Car thefts are a part of life. Especially if you have a nice car, there will always be someone out there who wants it and must have it more than you. It’s very sad when someone’s prized possession gets stolen, like many of the cars on this list—cars from the ‘60s that go missing for more than 40 years. But many times, even decades later, the cars eventually get found!
For the most part, most people don’t worry about car thefts disrupting their lives. And that’s what thieves are banking on. Auto theft is a serious issue that costs an untold amount of money each year. On the one hand, modern technology is making it increasingly difficult for most criminals to steal cars. But on the other hand, some highly, technologically savvy thieves are having a field day stealing, because they can make technology work for them. That’s right, hackers are becoming car thieves. And it’s scary, as you’ll see toward the end of this article.
The bottom line is, many cars that go missing will never be seen again. But despite the odds, it’s always possible to recover stolen vehicles, thanks to databases, GPS tracking, and remote access that car manufacturers use to protect their machines from getting into the wrong hands. And although technology might never completely eliminate car theft entirely, it’s doing a pretty good job of discouraging such crimes from taking place.
Here are 18 incredible stories of the most audacious thefts and expensive vehicles stolen.
17 1968 Chevrolet Camaro
The early Camaros were iconic and powerful. In 1981, Ron Reolfi bought this ’68 Camaro with the plan in mind of working on it with his father. A few weeks later, the 327 V8 went missing from a parking lot in Jackson Township, and though Reolfi contacted police, there was nothing they could do.
Fast forward 34 years later, and Reolfi finally received a call from the police!
They’d found his car when a VIN was flagged on a stolen vehicle. It took several months to reclaim the vehicle from authorities, but he finally succeeded. The vehicle had changed hands four times over the years, and it was in better condition than when he’d bought it.
16 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III
The Austin-Healey 3000, or “big Healey," is a masterwork from the British car company. Robert Russell had his 1967 3000 Mk III taken from him in 1970, and though his friends tried to deter him searching for it, he never gave up the chase.
Decades later, 42 years to be exact when the internet became mainstream, Russell searched for the car on Google but came up empty.
One day, he was shocked to find the car on eBay! The reason authorities had never found it was Russell had entered the wrong VIN when filling out the stolen vehicle report. But he still had the original title, where the correct VIN was listed. Though stolen in Philadelphia, it was recovered in Los Angeles.
15 1967 Jaguar XKE
The Jaguar E-Type has been called the most beautiful car in the world by Enzo Ferrari. It’s frequently listed as such on “top cars of all time” lists. Forty-six years ago, Ivan Schneider was heartbroken when he learned his ’67 XKE was stolen.
In 1968, the car was stolen sometime during the night when it wasn’t parked in its usual spot.
In 2014, Long Beach authorities confiscated the stolen vehicle after receiving information from the National Insurance Crime Bureau that it was flagged as stolen in the database. It was to be shipped to Europe, and probably lost forever, but the then 82-year-old owner was finally reunited with his car.
14 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The second-generation Corvette, also called the Stingray, is one of the most sought-after cars on the planet, for its rarity and beauty. In 1976, Modesto Fleming reported her ’64 Corvette stolen, and the theft became a distant memory before long. But in October 2016, a full 40 years later, police contacted her to inform her the car had been recovered! The individual who had owned the car took it to a car show, clueless to its shady past, and at the show it was noticed that the VIN didn’t match the make or model, so police were alerted. Fleming got her car back, but it was recovered from a man who had owned it for almost 20 years.
13 1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z
The Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z was introduced in 1985 as the third-generation Camaro. It was manufactured until 1990. The car’s 5.0-liter V8 engine was paired with an automatic transmission only. It’s quite a rare car with a short history, so imagine the surprise a person might have had when an ’85 IROC-Z was discovered in 2009, still wrapped in plastic, in brand new condition, in the back of a trailer. It had been there for 24 years and only had 4.3 miles on the odometer! The car was sold on eBay to a collector, and it changed owners until it was finally sold for $27,000 at a Mecum Indy auction in 2011.
12 1968 Chevrolet Corvette C3
In 1969, Alan Poster’s classic ’68 Corvette C3 was stolen from his parking garage. Poster had gone through a divorce and immediately bought the car afterwards, probably in celebration of his new life. Needless to say, it was quite a bummer that it was stolen.
Then in December 2006, 37 years later, Poster got a call from customs agents that had recovered the stolen Corvette just as it was about to be shipped to Sweden.
Detectives spent many hours going through old crime reports, trying to find the rightful owner. So imagine Poster’s glee when he finally got that call and was able to remember what the car had symbolized when he’d first bought it!
11 1996 Ferrari F50
This is a pretty fascinating, forehead-slapping story. This is the story of a man who absolutely loved Ferraris, and was responsible for stealing a handful of Maranello’s finest, including this 1996 Ferrari F50. It was eventually found by the FBI during a drug raid to a storage warehouse, and everyone was happy (except the thieves). But as luck would have it, en route to driving it to the FBI headquarters, the agents actually crashed and wrecked the $750,000 car! They blamed “bald tires” on the accident, but that’s surely something that agent will never live down. Shortly after, in 2012, the F50 went up for auction with the bidding starting at $65,000, as a salvage title.
10 2011 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport
In 2011, two young Polish guys were arrested in Germany after stealing two luxury cars in Switzerland. Bayern police chased 24- and 27-year-old men who were driving a stolen chrome Bugatti Grand Sport and a BMW 750 Li, toward Poland.
A third man is still on the run, having stolen a Ferrari (but we’ll talk about him in a minute).
The precious cars belonged to a Swiss businessman and were worth a total of about €1.5 million. The 27-year-old man from Gdansk was eventually caught when police helicopters became involved—he could outrun the cars on the road, but not the machines in the sky.
9 2011 Ferrari 599 GTB
Though his two friends were captured while stealing the Bugatti Veyron and the BMW 7-Series, a third managed to escape. The black Ferrari GTB was missing until someone noticed the abandoned sports car with Swiss license plates next morning in the vicinity of the Furth railway station. Police brought the 620-horsepower sports car to safety, but the driver is still at large. This was after his friends were chased across the 1001 highway and then fled on foot into open terrain. We have a feeling that, unless snitched on, we’ll never hear of this third driver again. Ah, the one that got away! It would almost be a Robin Hood story if the thieves hadn’t put so many people in danger.
8 2003 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
When the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren first came out in 2003, it was a $500,000 car and the talk of the town. It was the first vehicle (a hypercar) co-produced by McLaren and Mercedes.
With the spotlight on this car, the thief who stolen one must have been quite daring indeed.
But then he just got silly, as he recorded himself on his phone trying to speed test the car, like he was on Top Gear. A whole episode on the UK’s “Cars, Cops & Criminals” showcased the ridiculous story and revealed how the guy got nabbed. Needless to say, we think this guy might have been a little too overconfident in his abilities.
7 Porsche Cayenne, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar F-Pace
It would take a much bigger headline to fill out everything that was stolen in this incident. Earlier this year, three teenage boys were accused of trying to steal luxury cars in West Boca, Florida.
Two of them, a 16- and 17-year-old, are being investigated for dozens of other thefts. On March 10, the boys broke into a garage and attempted to steal a Jaguar SUV.
They also tried to steal a Porsche Cayenne and BMW 5-Series from other houses. A police helicopter and K-9 unit chased the teens into the Everglades, where they were caught. They were then accused/suspected of being involved in 46 other high-end auto thefts!
6 2018 Maserati, 2018 Dodge Charger, 2018 Dodge Ram
As you can see, the thefts on this list keep getting more and more audacious. Just two months ago, in Missouri, a Kansas City man faced charges of stealing high-end vehicles from a Napleton Mid-Rivers dealership on Veterans Memorial Parkway. Police say he was part of a luxury theft ring. In the early hours of March 4th, thieves broke into a dealership and made off with three brand new cars: a 2018 Maserati, a 2018 Dodge Charger, and a 2018 Dodge Ram truck, totaling more than $200,000, plus key fobs worth tens of thousands of dollars. More than 100 sets of stolen keys were found in a nearby stolen van the suspects left behind. 18-year-old Travon Dixon was eventually tracked down to his grandmother’s house, where he was arrested and four Maserati fobs were found.
5 2016 Land Rover Range Rover
A Billings, Montana resident was accused of stealing the most expensive car off a local dealership on the final days of 2017. Dante Lamar King was found in February 2018 driving the car, with a stolen revolver inside and loaded.
The modified Range Rover he’d stolen was worth $84,000, and was discovered missing on December 19, 2017 from Dana Motors.
Two sets of keys had been taken the night before from the dealership’s office, for two separate 2016 Range Rovers, one white and one gray. The gray Range Rover, worth $70,000, was discovered two days later, abandoned. The white one took a little longer to find.
4 72 Different Cars
Earlier this year, 15 different law enforcement agencies helped bust a luxury car theft ring in New Jersey ports, one of the largest any of the detectives had ever seen. The people involved in the theft ring would steal expensive cars and sell them overseas for twice what they were worth. The ring operated out of New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. Some of the cars were stolen off the streets from long-term parking, but the largest haul came from new car lots. The suspects only stole cars that still had ignition or valet keys in them. Investigators were able to seize 72 different luxury cars, valued at more than $2.5 million.
3 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo
Just like the Aston Martin DB5 belonged to a legendary figure (and was therefore more valuable), so too did this 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo. But this car belonged to a legend of a different industry: the King of Flavor Town itself, Guy Fieri. That’s right, Fieri had his car stolen by 19-year-old Max Wade in 2011, in the most Mission Impossible way imaginable. Wade rappelled into a San Francisco car dealership, cut the locks, and drove away, with video catching the whole thing. Wade was eventually caught and sentenced to life in prisoner for stealing the Gallardo and shooting a fellow teen and his girlfriend over a romantic rivalry. Not the happiest ending to Fieri’s legacy, and certainly one he’d probably rather forget.
2 2015 Ferrari 458 Italia Spider
We’ll end with a pretty happy story, though it doesn’t start that way. In 2017, Laguna Beach resident Susan Friedman had her 2015 Ferrari 458 Spider stolen and taken for a two-week joyride. The suspect, Israel Perez Rangel, was seen in surveillance footage wearing a Ferrari jacket before stealing the thing off a lot.
It was found with more than $80,000 to $100,000 worth of damages to the $340,000 car.
It was then dropped off at a Ferrari and Maserati service center, but when Friedman showed up to drive it home, Ferrari were very difficult to deal with and wouldn’t give her the amount of insurance money she deserved. She eventually got what she wanted from an insurance adjuster, and what did she do? She went and bought a brand new Lamborghini Huracan!
1 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi
In 1987, this beautiful ’81 Ferrari 308 GTSi went missing without a trace. The owner, who wished to remain anonymous, quickly gave up on the hunt, though he was compensated by the insurance company. Then after almost 30 years, the car was seized by the US Customs and Border Patrol, in April 2016. The culprits were caught trying to ship the stolen car to Poland. Customs agents discovered the VIN of the vehicle didn’t match, so they flagged it for inspection and nailed this one. Despite all the time that had passed, when recovered, the Ferrari only had 45,000 miles on the odometer.
Sources: proctorcars.com, jalopnik.com, sun-sentinel.com, greenwichtime.com, standard.co.uk, billingsgazette.com