Jeff Barnard is a bar and restaurant owner in the Salt Lake City/Park City Area known for opening Bar X, the Beer Bar, The Eating Establishment, and The Cotton Bottom with partners. Barnard has many great stories from his career to tell, but a recent personal experience tops them all. The wild story involves an old Porsche that will send chills down the spines of car lovers everywhere—it’s like a ghost revisiting him from his past.
In 1980, Jeff Barnard was an undergraduate at the University of Utah, and in the market for a new car. The college student bought a 1974 Porsche 914 2.0 in meridian blue for $4,500 and sold it three years later for $4,000.
Fast-forward to January 2022, Barnard unknowingly repurchased his old Porsche from a seller in Chicago for $39,000. It was winter in Utah when Barnard bought the car. Weather permitting, he only drove it a couple of times before the snow melted. As he waited for sunnier days to take the Porsche out, the vintage Porsche sat in Barnard’s garage for months before he realized it was the same car he owned over forty years earlier.
As Barnard tells it, in 1980 he decided on a Porsche 914 2.0 because it was in his price range and he thought they were “super cool looking.” Barnard looked at a few 914s that weren’t in great shape and found one he loved.
“I’m pretty sure the person I bought it from was from Ogden, Utah,” says Barnard. “It was really clean and nice and I loved the meridian blue color, so I bought it and drove it for a few years.” Barnard says the two seater was “really fun,” but as a college student, it was his only car which meant he had to drive it in snowstorms. “You can’t put your skis in it, so it wasn’t always the most usable car for a year-round student,” he says.
Barnard sold the Porsche in 1983, and he never stopped loving that car. In 2021, a friend of Barnard’s in Los Angeles bought a few classic cars from a website called “Bring a Trailer,” which mostly specializes in vintage cars. Barnard started watching the site in early 2021 for about a week or two, just for the fun of it—he wasn’t looking to buy.
“I saw this 1974 meridian blue 914 come available and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s the same year and color as the one I had!’” Barnard talked to his wife, Carole, and they decided to bid on it. Barnard was really excited about it because he had such fond memories of when he had that same car decades earlier.
The auction, according to Barnard, is a lot like buying stuff on eBay where the buyer has to outbid everybody else. Barnard said as he was going through the bidding, he wasn’t sure why, but he just had to have the car.
“My wife and I agreed on a price not to exceed $30,000, but for some reason I couldn’t resist. We ended up going a little bit over, but we were very excited when we won it,” Barnard says.
Once he bought the Porsche and connected with the seller, Barnard said to him, “Man, I used to have this same car back in the day. I’m so excited to get it.”
Barnard had the Porsche shipped from Chicago to his home in Salt Lake City in January of 2022—not the best time of year to drive a vintage car in snowy Utah. The Barnards had the Porsche parked in their garage for two months before noticing a couple familiar things about the car—a little nick and a blemish. Barnard thought, “Man, that looks familiar. Could this be my car? No...that couldn’t be my car.”
Barnard’s first real clue surfaced a couple of weeks after he bought the Porsche, when he went to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get his Utah plates. He had his bill of sale from Illinois in hand, and the lady at the counter said the Porsche was registered in Utah before.
As the woman at the DMV explained it to Barnard, she didn’t need to do a “visual” because it wasn’t a new VIN number coming into Utah.
Barnard asked the woman if she could tell if he was the previous owner. Unfortunately, because it was so long ago, she couldn’t tell. After that Barnard got on the phone with the DMV twice, spending a lot of time with a manager tracking down records, but nothing came of it.
Recognizing a ‘peculiar’ modification on the car
Barnard eventually noticed a peculiar, yet familiar, modification someone made before he got the car in 1980. When he saw that he thought, “This has to be my car,” but then, Barnard started to doubt himself thinking there was no way it could be his old car because he bought the car from Chicago.
He’d go back and forth, but then there were three or four places where he saw little details that drew him closer to believing it was in fact his old car.
Barnard took the Porsche to PMB Performance, a repair shop in Salt Lake City that specializes in mostly Porsche 914s. It was there Barnard asked a service person about the modification on the center console.
Barnard remembered when he had the car in 1980, he thought the modification was weird. According to Barnard, the Porsche’s center console is made out of vinyl and someone put a second layer of vinyl over it. Barnard says the vinyl was in pieces, and the person who wrapped it stapled the vinyl to the wood underneath, and you can see the staples.
“When they put it together...I don’t think they did it right, the way they covered the vinyl because you can see all these staples along the edge on two sides,” Barnard explained. He asked the guy at PMB if he’d ever seen anybody modify it before, and the guy at PMB said, “No, I’ve never seen that before.”
Barnard then told him how he thought the Porsche was the same car he had in 1980, but he didn’t know how to verify it. The funny thing about it is that Barnard tried all these complicated ways to find out if it was his car, but then the guy at PMB suggested looking in the owner’s manual—the clue he was looking for was right under his nose the whole time. In the 1970s, when you got the car serviced, they would put a signature and a stamp on the services of the car in the manual.
“We’re both standing on the passenger side of the car. I open the glove box and get the owner’s manual out, and the owner’s manual says the car was bought new in Ogden, Utah, and someone owned it there for a few years. All the services were done at the dealership in Ogden,” Barnard says.
At this point, Barnard knows this is his car for sure, which makes him love it even more. “When I tell my friends about it who love vintage cars and that kind of thing, they can’t believe it.”
The other three indicators it was his car from 1980 were not modifications, more like wear and tear. One is in the driver’s door on the driver’s side, Barnard says. There’s about a quarter inch cut, a little slice in the vinyl.
The second blemish he noticed had to do with the hardtop that can be removed, which fits into the trunk. “You take it off and then in the trunk there’s some brackets that hold it tight so it can be a convertible. The hardtop fits in there so it’s not bouncing around in the trunk or anything like that,” he explained.
“Someone before me hadn’t put in that bracket properly and when they closed the trunk onto it, it chipped a little gouge out of the top. It’s easy to see what they did—that was there before too.” The third one, he says, was the unmistakable one where they repaired the vinyl on the console.
Enjoying the Porsche
Today, Barnard and his wife have two daily cars and two vintage cars, one is the 1974 Porsche 914 that Carole named “Vesper” after 007′s first girlfriend. She insists this Porsche is the perfect car for a spy and a love story. The other is a baby blue and white 1977 International Scout.
While the Barnards don’t know how many buyers’ hands the Porsche passed through, they hope as the story circulates they’ll be able to learn more about the car’s incredible journey after it left Barnards’ possession in 1983 and ended back with him in 2022, right where it belongs.
If anyone has clues about other owners or the journey of the car, Barnard would love to know about it. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.