Monday, February 24, 2014


I love a story with a happy ending...

Tennessee man's stolen VW Beetle recovered 40 years later
A Tennessee man whose Volkswagen Beetle was stolen while he was having dinner with a group of friends in 1974 never thought he would get his Bug back.

Joseph MacDonald says he's the owner of the 1965 car, which authorities say was recently discovered in Detroit, 40 years after it was stolen.

I'll pause while you get over the shock of finding a stolen car in Detroit. Actually, that it was recovered is pretty shocking, especially considering that it was stolen in Tennessee and recovered in Michigan. The current owner was planning on shipping it to Europe to be restored, and in the process of getting it ready to ship out of the country, the agent found that the car had been reported stolen some four decades prior.

Now, in my mind, this raises a question: Why hadn't this been caught sooner? I wonder if perhaps the person in MI who bought it has had it for a long time, and in the time they've owned it, the stolen vehicle records have been entered into the RMV's database. Unless this person bought the car in 1974 right after it was stolen and has held onto it for 40 years, it has most likely changed hands numerous times.

In any case, Mr. MacDonald has an interesting story to tell and a fifty year old classic to finish restoring...

That is all.


Phil L. said...

I've seen several stories like this (vintage car discovered to be stolen many years after the fact; returned to owner from which it was stolen), and I applaud the return of the car - but also feel for the intervening people who cared for the car, often restored it - and had no idea it was stolen.

I wonder how hard it is to research a vintage car title - and legally prove it *hasn't* been stolen in the past.

Interesting thought: Does vintage/collectible car insurance cover for this sort of thing? It would seem to make sense for those who invest in pricey restoration efforts, and may not have a car's complete history when they start.

Ted said...

It is common to be able to find seven of the orgininal five cars for classics that were hand made in the first place. But not surprising that the DMV database does not routinly cross check with the stolen car list.

Welfare doesn't even bother to do basic data integrity testing so why would you expect any better from the DMV.

Anonymous said...

The lists of VINs reported stolen across the state lines is still not 100% accurate, even in today's interconnected information age. Searching one database, say, Texas, for a car stolen in, we'll assume, Oregon, won't necesssarily guarantee the car will pop up as stolen, unless Texas has an information-sharing agreement with Oregon, or unless you add the Oregon database to the search.

What probably happened with this VW Bug was at some point, it was sold without title. In Texas, at least, there is a "good faith bond" that can be put up for such vehicles, which will essentially pay for the purchase cost if the car does later turn out to be stolen. Many states have similar setups. If no one turns up with the title, claiming to be the real owner of the car, a new title is issued to the new owner.

When this happened for this Bug, who knows?

Wally said...

1974 was before VIN-standardization. It would be easy to "launder" the car by appending a digit to the marked VIN.