Against All Oddities: How my Holden was stolen and used for crimes, Part 2

"Hi. We won't know each other for long." Matthew Anderson

In case you missed it, check out Part 1 of Matt Anderson’s “How my Holden was stolen and used for crimes.” TL;DR: On a business trip from South Carolina to Melbourne, he bought a VL Commodore down a back alley. The price seemed too good to be true. Within 48 hours it was taken from his hotel parking lot, with several of his belongings (cowboy boots, in particular) still in the back seat.

Joe, my colleague, picked me up and took me to work. With no sign of forced entry, such as broken glass, we immediately suspected that the father-son duo (who had given up Holden for way too cheap) had set me up.

The car was still listed for sale on Gumtree (think Aussie Craigslist). We could call, feign interest, and drop a bombshell high offer. If they hesitated, boom, we’d tip off the police who would surely swarm the suburb of Clayton with helicopters. Then I would be reunited with my VL, driving happily ever after.

Afraid that the guys would recognize my drawl, I asked Joe to place the call. From a conference room, he dialed and was soon chattering away in his thickest Melbourne-Italian accent. Joe made a full cash-in-hand-there-in-twenty offer. “Know what, mate, I’d love to but the car’s been sold,” came the father’s reply. Bugga these upstanding citizens!

I called the police station to get an update on my initial report from the day before. A stolen car could end up a lot of places, they said. In an office complex. At the Aquatic Center. At the train station. “In this part of town,” the officer explained, “kids steal cars, mess around, then catch a train home after leaving them somewhere.” I scouted the area, traveling foot and by train, in search of my Holden.

Another co-worker recommended I Google search the number plate, which hadn’t occurred to me. And since plates stay with a car for life in Australia, this could actually help. I tapped in the digits: X-J-Y-3-0-9. A recent Facebook post from a fella named Andrew appeared at the top of the results.

My jaw dropped.

“Stolen!” the post read, with a picture of my blue VL Commodore.

The date of posting was … three years ago? Huh? What kind of Groundhog Day mess was going on here?


Andrew’s Facebook profile listed a phone number. As it was ringing, I rehearsed an explanation, struggling with how to even begin. “So I saw on Facebook that your car was stolen. Well, it’s my car now. And it was also stolen …” or perhaps “My car was stolen. I saw on Facebook that yours was too and that it was also mine.” Even to myself, I sounded insane.

I don’t recall how I broke the ice, but I remember the conversation started slowly and involved many pauses. Eventually, we made some headway. “Look, I found out who ultimately stole it when it was my car but I’m not going to tell you exactly where they live. Only roughly,” Andrew said. “I don’t know what you plan to do.”

Fair enough. With all my luggage stolen, I was at the point of washing my only pair of underwear in the sink, while on a work trip. If that’s not the end of one’s rope, what is?

I left work early in another colleague’s car and aimed it at the area Andrew suggested. I rolled through several times, definitely not looking suspicious. The remainder of the evening involved casually inspecting train station parking lots in the cool Melbourne rain. No luck. On the way out, I took an excruciatingly slow walk back and forth through the rows of saturated cars, the light dwindling as evening wore on.

Two police officers crossed my path. Before they could ask what the hell I was doing skulking around like a creep, I blurted out, “Seen any VL Commodores around?” In a bid to prove my innocence, I offered my police report number. Then my phone number, hotel name, and room number, should useful information materialize.

Around midnight, my hotel phone went off. Startled, I managed to rouse and catch it after several rings. It was an Officer So-and-So asking some questions about some car.

“Wait, say that again,” I begged, attempting to become fully alert.

“I need you to describe the vehicle for me,” the officer demanded, polite but curt. “It’s possible we’ve located your car.”

“Uhhh, it’s Subaru Impreza-like blue, lowered quite a bit on silver steel wheels, with a blue interior.”

The officer shot back with skepticism. “Hmm … can you provide any identifying marks”?

“Does a rust hole in the roof count?”

Jackpot! It did! Though my Holden had retained its Cerulean blue interior, original license plate XJY-309, and aforementioned rust hole in the roof, the car had been rattle-can-painted flat black by the thieves.

It was also full of stolen power tools, likely nicked from a nearby building site. Because if you’re going to break the law, there’s no turning back and you might as well break more laws. And if it isn’t painfully clear, the perpetrators—whose attempt at deception amounted to a terrible DIY paint job—weren’t exactly, criminal masterminds.

“So, where is exactly is my Commodore? Can I come and get it?”  I asked.

“Not at the moment, mate,” the cop stated, “we’re still investigating here.” Officer So-and-So and his partner, Officer What’s-His-Name, were currently examining the car in the parking lot of a pub in the infamous Northern outer suburb of Dandenong, where all of Melbourne’s stolen cars tend to congregate. “Did you have any personal items in the vehicle?”

Yes, I explained, my entire vacation’s-worth of luggage is probably still in the trunk. Visible items, though? My size 9.5 Ariat Roper cowboy boots, distressed brown. And a phone charger, maybe.

That was good enough for the boys in blue, who, I later learned, then left the car in the parking lot and entered the pub in search of the criminals.

My hotel phone rang once again, about a half hour later. The car was now … gone.


Here’s where the story goes from absurd to get-the-hell-out-of-here. Apparently, the cops poked their heads into the bar, looking for criminal types. One of them spotted a pair of blokes at a hightop table crowded with beer glasses, their feet resting on the crossbars between the stool legs. One of those two feet were wearing distressed brown cowboy boots. My cowboy boots.

Unfortunately, this detail did not register in the officers’ heads until it was too late. And once the perps saw lawmen poking around their watering hole, they scurried out the back door before they could be made.

A stolen Holden and some power tools don’t exactly amount to capital crimes, so the police pursuit that followed was soon called off in the interest of public safety. Was this my real life, or a slapstick comedy?

Trying to remain calm and respectful (yet internally melting down), I asked to meet face-to-face with the would-be arresting officer on the following day. We booked an appointment for 2 p.m.—basically morning for the night shift crew.

I continued to canvass the middle-class suburban neighborhoods between the Ibis and the “cop shop” while I killed time before my appointment at the Glen Waverly police station. When you put your criminal cap on, it’s amazing how many great hiding places for stolen vehicles there are in a city. Buried in garages behind boxes, tucked in an unused garden, or simply under a cover behind a chain-link gate, perhaps.

After about fifteen minutes of waiting in the glassed-in lobby at the station, I was called back to meet one of the two officers. He was a friendly-faced, grey haired guy who looked like retirement was around the corner. The second officer, who I had spoken with on the phone, was off for the day. “About last night,” I started off, mid-handshake …

“Right … mate, we’ve got egg on our face, I’m afraid,” he humbly conceded. “Not our best police work.”

In the far back of my brain bucket, I halfway had been wondering if some of my friends were playing an elaborate prank on me. This interaction (and subsequent police report) put that question to rest; even my buddies weren’t that depraved, let alone coordinated. Ultimately, I received the same advice as earlier: to go check parking lots. Sigh. Instead, I gave up and played sad Paul Kelly songs on repeat in my head.

The car (and all my stuff) were officially gone. I bought new clothes and even another Commodore to take back with me to America, this time from a guy who was already in prison. Oh, and also a Valiant ute from a rancher in Tasmania. That’s probably a story for another day … if you still believe me.

Keep following Against All Oddities for more of Matt’s beautiful nonsense. And please enjoy the below selection of his Australia photos from that very same week in 2014.



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    I’m more heartbroken for the good citizens of the Glen Waverly police district who have these guys on their force. “Not our best police work”, indeed! To discover a stolen vehicle in a bar parking lot, and then go parading around inside the bar without doing anything to secure that the vehicle didn’t leave is, well, not their best police work…

    Looks like you also took in a Powercruise event while you were here
    And yes, tell the Valiant stories. please

    Love this story series. I love Holden’s even though we never got them here in America besides the recent “Pontiac” and “Chevrolet” rebadges. i wish we had all the fun stuff Australia got.

    While we are at it the fun Fords we never got would have been fun to have also.

    I’m Aussie, curious selection of cars to purchase. We have much better ones down here than dunny doors (commodores) Dunny door is Aussie slang for toilet door.

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