Famously reunited with stolen Corvette, Alan Poster will soon let it go

SFfoto Stratton Photography

Alan Poster, much to his chagrin (and astonishment), has already received more than his 15 minutes of fame, all because his new 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible was stolen less than three months after he bought it.

Actually, the theft of the Corvette wasn’t what made Poster famous; it was the return of that stolen Corvette that made him famous. That’s because the car was gone for 37 years before it was miraculously returned to him.

Now, more than five decades after Poster first saw that C3 in a New York dealership and spent pretty much every cent he had on it, he’s saying goodbye to the car once again. Willingly, this time.

“It’s a crazy story,” Poster says of the Corvette’s wild journey, “… a really crazy story.”

1968 Corvette C2 Stingray rear close
SFfoto Stratton Photography

It was January 1969, and the 26-year-old guitar salesman was fighting the winter blues. Fresh off a divorce, the Brooklyn native took solace in driving his blue Corvette ragtop, even on snow-covered roads. Although The New York Times later reported that Poster purchased the C3 to ease the pain of his breakup, Poster says he bought it before his divorce. The sports car, based on Larry Shinoda’s radical Mako Shark concept, rolled off the assembly line on July 16, 1968 and was shipped to a Chevrolet dealer in Great Neck, on Long Island. Poster, perhaps already mourning the demise of his personal relationship—or maybe expediting it—was enthralled with the Corvette and shelled out about $6000 for it. That would be $55,320 today.

“I got the Corvette in the divorce,” he says now, “and she got everything else.”

Poster told The Times in 2006 that it was a financial stretch to buy his dream car. “I didn’t have a lot of money. I went out on a limb to get this thing. It was an egocentric muscle car that just came out. Back then, Corvette was hot as heck. [Owning one] was an absolute fantasy of mine.”

Poster lived in Queens at the time and drove the Vette fast whenever he could. He also liked to impress women with it. In fact, on the night before the car was stolen, he was picking up a date and returned to the car just in time to thwart an attempted theft. “People were yelling, Kill him!’ but I let the guy go,” Poster says. “I actually started laughing. I thought that was a little severe.”

As it turned out, he had only postponed the inevitable.

1968 Corvette C2 Stingray interior shifter
SFfoto Stratton Photography

The following night, when Poster went to pick up the Corvette at a parking garage, the attendant returned and said it was gone. Poster reported it stolen on January 22, 1969. Just three weeks into the new year, his C3 was the 6620th automobile swiped in New York in 1969. By year’s end, that number had risen to 78,000.

Poster never received an insurance settlement for the Vette because he didn’t have the money to insure it. “I was heartbroken,” he says. “It was a big wake-up call. I never thought I’d see it again.”

As the years passed, the odds of recovering the car grew. Poster moved to California and settled in Petaluma, just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. In 1976, he founded Ace Products Group, which makes gear for musicians—things like bags, cases, cables, stands, adapters, and connectors. His business became a huge global success, and it allowed him to travel around the world “a hundred times,” he says. It also afforded Poster a yellow 1974 Corvette. “I was still trying to live my dream,” he admits. He eventually sold the car and moved on.

1968 Corvette C2 Stingray front lights up
SFfoto Stratton Photography

Then, nearly four decades after his 1968 Corvette convertible was swiped in New York, Poster received a phone call from the New York Police Department, saying his car had been located. He thought the call was a prank.

It wasn’t. Somehow, Poster’s Corvette had mysteriously followed him to California. Although he hadn’t insured it way back when, the theft had been reported to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which maintains a database of stolen vehicles. Before an automobile can be shipped out of the country, U.S. Customs routinely runs the VIN through that database. On December 7, 2005, as three classic cars were about to be shipped to Sweden, Customs got a hit: One of the cars, a ’68 Corvette, was flagged as stolen in New York on January 22, 1969. There was no other information—no name, no address, not even a record of the police bureau where the theft had been reported.

Contacted by the California Highway Patrol, the NYPD suddenly had a lot of work to do, and they had to do it quickly. If the owner wasn’t found by January 1, the Corvette would be released to its Swedish buyer.

As The Times explained in 2006, Cliff Bieder and William Heiser, two detectives in the auto crimes division in Queens, were assigned the case. “It was the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack,” Heiser said at the time. After four days of meticulously searching through microfilm, “Our eyes were hurting,” Bieder said. Then, on December 23, Heiser scored. “I thought [my partner] was going to pass out.”

Locating Poster didn’t take very long; the two detectives spoke to the buyer of Poster’s last house, who said he had moved to California. They soon found Poster through his company, and on Christmas Eve, Bieder called him at his office.

“He said, ‘You had a car stolen in ’69? A Corvette? We have your car,’” Poster explains. “I thought, ‘This is a scam, a cruel joke.’ They had to convince me that it was true.”

1968 Corvette C2 Stingray rear
SFfoto Stratton Photography

The CHP picked up Poster and drove him to see the Corvette for himself. The media, which had been alerted ahead of time, was waiting for him to arrive.

“It was really something,” Poster says. “When I got out of the police car, there were cameras everywhere. It seemed like 40 or 50 people were asking questions. It was insane. I thought, ‘I’m not built for this.’ In retrospect it was fun, but going through it was not.”

The story was on TV, radio, and in newspapers all over the country, and Poster was inundated with calls and emails for weeks. “The woman that I’d taken on that blind date the night before it was stolen, she called me. I got a call from an old girlfriend that I hadn’t seen in years. I even got a proposal, but I had no interest in that,” Poster says with a laugh.

“My accountant was in Brazil at the time, and he saw my picture on the front of a newspaper there and he thought, ‘Oh, oh. What did he do?’ It was a big deal. That story was everywhere. It was crazy for a while. One day I thought, ‘I don’t want to be famous anymore.’”

Alan Poster back in the day
Alan Poster Courtesy Alan Poster

Poster initially had big dreams for the car, but it never materialized. “I drove it only once after I got it back,” he laments. “It had been painted silver before it was returned to me, and the interior had been changed to red, so I had it repainted blue like it was (Le Mans Blue Poly 976, to be exact, over a blue interior). I tried to rekindle my excitement for it, but it felt different—that was another life. I was going to take it to shows and tell the story, but it never happened. Everything had changed. Looking back, I should have done something with it; I regret that I didn’t. It was big news.”

Even comedian Jerry Lewis saw the story, and he wanted the car. “His people contacted me and offered me a hundred grand for it,” Poster says. “I told them ‘Nah, I’m going to have fun with it.’”

He didn’t. Instead, the car sat for years. Several months ago, Poster decided to bring the Corvette up to snuff so he could sell it, and he enlisted the help of Nathan Stratton, who assisted him in selling a 1988 Mercedes-Benz 560SL years earlier. They refreshed it cosmetically and mechanically, but most importantly they installed an original (but not the original) 327-cubic-inch V-8 engine, since the one with which the Corvette was born had been swapped out somewhere along the line.

“We did our best to make it look like it did before it was stolen,” Poster says, “and I think it does.”

1968 Corvette C2 Stingray engine
SFfoto Stratton Photography

The car’s odometer shows 60,000 miles, but most of those were driven by strangers. The New York Post reported at the time that there were three prior owners of the Corvette dating to 2001, including the person shipping it to Sweden, but since those people apparently had no idea the car was hot, they were not charged. The thief who stole the C3 in January 1969 has never been identified.

Poster’s Corvette will soon be offered on BringATrailer.com, and since a ’68 Corvette Stingray convertible in #2 (Excellent) condition has an average value of $53,700, he will finally get his $6000 back. But that isn’t the reason he has decided to part with it.

1968 Corvette C2 Stingray front
SFfoto Stratton Photography

“I just turned 80 … 80! I can’t believe that,” Poster says with a laugh. “My life is a lot different now than it was back then. I live on a houseboat in Sausalito—the SS Maggie (built in 1889), which I bought four years ago. I didn’t used to believe in ghosts, but I do now. That thing (the houseboat) is haunted. Plus, I have an apartment in New York. I own a Range Rover. I’m in a different place.

“You know, I’m just so grateful. A lot of great things have happened to me, including getting the Corvette back. Now it’s time for it to go to someone else.”

This time around, however, if Poster wants to check on his old flame from time to time, he’ll know where to find it.




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    The Media made this a bigger story than it really was.

    I feel bad that he got his dream and lost it with no insurance. A hard but good lesson to learn.

    But getting the car back I get it. He did not have it long before he lost it and so many years past it was like an old girlfriend and it just was not the same on return. I hope he can sell it and make some money on the deal to recover his initial investment.

    We had a shop GMC truck at work. It looked like the one from Rockford files. It was stolen plow and all. Never saw it for years.

    We replaced it with a similar truck.

    Once that truck was worn out after ten years use we got a call from the Police in Cleveland and they found the truck in the collection of cars a owner of a CHOP shop had.

    We got to see the truck and it left as a GMC with few options like no carpet or power windows. Well it was now a 3 year newer Chevy and had all the options including Cruise and power everything. It also has buckets and console.

    We got the option from the insurance company to put a bid in on it and bought it back. It was used for near 8 more years till an accident took it out. It was driven little and only the cab shell, bed and chassis were original.

    I still wish I had this truck today in the GMC trim. I loved that truck.

    “The Media [sic] made this a bigger story than it really was.”

    I’m going to have to disagree on this. How many stolen vehicles are returned? How many after 37 years? Especially decades ago when technology was not nearly as capable as today? Had Mr. Poster not been a successful businessman, he may not have even been located. In any event, this was exactly the kind of newsworthy event that draws eyes. It was human interest, it was long shot odds, and it had a good outcome.

    Happens much more than you think.

    Also more often tha to guys that only had the car 3 months.

    I even experience this once.

    I agree with you Tim. This was a great story and worthy of the press it got after 37 yrs. The critique, and GMC story was unnecessary.

    Just proving not uncommon.

    Corvette magazine the latest issue tells of a many reunited with his stolen Corvette he spent 50 years looking for it.

    He tracked it down found it and even wrote a book about it.

    He even still owns his.

    Not an uncommon story.

    It is NOT “common” just because it happened to you. People make that completely inappropriate and incorrect conclusion all the time. Reasonable people understand that. You don’t.

    What about the previous owners who unknowingly bought a stolen vehicle. Did the Swedish buyer loose his money? Several losers and the only winners were the thief and ultimately, the original owner. This car changed hands several times in the U.S. but was not identified as stolen. It was ultimately tagged by U.S. Customs. How does one protect themselves from this?

    You NEVER hear the financial fallout and who got stuck with the loss. But, like you, I think that’s a great postscript to the story and worthy of some research in every story about recovery of a stolen car. Like… what happened to the original loan? Did he end up having to pay the loan and drive $500 beaters for years? Did he declare bankruptcy? And, yes, who got stuck… I’m guessing the poor guy in Sweden unless the sale went through an auction site that held the payment in escrow until the car was delivered? So many interesting ways for the story to go. It sure makes a very strong case for USING a for-sale or auction site that includes escrow service with the sale so you can’t get duped… even if the owner has good reason to believe the car is legitimate.

    Buy cars with a known history. Buy cars from states with titles(NY is a non title state for cars that old-I think 1973? and older). Have a car run through a national data base if necessary. All of which if you are doing a private sale.

    I have a ’67 in the same colors and top condition in San Rafael. Would love to see the cars together in Sausalito before this sweet car goes off to Bring-a-Trailer. Great story. Thanks! –DJ yoweeee@yahoo,com

    I always made sure I had insurance in effect before I ever picked up any vehicle because I knew a guy that bought a brand new 1973 Kawasaki Z1 900 and was going to get insurance the next day and it was stolen that night.

    I imported my 1964 comet from Ontario to South Carolina, and I made sure to insure it before it ever left the garage. The shipping company would’ve been held responsible, but I wasn’t taking any risks. I even keep very minimal insurance on by 1991 camaro, even though it’s hardly worth anything.

    I also had a 1964 Red Corvette stolen around 1984. The car was perfect 327/365HP Red Color, black interior.
    I was hoping the Auto Crime Division of Dearborn, Michigan could find my car but nothing. I told them I had
    done some simple fixes to the car that I could identify the car even if they changed engines or color. Never heard anything. Still hoping.

    Yes, age and circumstances can change everything. My ’65 Nova SS is still missing after 43 years. Would I like to know what became of it? Absolutely. Do I want the car back? Nope.

    How expensive could insurance have been back then?
    That’s the part I find astonishing; why would anyone pay that kind of money for a car they can’t afford to insure?

    The article mentions the engine was swapped to (non-matching #s) original spec, but doesn’t mention the transmission swap. As pictured currently (blue interior), it’s a 4-speed manual, but, as recovered (red interior), it’s a Powerglide.

    Anyone can now use NICB’s vin check. It used to be a law enforcement only service. Just search “nicb vin check”. I wouldn’t buy a used vehicle without running it through there first.

    Just curious about something that wasn’t said. The article states that his car was repainted silver and a red interior installed. Was the 4-speed transmission also replaced with an automatic? Asking because the picture of Mr. Poster sitting in a Vette with a red interior and automatic transmission assumes this was taken the day he recovered the car. But the pictures of the restored to original car show it to be a 4-speed. Just asking.

    Reminds me of the 68 Corvette I bought new in late 67 from Lee Chevrolet in Wellesley, MA…same color, but with a removable hardtop and auto trans. One night I looked out of the window of our basement apartment and saw a guy sitting in the driver’s seat of a car parked on the passenger side of the Vette with a long tool extending to the Vette. I yelled at him and he drove off. He had been boring into the Vette’s door lock. Soon afterwards, I bought a steering wheel lock. Several months later my new bride got tired of the wind blowing in her hair, so the Corvette was traded in for a new Gran Turino at Muzi Ford in Needham, MA. The Corvette is one of the many cars I have owned that I wish I had the money and storage space to keep.

    Back in the 70s I had got my hands on a 65 Mailbu SS (one of my dream cars). I was a paycheck to paycheck guy and was trying to scrap up money to get insurance. Too late it was gone, never to be seen again. Would I like to know what happened to it – yeah. Would I like it back – yeah. Would I like to get my hands on the guy who took it – H**L YEAH!

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