Getting your car filched is painful, and feels very intrusive, to say the least. It's even more painful when the car meant something big, in terms of emotions or market value. But what if, years down the line, that very car you lost is recovered by the authorities? It’s a bittersweet end, right?
In some cases, rather rare editions of cars were lost for decades before finally being reunited with their legal owners. Don’t believe us? Read the stories below, about rare cars being stolen and then being brought back to their owner the next day, or even 46 years down the line… goes to show that the world is indeed round.
10 A 46-Year Recovery: Jaguar E-Type
Enzo Ferrari, so known for designing the most beautiful and drool-worthy cars in the market, dubbed the Jaguar E-Type as the most beautiful car in the world. So, when Ivan Schneider’s 1967 XKE was stolen sometime in the night, he was heartbroken.
A couple of years down the line, all hope was gone and Schneider had moved on. Except, in 2014, when a Jaguar was about to be shipped to Europe, authorities noticed the stolen flag on it. So, some 46 years down the line, Ivan and his Jaguar E-Type were reunited. Now isn’t that a love story worth a sob or two? By now, Ivan was a ripe old 82.
9 The Bullitt Mustang: That Steve McQueen Chase
The original 1968 Ford Mustang that Steve McQueen raced around in Bullitt was thought to be lost for many years indeed. It turns out it was sold to a Warner Bros employee, Robert Kiernan, and, though McQueen tried his best to buy the car from him, it wasn’t meant to be.
Memories faded and employees passed on, and it was only after Kiernan died that his son Sean called Warner Bros to let them know that he still had the car. Headed for the auction this year, we are guessing it will reach astronomical figures considering Ford even launched a commemorative Bullitt to celebrate its return.
8 A Plastic Wrapped Chevy Camaro: IROC-Z
The Camaro’s third generation saw the introduction of the IROC-Z, and it’s become somewhat of a rare find considering the car’s rather short market span and limited production. So, if you saw one of these brand-new beauties just sitting, wrapped in plastic, in the back of an abandoned trailer, you’d think you hit the jackpot, and you’d be right.
This happened to one lucky person in 2009, the car showed just 4.3 miles on the odometer. This lucky find had been sitting there for some 24 years when it was found. The owner sold it off to a collector on eBay and then it garnered another $27,000 at a Mecum auction in 2011.
7 20-Year-Owner Stung: Corvette Stingray Recovered
The Corvette Stingray is a prized possession of many. In 1976, Modesto Fleming reported that her 1964 Corvette had been stolen, and the case fell cold after a few years. Decades passed, in fact, 40 years passed before Fleming got a call she never thought she’d get. The police had just found a Corvette at a car show when the VIN registry showed a stolen flag.
Apparently, the guy who had owned this for the last 20 years had brought it for a car show not knowing about its shady past. Sadly for the man, he had to give the car back to its rightful owner, Fleming.
6 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO: When A Test Drive Went Bad
In May 2019, a private sale was about to go down for an uber-rare 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO, with the asking price somewhere in the $2million range. When the to-be owner asked for a test drive, it was readily given. Only, he and the beautiful Ferrari seemed to have vamoosed minus any payments.
Luckily, despite the current owner having palpitations wondering the fate of his cash cow, it was recovered the very next day by the police, stashed in a garage some 30 minutes away from the scene of the car crime. No one was apprehended, and no one knows if this was a prank or a joyride that had gone wrong, or involved an actual thief with mischief in his mind.
5 Robbery Links? A Rare 1962 Brabham BT2
You don’t see a 1962 Brabham BT2 around much, not even in rare car shows. It is believed that only 11 of these uber-fast cars were ever made, and one of them was even involved in the great train robbery of 1963, driven as the getaway car by Roy 'The Weasel' James.
It is this very car that was stolen from John Rapley some thirty years after he had acquired it in 1987. Luckily for Rapley, in 2018, the police found him his rare and cherished wheels back. This road-spitting monster was found stashed in a garage and probably about to be nefariously sold to an underhanded collector when it was rescued.
4 The Big Healey: Recovered 42 Years Later
In 1967, Robert Russell put down for an Austin-Healey 3000. Sadly, he could enjoy his car for only three years before someone came and took it off him by thievery. To say Russell was unhappy was an understatement—the big Healey was the love of his life. He never really gave up on it, pestering the police and all and sundry.
Some 42 years later, Russell was a bit shocked to see his beautiful lady up for sale on eBay; he had been scouring the Internet for his car. Apparently, the police could never trace the car because Russell accidentally gave them the wrong VIN. He checked the original title, corrected the VIN, and finally got his car back though by now it was in LA.
3 A Rescue And Crash: 1996 Ferrari F50
What do you do when you love Ferraris but can’t afford them? Some of us would wait; some would merely sigh in envy while some would simply give up on an impossible dream.
Tom Baker, an airline pilot and part-time car thief, had a different idea and began stealing up a collection that included a 1996 Ferrari F50. Five years down the line, he sold it off to a doctor for half the price, who then checked the VIN and found it stolen. Baker was arrested, the doctor got his money back and the FBI began to drive the car back to the original dealership. En route, they crashed this $750,000 car and totaled it. So this F50 was lost, found and then lost forever.
2 A Theft Made Ferrari Lose A Customer: 458 Spider
In 2017, a woman named Susan Friedman fell victim to a car thief who carted away her 2015 Ferrari 458 Spider from the service center lot. Friedman spent two nail-biting weeks before the car was found abandoned, with almost $100,000 of damages to it. The Ferrari service center, shockingly, refused to give Friedman the insurance money.
By now, the Ferrari-unhappy Friedman had had enough and reached out to an insurance adjuster. She got her claim and traded in for a spanking new Lamborghini Huracan. Goes on to say that if a car thief steals your car, and damages it, you better hope it wasn’t a Ferrari.
1 The Spy Who Drove: Lotus Esprit
In the 1977 James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond was played by Roger Moore. In the movie, they show a Lotus Espirit submersible that is driven on the road and then can go underwater like a submarine. While in real life there were two cars used, the actual submersible was lost to time.
It was discovered in 1989 at a blind storage lot action, and the owner got it for a mere $100. Talk about getting lucky. 24 years later, it was bought for more than half a million pounds at an auction, by none other than Elon Musk. Should Lotus be worried?