Long Lost Austin-Healey Reunites With Owner After 42 Years
John Neumann for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Thumbing through ads on eBay, Robert Russell found what he believed to be his long-lost English sports car listed for sale by the Beverly Hills Car Club. After a little more digging, he determined that the car was in fact his by comparing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) listed on the online marketplace to the number listed on the car’s Certificate of Title which he still had filed away.
Russell, now living in Dallas, contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and was put into contact with Detective Carlos Ortega.
Ortega tracked down the car to a dealership in East Los Angeles after working with authorities in Philadelphia. Ortega then told Russell that he could pick up his long-lost car, which he did a few days later, reports Steven Covelman for NBC News Philadelphia.
“Detective Ortega took possession of the vehicle and informed Mr. Russell that his vehicle was recovered intact and in fair condition, although requiring some exterior and interior work,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Russell explained his diligence with his sentimental value of the 2-seater convertible and not the monetary value. Russell told deputies that he bought the vehicle for $3,000 from a friend in 1968 and found it stolen 2-years later after a second date with his now-wife. The value of the classic car today is roughly $23,000.
“The fact that the car still exists is improbable,” Russell told NBCPhiladelphia.com. “It could have been junked or wrecked.”
The Beverly Hills Car Club, who had the eBay ad listing the car, said it had no idea the car may have been stolen and took down the ad as soon as questions arose about ownership .
“Beverly Hills Car Club found the Austin Healey on Craigslist and purchased the car from a seller in New Jersey who claimed to have owned the car for 42 years. The VIN matched the registration and paperwork, had no liens and was clear and unencumbered from the State of New York, when it was issued to the seller in 1970,” Versa Manos from the Beverly Hills Car Club said in a press release.
“In good faith, we purchased the car and paid to have it shipped cross-country, where it was detailed, photographed and displayed for sale on our eBay page.”
The matter was forwarded to the dealership’s attorney for investigation into Russell’s claims. “To our knowledge, the car had a valid title and there was no report on it being a stolen vehicle, which was apparently due to an error by the Philadelphia Police Department,” Manos said. “This could have happened to anyone buying a car on the internet.”
According to the club, BBC reports, the previous owner of the vehicle drove it on a regular basis for 42 years but it is not clear how the previous owner got possession of the car.
Officials disclosed that when the car was first reported stolen, the VIN was incorrectly entered into the stolen vehicle system, as a result, the computer systems never listed the car was stolen.