Back in the fall of 1988, I bought a shiny new red 1989 Corvette coupe from a dealership in Calhoun, Ga.
It was my pride and joy for a couple of years before other priorities led to selling it with about 15,000 miles on the odometer.
Not surprisingly, it was literally a trip back in time when this story appeared recently in the LA Times about a 1989 red Corvette convertible that has just been found after being stolen from a new car lot in 1989 – and hidden ever since.
It’s a story so strange that it’s almost unbelievable.
Apparently, a man stole the car or helped steal it and then immediately drove it to a nearby self-storage building, with the sticker still on the windshield and just 67 miles showing on the odometer.
He has paid the rent, at first $50 a month and since last summer $300 a month, for the past 23 years, despite never having used the car at all!
Back in September, the renter instructed his attorney to call police and tell them that store-all employees would soon be cutting the lock off his unit and would find a stolen Corvette.
Apparently, the renter was an immigrant from Ireland and was forced into stealing the car in 1989 by some shady characters and then had to rent a storage room to hide it in. What has not been explained is why the car was never chopped up for parts or sold on the black market. Why steal it and hide it?
San Diego Police Department auto theft Det. Andrew Spear says that he was told the renter would get calls every so often from his accomplices asking if he still had the car. “He was supposedly instructed to continue hanging onto it,” Spear said. “If it’s true, then he felt threatened and kept paying.”
In fact, Spear believes the man has paid some $70,000 over the past 23 years to store the car, about twice its value in 1989.
Det. Spear indeed visited the storage unit and found the 1989 Corvette, with four flat tires and covered in dust, but otherwise in fine condition, even with the new car smell intact. Since the renter had cooperated with authorities and so much time had gone by since the theft, police didn’t file charges against him.
Meanwhile, a man named Corky Rice has entered the picture by buying the car. He’s got it listed on eBay in an auction that will close just after 12 noon on Sunday. As of Thursday, the top bid was $22,200.
If he doesn’t get what he hopes, Rice says he’ll take it to a big car auction in Phoenix in January.
It’s definitely a very unusual story, one that could make for some interesting bidding.
“I’ve bought and sold over 25,000 cars in my career, and I’ve never encountered something like this,” Rice, 58, of Sherman Oaks said. “It would be a perfect display piece in a Chevrolet dealer’s showroom.”
Raymond Amerson of Mid America Motorworks says the final price could surprise everyone.
“If I owned it, I’d drive it, not park it,” Amerson said. “I don’t buy cars to collect them, not in this economy.”
An advertising agency owner named Mike Robertson was the high bidder on ebay for this stolen 1989 Corvette and he picked up the Corvette on Christmas Eve. Robertson reportedly paid nearly $40,000 for the Corvette. Ironically, that is nearly the price on the original window sticker. Here is a video from Los Angeles television station KABC-7: