VH-1 held one of the greatest sweepstakes imaginable for a fan of a supremely U.S.-associated sports car. They had assembled something that not even Chevrolet had, a complete collection of every Corvette made to that point. Every model year represented in one collection, and they gave it away. It seems like it would be a dream come true. There were a few logistical problems that came with such a collection, however. First one is that it represented 36 total Corvettes. Before you can even get to the issue of taxes on a prize that big, the winner had to find a way to deal with 36 Corvettes. So, the winner sold them to artist Peter Max, who unfortunately let them rot in a garage for 20 years, creating a whole new mystery to whoever would come across them.
7. FORGOTTEN 3-SERIES
The 3-series has been a very popular car for BMW—so popular, in fact, that it makes up over a quarter of the sales for BMW. As a replacement for the 02 series, it was meant to be a lightweight sports coupe.
Over the years, it's become bigger and heavier, adopting convertible models and an extra set of doors from its original 2-door configuration.
The car has become popular with enthusiasts and automotive journalists, meaning there are a lot out there and not all of them have been taken care of. This one has been left to seed in a parking garage somewhere. It's unclear if the window gave way before or after, but looking at the condition of the interior, it seems like a newer wound.
6. LOTUS ELITE
There a few missteps that are so far off the mark that it's hard to conceive the original intent. For instance, the Type 75 Lotus Elite. The "Elite" name was used on another Lotus car in the '50s and '60s. That car was advanced for its use of fiberglass and fiberglass-enforced plastic that made up the body and the load-bearing structure on the car resembling a Scarab racecar more than the body-on-frame Corvettes of the time. The Type 75 Lotus was said to have a low drag coefficient and the 907 engine that would later power the much more successful Esprit. The Elite managed to stay in production until 1982, but the oddball-shooting brake body style has few lovers in the collection market. So, while it's sad to see a lost Lotus, this actually looks like most of the Type 75 Elites you'll find on Craigslist.
5. TRIUMPH TR7
Triumph has made some of the best-looking sports cars. The TR-3 is a thing of beauty, with its long curves that sweep from the front to the cabin and then, the second set of curves that finish off the car. Even the slab-sided TR-6 with its large wheel wells has an impressively muscular look. When the last of the TR Triumph line came out with the TR7 and the TR8, that line of good-looking cars came to an end for most people. Quality control problems eventually soured the reputation of the car, and now, like the Type 75 Lotus Elite, the TR7s that are left are generally neglected with a few ardent fans here and there. This one's another car left in the Liverpool tunnels.
4. THE HERALD AND THE 109
Triumph didn't only make sports cars; from 1959 to 1971, they also produced a small four-seater car that came in a number of car configurations, including convertible and 'estate' or station wagon. While not very popular in the United States, it was in England as an inexpensive yet fun-to-drive little car. The Land Rover Series came in two configurations named after the wheelbase: the 88", which was roughly Jeep-sized and the more versatile 109", which could come as a panel, a station wagon, and a pickup. The 109 and the Herald are two icons of '60s British motoring, locked up side by side in the tunnels beneath Liverpool.
3. MINI 1275 GT
When Cooper went to find a way to make the hot version of the diminutive Mini claw its way to a stop, they went to Lockheed to design the front disc brakes. That's one of the odd and amazing innovations that went into making the original iconic Mini Cooper.
With a production life as long as the Beetle, the Mini came in a number of configurations and body styles, including this 1275 GT.
Replacing the Cooper S, the 1275 GT's innovations included run-flat tires. The front end wasn't as loved by Mini fans, and while the heavier GT was fast, it wasn't as popular. This one also ended up beneath Liverpool in the collapsed tunnel.
2. LOST ESTATE
How did all these cars end up in a tunnel below Liverpool? The story starts in the waning years of the 19th century. The tunnels had been built as an extension for the aboveground rail stations nearby, but there was a fire. The tunnels had been set up to retrofit with more iron and brick to avoid the problems, but ultimately, the entire station was abandoned. Eventually, the property was sold to a garage who used the tunnels to store and work on cars until a collapse in 2012 had trapped all the cars beneath the ground before urban explorers eventually unearthed them and took photographs.
1. CHAINED BEEMER
Sometimes, there are lost or forgotten cars in garages where it appears that when the owners walked away from them, they weren't aware it was the last time they were going to see their car. Maybe they didn't know the circumstances—like a medical emergency or a sudden arrest—that were about to make them abandon their investment. Maybe they were kidding themselves about the amount of time that would transpire before they got around to fixing whatever it was that made them park their car in the first place. This time, however, it seems like the owner knew he wasn't going to be back in a while and wanted it, with the chain locking the front wheel, to be there when he got back.