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Stolen '57 Chevy Returned Home After 30 Years

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On: Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 12:58PM | By: Elizabeth Puckett


Stolen '57 Chevy Returned Home After 30 Years

According to a 2011 memo from the California Highway Patrol, nearly 85% of cars reported stolen were recovered in 2011. That's not bad. However, what if you car was stolen 30 years ago? The odds of getting your stolen car back seem beyond remote... unless you're Californian Ian Wilson, that is, who had his 1957 Chevy returned after three decades. 

If you’ve lost a car and are still holding on to hope, this story will remind you not to give up on seeing your car again. If you've never lost a car, this story will still put a smile on your face.

Long Lost Love
Everyone loves a happy ending; that’s why stories like these strike such a chord with auto enthusiasts. A California mechanic, Ian “Skip” Wilson, has just gone down in the books as another story of success, despite the odds. His 1957 Bel Air, one of the most popular classic cars of all time, was recovered by law enforcement 30 years after it was stolen. Not that it makes it okay, but the car was actually in better condition when it was returned than when it was taken.

It was first reported in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat that Skip got the call a few weeks ago from California Highway Patrol asking about a Bel Air he reported stolen in 1984.

Wilson only paid $375 for the car in the 1970s when he lived on the East Coast. He drove it every day for years until someone took it from him in 1982. When this happened, he actually did get it back, without an engine. It was when he was working on getting an engine back in it and fixing the damage that it was stolen again.

Many Miles Away, There it Was…
The owner suspected that a local had taken it and cut it up for racing—he didn’t think it would ever turn up in California. However, just as he had, the car ended up in Los Angeles.

The car was brought back to him, completely restored and repainted; it had a new 350 V8, show-quality chrome throughout, and a custom leather interior.

Somehow, it was legally bought and sold four different times without Wilson’s report causing any red flags to go up.

If a few more days had gone by without the car being “found”, it would have been shipped to Australia—sure to have been gone forever. It was scheduled to make a trip to the foreign country when U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents found out about the criminal history behind the ride. Once this was discovered, the car was seized, removed from its shipping container, and turned over to officials in California.

It took Wilson some time to convince the authorities that the car was really his. A copy of the original, 30-year-old report had to be dug up and Wilson had to describe the car in detail before they were sold. It was when he mentioned a hole in the floor where he used to stash cigarettes that everyone knew this was Wilson’s car. Even then, it took a few weeks of cutting through red tape to get the car back into his possession.

One of the Lucky Ones
Wilson now has plans to drive the fully restored car only on perfect sunny days and will let his grandchildren enjoy the beauty as well. Unfortunately, there’re still so many people out there who stay up at night wondering if their stolen car will ever be found.

If your car has been missing a while, this is proof that there is still hope. It wasn’t long ago that a missing Austin Healy 3000 turned up on eBay. This car was also gone for decades and the owner was able to be reunited with his beloved car after so much time had passed. Proving that you can find your dream car, and maybe even your lost love on eBay.


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