His prized 1967 Austin-Healey roadster was stolen in 1970, but Robert Russell never stopped looking for it. This year, the Texas man finally found it and, after traveling to California to spring it from a police impound lot, Russell, 66, finally has the sports car, now a collector's item, in his garage. How did Russell's wheels find their way home? Here, a brief guide:
How did Russell find his car?
He spotted it for sale on eBay, of course. When Russell saw a listing for a '67 Austin-Healey posted by the Beverly Hills Car Club, he suspected the car was his. He checked the vehicle identification number listed against his title certificate and, sure enough, it was a match.
What did he do next?
Russell called the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which dispatched Det. Carlos Ortega to investigate. Ortega tracked the car down at the dealership listed in the eBay ad, and confirmed that if was the one stolen from outside Russell's apartment building in Philadelphia 42 years earlier. After some red tape, and the intervention of Philadelphia police department, the car was his again.
Was it still in good shape?
Relatively speaking. The top needs to be replaced and the interior needs work. Representatives of the Beverly Hills Car Club said they had purchased the vehicle from a man in New Jersey who said he had been driving and maintaining it regularly for four decades (and whose paperwork seemed to be in order). "The fact that the car still exists is improbable," Russell says. "It could have been junked or wrecked." Russell had purchased the car from a friend for $3,000 when it was nearly new; now. it's valued at $23,000. The Beverly Hills Car Club now is out $27,000 — what it paid for the car plus the cost of shipping.
Does the car's value explain Russell's determination to find it?
No. He says the car simply has sentimental value for him and his wife, Cynthia. The vehicle was stolen the night after they had driven it on their second date, and they always hoped they would get it back. Before they could pick it up, they had to pay $600 in impoundment fees, then they shelled out another $800 to have it shipped to their current home, in Texas. "I'm not complaining about any of that. I couldn't get the credit card out of my pocket fast enough," Russell says. He tells ABC News: "The chances of me finding it were slim to none... I should have bought some lottery tickets."