Arts & Crafts Magazine

Stolen in 1984, a 57 Chevy is Found Heading for Australia and Returned to Owner

By Bertyc @bertyc
Stolen in 1984, a 57 Chevy is found heading for Australia and returned to owner
Found on
The 65-year-old owner says the car has had a lot of work done on it since it disappeared from his Lake County home in 1984. It was returned with a monogrammed interior, 17-inch racing wheels, rack-and-pinion steering and a 350-horsepower V-8 engine.
This was stolen from Wilson's place in Clearlake Oaks not just once but twice in the early 1980s.
Wilson, who's 65 and battling cancer, had long before quit hoping to see it again when, about three weeks back, a California Highway Patrol investigator named Mike Maleta phoned him from Southern California.
The discovery came after a routine inspection of outbound cargo containers sparked suspicion by officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Officers isolated the container with the Chevy inside and called in officers of the non-profit National Insurance Crime Bureau. They confirmed that the car's vehicle identification number was listed as belonging to a stolen car.
It was a white-over-yellow two-door in sorry shape when he bought it for $375 from a fellow on the East Coast in 1975. Wilson had done a fair bit of work on it when it was stolen from his home in Clearlake Oaks in 1983, then recovered with its engine and transmission removed.
Wilson hadn't put it back together when it was stolen again in 1984. For 30 years, he couldn't spot a mid-50s Bel Air on the road without wincing.
He said the CHP's Maleta told him that since the theft, the car has gone through four owners. Wilson struggles to understand how and why the Department of Motor Vehicles would transfer ownership of a car that had been reported stolen.
Wilson had to pay just $900 in transportation, storage and towing fees. He said the DMV notified him that he is liable for 30 years of registration fees, but then backed off that claim.
It wasn't the first long-missing classic vehicle that federal and state officers have intercepted in L.A. prior to its shipment overseas.
Last fall, the CHP's Maleta and an agent of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Protection ran a check on a 1953 Triumph motorcycle scheduled to be shipped to Japan. They yanked it from the port upon discovering it was stolen from a Nebraska man in 1967 — 46 years earlier.
And late in 2009, Border Protection officers and Maleta seized from the L.A. harbor a 1965 Volkswagen bus that had been snatched from Spokane in 1974 and was bound for the Netherlands.
Story by Chris Smith [email protected]

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