Skip to comments.Stolen classic car returned 30 years later in pristine conditions (57 CHEVY)
Posted on 02/22/2014 7:44:26 AM PST by JoeProBono
LAKEPORT, Calif., A California man whose non-working 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air was stolen 30 years ago said it is back home with significant upgrades including a new engine.
Ian "Skip" Wilson, 65, a retired mechanic in Lake County, said the engine and transmission of the classic car were removed by thieves when it was stolen in 1983 and hadn't been replaced when it was stolen again the following year, the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat reported Friday.
However, the car was in significantly better condition when it was recovered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection two weeks ago from a Southern California shipping container bound for Australia. The California Highway Patrol contacted Wilson and arranged to have it shipped back to him.
He said the car now sports a 350-horsepower V-8 engine and has only 9 miles on the rebuilt odometer.
"Somebody put a whole lot of work and money into that car," Wilson said. "It was all disassembled and put back."
Wilson said he found out the car has gone through several owners since it was stolen, and he feels bad for the seller and buyer, who likely did not know it was stolen property. He said he does not know how the previous owners were able to register a car that had been reported stolen.
"I imagine somebody in Australia must be awful upset," he said.
Thanks for the pictures with the post. I went to the link first to see if there were pics and was pissed there weren’t.
Wondering out loud: Does he have to claim the improvements on his taxes? /s
Where’s the shot of the interior? It’ll be a shame if it’s all that for an automatic.
Wow, there is a Chevy fairy!
Now THERE is an engine a guy could actually work on !
That one car contains more personality than all the cars on the market today - combined.
It better have Muncie M-22 rock crusher or it is all for naught...
Now look what a mess the engine compartment has become, progress? Same horse power. The old v/8 i can fix myself. The new one I pay a "certified" mechanic 100 bucks an hour to change plugs. This is advancement? Granted the old v/8 gets 10 mpg on a good day, but one repair I make myself the money I save buys a whole lot of gasoline.
How in the bleep did a clear title get passed along to several buyers without DMV flagging the VIN as stolen?
If he sold it, he would have to pay capital gains taxes on it based on whatever he paid for it. If he could document the improvements (obviously impossible), he could use them to offset his profit. If he received any insurance payment when it was stolen, he might have to pay that back.
His best option is to keep it until he dies. I certainly would! Whoever ends up with it would have its value at the time of his death as the cost basis.
I bought a 1967 Mustang project car and towed it home. I only had it three days when I came home from work to find a bare shell sitting in my driveway. Thieves had dismantled the car right there in full view of my neighbors.
Motor vehicle theft (sometimes referred to as grand theft auto by the media and police departments in the US) is the criminal act of stealing or attempting to steal a car. Nationwide in the US in 2005, there were an estimated 1.2 million motor vehicle thefts, or approximately 416.7 motor vehicles stolen for every 100,000 inhabitants. Property losses due to motor vehicle theft in 2005 were estimated at $7.6 billion. Since then the number of motor thefts nationally has declined. The most recent statistics, for 2009, show an estimated 794,616 thefts of motor vehicles nationwide, representing property losses of nearly $5.2 billion.[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_theft
Guy is probably on cloud 9 with that car, that would be sweet.
That car, more specifically that body shape, even on a bastardized common chassis from some other model, re-released today in maybe a 15/16 scale, would sell respectable numbers.
Ford did somewhat less than decent with their re-release of the 2-seater T-bird, IMO because the sticker on that car was absurdly high for nothing special other than the retro look. They tried to make it a $50K car, it could have done well closer to $32K.
The 2003 Thunderbird combines the attractive features of the original 1955 T-bird with the modern refinements that 2003 engineering has to offer.
So, sometimes crime actually DOES pay...even if you’re the victim!
There is a cause of action in California called “unjust enrichment” that the seller of the car could possibly use to get the value of the improvements back from the true owner. It applies where one, through no fault of his own, has mistakenly done something to enhance the value of property of another. I’m not 100 percent sure it applies to this situation, but I think it probably does. The true owner, whose car did not have an engine when it was stolen, may have to pay something to the guy who improved it. Interesting question, would be good for the law exam.
Good question. Maybe it was taken to another state at some point, false bill of sales created and a claim of a lost title made. If it was kept out of California's system, it would not have been caught, until California checked the VIN when it was on its way out of the country.
Other possibility is that California is so incompetent that when someone applies for a replacement title on a VIN that CHP knows is stolen, DMV doesn't have a computer system that shows the VIN as stolen. Or at least, in 1983, didn't have such a system.
Hey! I have a 57 Bel Air! Not in great condition, but working on it. I’ve seen some that are legitimately worth $150k, just to die for.
My guess is the VIN did not actually match the title. And no-one noticed it, how?
A true car guy can recite the VIN of his vehicle on command.
After a minute Dad would get out and show the kid it was behind the light...
From the article, it wasn't the state of California or CHP that caught this vehicle, it was U.S. Customs.
NCIC information that Customs most likely used is also available to all state DMVs.
Incredible feature! :)
I am going to go out on a lim...err no.
I am going to sit safely by the trunk of the tree and assert that not having run the vehicle identification number through to make sure the car was not stolen ends any hope of whoever did the work recovering that investment.
Beautiful car to bad it’s red the only red thing on a car should be red are tail lights.
“Same horse power”
Not at all. Torque and horsepower charts are radically different, the gas mileage is probably tripled, pollution output 1/10,000th, tolerances 1/5th, and reliability 10 fold.
Today’s engines are vastly superior to yesterdays.
Back in 1969 when I was 16, my Brother’s Best Friend had a 57 Chevy Coupe for sale.
I went to look at it and the passenger side quarter panel was bashed in and the entire Car need paint. Can’t remember if the drivetrain was in it or not.
I looked at the Car and told the Guy, I can’t believe you would rip off your Best Friend’s Brother. He wanted $150 for the Car.
I did end up with a 55 Two Door Chevy Wagon. I paid $100 for it. Had to replace the Front Clip, cost me another $25.
I won’t even go on about the 69 Shelby Mustang that got away back in 1974. 40 Years later and it still upsets me. LOL
“My guess is the VIN did not actually match the title. And no-one noticed it, how?”
I read this on another car site and there was a number mission in title. The CHP officer was checking container shipments overseas and caught the difference. This one was going to a buyer in Australia.
I bet there are a number of tee’d off people and one happy one.
“How in the bleep did a clear title get passed along to several buyers without DMV flagging the VIN as stolen? “
It was the DMV. . .after all. . .you know, those dedicated and professional public servants striving to provide the best customer care possible.
“reliability 10 fold.”
My 57 Bel Air is still on the road. Easy to re-engine for $1500. I can do a tranny for less than %1000 (no, not that kind of tranny!). Name a new car that will still be around in 57 years. Maintenance becomes prohibitive after the warranty runs out.
I don't understand the reply to my comment, but hope your classic runs (mine is in perpetual storage mode right now, midst of restoration). I almost wish someone would steal mine & come back to me with all the metalwork done, with a few thousand $$ of add-ons to-boot...
Depends on what NSA has on him.
What I’m saying is that while reliability of the new engines has gone up, those figures are misleading. I am doing old cars not just for my health, but have done my spreadsheet homework on long term economics. If you aren’t driving the crap out of a car (like a company car), the long term costs are pretty decent for keeping the old cars running. The new ones cannot really be back-yard repaired and certainly not inexpensively. I can get all the parts I need for the 57 - overall cheaper maintenance.
Lots of cars could be around in 57 years. Nothing prohibits that.
If you have some reason to believe the deal is not on the up and up, that is different. I have not seen any indication that the "improver" who spent all the money restoring this vehicle was not a good faith purchaser.
Thanks for pointing that out. It could well be that California DMV is just that incompetent.
Hmmm... that Gas Monkey guy has a way of getting vehicles cheap, rebuilding and selling to foreign “investors”. Just sayin’....
How in the bleep did a clear title get passed along to several buyers without DMV flagging the VIN as stolen?Wilson said he found out the car has gone through several owners since it was stolen, and he feels bad for the seller and buyer, who likely did not know it was stolen property.
I investigated to see if a 57 vehicle even had a VIN number - and the answer turns up that the VIN started in 1954, but wasnt standardized until after 57 so each manufacturer used its own format. Still, it seems like an open question. The real question seems to be, what is the owner doing now to keep the car from being stolen again?
You have sent in registration forms that did not include the VIN?
I never have.
Where I grew up, people found out they had bought a stolen car fairly frequently when they went to register it.
The guy who fixed this car up lost it while trying to ship it to another continent.
I suspect he knew it would be discovered if he tried to register it.
I have a feeling that 50 years from now there’ll be more 100 year old cars still running than 50 year old cars.
Cars cost twice as much as cars made in the 1960’s adjusted for inflation, and last half as long.
Why pay? They really aren’t that much more difficult. They have a few more expensive parts but back in the day so did those older engines.
There was not much I couldn’t fix on my old ‘68 firebird that a nail file and a screwdriver couldn’t handle.
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