US man reunites with stolen car after 42 years

Man reunites with his car,1967 Austin-Healey,after it was listed for auction.

Written by Agencies | Washington | Published: July 13, 2012 11:02 am

A man from Texas was reunited with his car,a 1967 Austin-Healey,42 years after it had been stolen from outside his Philadelphia apartment.

Thanks to the Internet and some creative police work,Bob Russell has his pride and joy back.

When Russell,then a graduate student at Temple University,had returned home the morning after a date with his future wife,his British roadster was nowhere to be found.

For decades since,he searched for his car in vain. On a trip to Washington,DC,he stared at a parked Austin-Healey for half an hour in hopes of finding a distinct marking of his car to no avail.

On a recent eBay session,though,his luck changed,the cream-colored car had been listed for auction by a Los Angeles car dealer,with a final bid of 19,700 dollars.

Russell,who now lives near Dallas,knew that the car was his because its vehicle identification number (VIN) matched the one on the title he had kept since the theft.

“I’m not trying to sound indelicate,but you are selling my car,” Russell told the dealer.

After Los Angeles police told him that they could not recover it because it was not listed as an active stolen car,he called the Philadelphia Police Department,which,luckily for him,had a few tricks up its sleeve.

Deborah Sanborn,in the department’s information-systems division,dug up a Teletype report about the theft in an archive.

In order for Philadelphia police to communicate with police in Los Angeles,the case needed to be active in the FBI’s information system,which it had not been for about 35 years,Walt Bielski,a detective in the Philadelphia Police Department’s major crimes division,said.

There seemed to be no way to fix that problem without creating a new one re-entering the case would have caused it to be counted incorrectly in 2012 crime statistics.

But Lt. Fred McQuiggan devised a clever solution,to create a new category,“re-entered stolen vehicle,” which would have then allowed the theft to be activated without adding to the city’s current crime tally.

After Bielski filed the report,the LAPD impounded Russell’s car and said that the retired sales manager could pick it up whenever,though not without paying 600 dollars in towing fees.

Russell said that he did not mind paying the fees at all when he picked up his Austin in Los Angeles on June.

He was just happy that he did not have to fight for the car in court and was amazed at the odds he had beaten.

“The chances of it being it one piece were slim to none. The chances of me finding it were slim to none. Fifty coincidences had to coincide to have this happen,” Russell said.

“I should have bought some lottery tickets,” he added.

The Austin-Healey 3000,discontinued in 1967,is not in the shape it was on the day when it had been stolen,but Russell said that he planned to restore it to its former glory. The interior needed work,the paint needed a new coat and the top needed to be replaced,he said.

Bielski said that the car was the oldest stolen car in his department’s records.

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