Not many of us have had the unfortunate experience of having a car stolen, but when it happens there are two things that are likely to occur: either your car is found right away or you can kiss it goodbye forever. If your car is found you can almost count on it being smashed up, disassembled, or the engine was blown due to the joyriding that was done when it was snagged.
If the car is not found immediately, it’s almost certain that the car has been dismantled and sold for parts. Your prized possession is no longer, and you get stuck with the insurance company who tries to convince you that your car was worth far less than what you valued it at.
But every once in a while, a car pops up on eBay or Craigslist that does not rightfully belong to the seller. Granted, they may have been duped by the person they bought it from, but occasionally we’ve seen cars show up that were stolen.
Such is the case with Bob Russell, who lives near Dallas, TX. His beloved 1967 Austin-Healey was stolen from outside his apartment in Philadelphia when he lived there 42 years ago. Yes, you read that right: Bob’s car was stolen 42 years ago. So why is this a news item? We’re glad you asked, because we always love a happy ending when it comes to a stolen car, albeit a few decades late.
It seems that a Los Angeles car dealer had listed the Healey on eBay where it sold for just under $20,000. Russell still had the VIN from his car and it matched the one in the listing. And although it wasn’t in the same condition that it was in 42 years earlier, it was still a complete, drivable car. But Russell’s problems weren’t over, they were just beginning – again.
It seems that when a car is stolen and not recovered, it is no longer listed as an active stolen car so it cannot legally be recovered as such. But Russell didn’t give up so easily, and contacted the Philadelphia Police Department and asked for their help. They managed to find an archived teletype report about the car theft, another amazing feat surrounding this car.
But because the car had been off the FBI’s information system for 35 years, there was no way to list the car as stolen again without causing a bunch of problems. So they decided to create a new category at the Police Department’s major crimes division called “re-entered stolen vehicle”, and this allowed them to make it active again. From there, the LAPD could impound the stolen car and it could be returned to Russell, but not without approximately $600 in towing fees.
So it’s a great story that brings a stolen car back to it’s rightful owner more than four decades later. We find it amazing on several accounts: that Russell kept the VIN, which implies that he still had hope; that the police department still had the original teletype; and that the car was still in one piece and drivable. Bob figured he should have bought lottery tickets that day, we wonder which odds were better.