Imagine walking out of our girlfriends apartment and finding your beloved Austin-Healey gone from the place you left it. Now, imagine 42 years later after you’ve married that girlfriend finding that beloved Austin-Healey going to the highest bidder on eBay. That’s exactly what happened to Bob Russell.
Russell, who had his car stolen from under his nose right here in Philadelphia more than four decades ago has since moved to Dallas, Texas and never gave up the search for his classic car. But, even though he spotted it online, it proved more difficult than you think to get it back. And he has one hard-working, dedicated, diligent, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer Philadelphia police officer to thank for actually getting it back in his garage.
Philly.com has details of how it all went down, but basically, the dealer trying to sell the hot car was useless trying instead to sell Russell his car back…for $24,000. The L.A. police were unhelpful because for some reason Russell’s car wasn’t listed as an active stolen vehicle in the national database. So, on a whim, or maybe out of all out desperation, Russell gave the Philadelphia police a shot. I mean, there might be a chance they’d hold on to the auto reports for 42 years. Right?
Well, not exactly. But, they didn’t turn him down claiming some sort of technicality. Instead, Detective Walt Bielski of the major-crimes unit (dun. dun.) took on the challenge of figuring out a way to get Russell his car back. That happened when Bielski discovered that the VIN number was misentered into the FBI’s system. Go figure. So after sorting that out, Bielski was able to relist the car as stolen, giving the LAPD what they needed to impound the car from the used car/eBay salesman.
Russell and his wife hit the road to LA, paid $600 to get his car out of impoundment, and they were off in his vintage hot rod. Next on the to-do list…restore the Austin-Healey to it’s original glory.
Ah, isn’t true love magical?