At the time, Bob Russell was a graduate student at Temple University. "Because he was a cash-strapped student, it was a double whammy: He had liability coverage, but no theft insurance," Philly.com
According to Jalopnik
, (via Associated Press), Russell figured the car he bought for $3,000 so many years ago was probably either pilfered for parts or had outlasted its lifespan.
For over 40 years Russell searched for his prized car hoping to find it, and it wasn't until recently he's located the car when looking on eBay, which had been listed for sale by a Los Angeles Auto Dealer. The VIN identifier matched his car, of which he still had the original title and keys.
He called up the dealer and let them know, but they only offered to sell him back the car for $24,000. However, because he didn't have the theft report, and his car was not listed in the national database, he wasn't able to immediately reclaim his Austin from the dealer's. The LA Police said without a stolen-car report they could not impound the car.
Russell then called Philadelphia police, and it turns out they actually had a copy of the 42-year-old report and were able to get it computerized. It turns out the VIN had been entered incorrectly, but with some savvy thinking on the Philadelphia Police's part, they were able to get the car listed without appearing to be a new theft.
Los Angeles authorities were then able to take possession of the Austin.
The New York Daily News
reported Russell, along with his wife Cynthia, drove to California to pick up the car last month. Cynthia had been his date the night the car was stolen.
Russell did have to pay about $1,500 in fees to get his car back, far less than the dealer's offered price.
"It's a bit of a relief," Russell told the media about his ordeal. "Nothing's ever linear - you're up, you're down, you're being whipsawed back and forth, and suddenly it's over."
Now he has plans to restore the car, which will significantly raise its value. "It still runs, but the brakes don't work well," he said, reported the Daily News. "We're going to put it back the way it was."
In Oct. 2011
another man was reunited with his beloved Camaro that was stolen in 1995. He too, found his car listed on the Internet.