When David Brill discovers an old car covered in rust and weeds, he doesn’t see an eyesore. No, he imagines what the vehicle once looked like, sounded like, and the special moments that were had in it. “Every car has a story,” says Brill. “It’s not just a car. It’s a part of the family, a piece of art.”
Since 2012, Brill, a self-described “finder of lost automotive souls,” has helped line up new owners for forgotten cars through his website, autoarcheologist.com. Along with photos of the vehicles, the Middletown resident also details their history for prospective buyers.
For instance, on his website, the 52-year-old tells the tale of a Pinto Cruising Wagon which came to rest behind a service station after an ill-fated road trip which began in Vermont. Thanks to Brill, the long-abandoned Cruising Wagon ended up being purchased by a Pinto-lover, who managed to get the car back on the road.
Then there’s the story of a Mustang which, over the years, transported three different couples as they set out on their honeymoons. With Brill’s help, the remaining body of that love-mobile ended up being used to save another Mustang.
Other than a quick clean-up, Brill does no work on the vehicles he finds, and interested buyers visit the cars right where Brill discovered them.
“Part of my service is a complete photoshoot; inside, outside, underneath,” says Brill, who earns a percentage of each sale. “Most cars will have 150 to 200 photographs, so that if someone is in California, they can feel confident looking at those photographs.”
“I’ve sold cars to Australia, Argentina, to Canada, Arizona,” he points outs.
Describing what he does in a nutshell, Brill says: “I’m an automotive match-maker.” To that point, in one instance, Brill helped mediate the sale of a 1955 panel van which once had been used as a delivery truck. A man saw Brill’s post online and immediately recognized the van; he rode in it as a child. The man’s father, who died recently, once drove the vehicle. “He stepped into the truck and started tearing up,” Brill said of the son.
The idea behind Brill’s auto archeology endeavor was sparked some five years ago after he was laid off from his job in disaster restoration. That work had had Brill crisscrossing the state and, in doing so, he came across many cars in disrepair. Although not quite sure why, the life-long car aficionado jotted down the addresses of these vehicles.
When he found himself without a job, Brill grabbed that list of abandoned cars and began visiting the owners to see if they wanted help selling the machines. “I hit about 10 different vehicles that first day and six of them said yes. Now all of a sudden I had six cars that I had to help people sell and I had no way to do it,” Brill said, with a laugh.
Soon, autoarcheologist.com was born. Brill states on his website: “We have all seen them; some may even have them right now in their own yard; what appears to be the carcass of an old car wasting away in the side yard, under a tarp in a barn. These automotive lost souls are what I have set out to save if at all possible. The souls of these relics are the stories that are attached to them through years of ownership, maybe by one person/family or possibly a dozen or more. In some cases, our friend may be too far gone to bring back to road-worthiness. However, many times that is not the case. Once matched up with the next conservator, the motorcar gains a new lease on life as additional memories are instilled upon it.”
Now back working fulltime in disaster restoration, Brill does his auto archeology work as a side business. But in retirement, he hopes to devote a lot more time to his passion. “It doesn’t take a lot of physical work. I can do it until I’m dead,” Brill says, joking that he may take his last breath while doing what he loves. “If that’s how I go, I’m fine with that.”