Old Cars Weekly is currently launching a series of articles about “great finds” in cars, trucks, automobilia and petroliana, but we doubt that the news-magazine will come up with as big a find as that made recently by the Homeland Security Department.
This find took place in Long Beach, California, in November, 2006. While making a routine inspection of a shipping container bound for Sweden, U.S. Customs agents discovered that the 1968 Corvette inside had been stolen – on January 22, 1969, in New York City!
Alan Poster was living in New York when someone swiped his blue, 3-month-old Corvette from inside a parking garage. Poster had no theft insurance on the car at that time. He was 26 years old, struggling to make ends meet and just couldn’t afford comprehensive insurance. When the car disappeared, he wished he had taken the extra coverage because he was out over $5,000. In 1968, a Corvette listed for $4,663 without options or tax, title and license.
The history of the car since 1969 is unknown. It had ultimately wound up in the hands of a California car collector who sold it to another collector in Sweden. Neither man had any idea that the car had once been stolen or that it had a transmission stolen from another car. The engine had also been changed, the gas tank was missing and the car had been repainted in Silver and had a new Red interior.
Customs agents seized the car and started a search for its owner. The NYPD was called in to track down the original owner. They had to search old stolen car reports on a microfilm reader to find Poster’s name. It turned out he was living a bit closer to the car, in Northern California.
The '68 beauty – currently worth about $30,000 in Old Cars Price Guide No. 1 condition – is not the first Corvette that was stolen long ago and returned to its rightful owner, but the chances of such a thing happening are about “a million to one” police told Poster. "The odds against finding it so many years afterward were phenomenal," agreed Mike Fleming of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Poster, now 63, said that the Corvette was the hottest thing around when he bought it in 1969 and the last car he ever loved. Today he owns a Mercedes. He said that he plans to restore the ‘Vette, give it to his daughter and advise her to insure it for theft.
John “Gunner” Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis. , and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.