Man Finds His Stolen Austin-Healey After 42 Years
It took 42 years, but the owner of a stolen 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III convertible never stopped looking for it, and finally found it. As Kurt Ernst reports for MotorAuthority, Bob Russell bought the cream-colored British sports car from a friend for $3,000 in 1968, when he was a graduate student at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.
In 1970, the morning after his second date with the woman who would become his wife, he awoke to find the car gone from the apartment lot where he had parked it. Although Russell had liability insurance, he had no theft insurance, Sam Wood writes for Philly.com.
According to Ernst, after the car first disappeared, Russell would stop to inspect any car that looked like his parked on a road or at any English car meet. Then, once the Internet was up and running, Russell used it to try and find his stolen car. On May 11 of this year, Russell, 66, a retired sales manager, spotted the car listed for auction on eBay by a Los Angeles car dealer, the Beverly Hills Car Club, according to an Associated Press article on FoxNews.com.
The final bid on the car was for $19,700, but did not meet the seller’s reserve price, as Wood writes. He goes to to relate:
The listed VIN matched his beloved Austin. Russell, now living near Dallas, still possessed the title and set of keys. The only thing he didn’t have was the original stolen-auto report. […]
‘I hate to sound indelicate,’ Russell told the dealer, ‘but you’re selling a stolen car.’
The dealer offered to sell it back to him for $24,000.
Russell called Los Angeles police. Their hands were tied. There was no record in the national database. They couldn’t recover the Austin unless it was listed as an active stolen car. And, technically, it wasn’t.
So Russell called Philadelphia police.
As Wood tells the story, “Philadelphia cops love a good puzzle.” Lt. Fred McQuiggan, head of the department’s Police Integrated Information Network, discovered that the car’s VIN number had been entered incorrectly into the FBI’s computer files. He resolved that problem and then relisted the car as stolen without having it appear as a new theft. This made it possible for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office to impound the car.
In mid-June, Russell and his wife, Cyndy, traveled to California to retrieve the car. It cost Russell $600 in impound fees, $800 to have it shipped to his Southlake, TX, home, and the six days of travel and hotel costs. Russell told the Associated Press his plans for the car:
Russell said he intends to restore the Austin Healey, which he said is worth $20,000 to $30,000.
‘It still runs, but the brakes don’t work well,’ he said. ‘We’re going to put it back the way it was.’
When the restoration’s finished, he said, the car ‘probably will be worth around $50,000.’