Stolen Austin-Healey recovered 42 years later

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Austin-Healey 3000

It's easy to see why Bob Russell wants his Austin-Healey 3000 back so badly. Image: pedrosimoes7/Flickr/CC BY

Bob Russell is a man who loves his car. He was recently reunited with his 1967 Autin-Healey 3000. It was a reunion he thought he would never see. The car was stolen in 1970.

Rewards of insomnia

On May 11 the Texas resident was suffering a bout of insomnia. So he got online and searched cars on Ebay, something he is prone to do on occasion. For the last 42 years Russell has kept his eyes open, hoping beyond hope to find his British automobile that was stolen when he lived in Philadelphia.

The car mans a great deal to Russell. He and his wife went on their first date in it more than 40 years ago.

Russell told

“I used to always look at Austin-Healeys parked on the side of the road. Every once in a while, I’d search the Internet. I knew finding it would be impossible.”

Mission: Unlikely maybe, but not Mission Impossible.

VIN memorized

Russell has the vehicle identification number of the Austin-Healey tattooed in his brain; that is how much he loved this stylish British luxury car. Imagine his excitement when he found a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 for sale with a VIN matching the one he so long ago memorized.

Russell said:

“At first I wondered if my eyes were functioning. I’m still trying to come down from the adrenalin rush.”

The car was being sold by an auto dealer in Beverly Hills, Calif. As is the case with many “previously-stolen” cars, its VIN plate was missing, as were the trunk and glove compartment locks.

Austin-Healey runaround

Russell contacted the dealership, telling them that the car was his and that it had been stolen. The dealer responded, saying that he acquired the car from a man who claimed to have acquired it in 1970. He also had all the legal ownership documents.

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For several weeks Russell tried to negotiate with the dealership and with the Beverly Hills police, but was getting nowhere. Finally, he contacted the National Crime Information Center and got a copy of his original police report from 1970. Then he contacted the police in Philadelphia, where the car was stolen from.

The reunion

The report was reactivated and the car was impounded on June 14. On June 18, Russell and his wife Cynthia made a trip to Southern California and retrieved his long-lost but not forgotten car.

The car needs some work, but is in generally good condition. The odometer read 42,000 miles when Russell retrieved it, 1,000 for every year he had been looking for it. It is valued now at $20,000 to $30,000. But Russell says it will be worth $50,000 when he gets done with it.

Cynthia Russell was maybe even more happy than her husband to get the car back. Referring to that first date so long ago, she said:

“I liked him; he was cute. But I loved the car!”


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