A Low-Key Collector Kept 230 Classic Cars Hidden Away in a Dusty Old Church. The Astonishing Trove Could Fetch Millions at Auction

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A treasure trove of 230 classic cars has recently been uncovered in the Netherlands in what’s being hailed as one of the greatest barn finds in automotive history. The extraordinary collection, amassed over the course of four decades by Dutch connoisseur Ad Palmen, will soon go under the gavel in an online public sale, conducted by Gallery Aaldering in collaboration with Classic Car Auctions.

Palmen’s journey began in the mid-1960s when he worked as a car dealer in Dordrecht. He began his personal collection with a yellow Lancia B20, gradually expanding his holdings into a covetable array of iconic rides from around the world. “The variety is more than eclectic,” according to Classic Car Auctions. “He had a refined taste and extensive knowledge of rare and special cars as he was professionally dealing in similar cars.”

Classic cars in Ad Palmen's newly discovered collection. Courtesy of Classic cars discovered in the Palmen barn find. Courtesy of Gallery Aaldering/Classic Car Auctions.

A few of the classic cars in Ad Palmen’s newly discovered collection. Courtesy of Gallery Aaldering/Classic Car Auctions.

The selection of rare models showcases Palmen’s impeccable taste, with cars hailing from Italy, France, Germany, the U.K., and the United States. Featured makes include Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari, Lancia, Facel Vega, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Ford—representing a wide variety of American and European machinery ranging from the 1910s to 2000s. 

Palmen guarded his collection, which he stored in two “dry but dusty” warehouses and a church, from prying eyes and curious passersby. But now, at 82 and battling an illness, Palmen decided to sell the entire fleet to Gallery Aaldering for an undisclosed sum, thus finally letting the public in on the hidden gems parked behind closed doors for 40 years.

The vast single-owner collection is regarded as one of the most exclusive and well-preserved of its kind in Europe. Highlighted models include a Lancia Aurelia Spider, Alfa Romeo 2600 SZ, Ferrari 400 Automatic i, Jaguar XJ-S 4.0 Convertible, and a Mercedes-Benz 300S Roadster.

Ad Palmen stored his 230 classic cars in two warehouses and a church. Courtesy of Gallery Aaldering/Classic Car Auctions.

Ad Palmen stored his 230 classic cars in two warehouses and a church for decades. Courtesy of Gallery Aaldering/Classic Car Auctions.

Palmen did not restore the cars, but rather kept them in the condition he bought them, although he did regularly start their engines to prevent them from seizing. He also refrained from selling them after they were added to his collection. 

While there is no official record of the cars’s purchase price or their estimate range in the upcoming auction, they’re expected to fetch well into the millions of dollars. Just last month, a restored 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300S Roadster sold for $735,500 at a Sotheby’s auction while a 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America went for $940,000 earlier this year.

The vehicles are now housed in a single warehouse in Dordrecht and will be open for in-person viewing from May 27–29. The online auction begins May 19 and closes in three parts between June 5–7, giving buyers ample opportunity to bid on the prized machines.

As Nico and Nick Aaldering of Gallery Aaldering said, “It is unlikely that anyone will ever see a collection of this caliber and condition again in their lifetime.”

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