Legendary Corvette restorer Kevin Mackay again finds himself in the middle of a seemingly never-ending legal battle over a historic 1960 Corvette.
The fate of the car remains in question after it made history nearly 60 years ago when it became one of the first Corvettes to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.
Porter (Indiana) Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer has scheduled an emergency court hearing for Tuesday, Dec. 11 as Mackay seeks to take possession of the car – insured for $2.5 million – from Gino Burelli, who has a 70 percent stake of the Corvette.
In 1960, American racer Briggs Cunningham purchased three identical 1960 Corvettes and took them to France where they became the first Corvettes to race at the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Corvettes were numbered 1, 2, and 3 and there was also a number 4 Corvette that was campaigned by Camoradi USA. The No. 1 Corvette wrecked in the third hour of the race when it went off track during a rainstorm and suffered an engine fire. The No. 2 Corvette drove 20 hours but retired with a broken piston. Only the No. 3 Corvette was able to finish the race and it was declared the winner of its class.
After the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Corvettes were brought back to the US where they were converted back to street form and sold as used. The new owners of each of the cars had no idea they were raced at Le Mans. The great documentary by Michael Brown called The Quest details the search for the three Corvettes and ultimately the finding and restoration of the No.3 car owned by Lance Miller.
If you recall, the #1 1960 Cunningham Corvette racer was discovered in 2012 in a St. Petersburg, Florida warehouse and was soon acquired by Miller, of Corvettes at Carlisle fame, from the family who owned the warehouse. Miller immediately sold the car for $75,000 to Mackay, owner of Corvette Repair, Inc., in Valley Stream, N.Y.
Initially, the car was going to be shown at the 2012 Corvettes at Carlisle, but that’s when things got interesting. Enter Dan Mathis, Jr. of Florida who claimed the Corvette was stolen from his father’s driveway in Tampa nearly 40 years earlier. The car was reportedly purchased for $700 by his father who converted it into a drag racer.
Once the discovery of the car became known, another actor in the lawsuit, Domenico Idoni, told Mathis Jr. that the car had been located and was now owned by Mackay. Mathis called the cops and produced a new title to the car that was dated a couple weeks after Miller’s purchase. Soon after the 2012 Corvettes at Carlisle show, Mathis Jr. filed a federal lawsuit in 2012 to fight for the ownership of the car and the judge ruled later that indeed his suit did have merit which allowed the ownership fight to continue.
It was a few months later after the lawsuit was filed that Mathis Jr. filed for bankruptcy in Florida and so he sold his claims to the car to Idoni and another partner named Gino Burelli. Burelli was aligned with Idoni during the legal fight for the 1960 Cunningham Corvette.
Three years of legal wrangling ended in 2015 when US Middle District Judge John E. Jones III agreed to a three-way partnership crafted by lawyers representing Burelli and Mackay that was supposed to end the ownership dispute of the car. In that agreement, Mackay’s partners would have to pay him $750,000 to buy out his 30% interest in the car.
The latest legal battle has been fueled by the November 2018 closing of Harbor Buick GMC in Portage, which is owned by Burelli. Citing the changing market for new cars thanks to the Internet, Burelli consolidated that dealership with another he owns in Michigan City.
Lost in the shuffle was the 1960 Corvette, which had been stored at the Harbor dealership. Now Mackay says he doesn’t know where the car is and isn’t even sure if it is still insured.
Mackay asked for the emergency hearing this week because he is worried that creditors may try to take the car because of the dealership’s closing and also because of debt up to $500,000 owed by a former owner of the car who sold his share to Burelli, Mackay’s lawyer, Ryan Schoffelmeer, told nwitimes.com.
“We’re trying to protect the car,” Schoffelmeer said.
According to court documents: “Mackay does not know where the vehicle is located, if it is being kept in a safe location, or if it is still insured. The vehicle may well be outside of the state of Indiana.”
A previous court order already requires Burelli to sell the Corvette by March 31.
Schoffelmeer says Mackay wants to make sure the sale is carried out properly to maintain the car’s value.
“The most certain way to secure the safety of the Corvette is to remove it from the possession of Burelli,” the motion filed by Mackay says.
Mackay was inducted into the Bloomington Gold Great Hall in 2012, and his knowledge and passion for Corvettes has earned him NCRS Master Judge and Bloomington Gold Benchmark Judge status. Awards received for cars he has worked on include NCRS Top Flight, Bloomington Gold, and Triple Diamond honors, as well as numerous others. In July of 2014, Kevin was invited to be the Grand Marshal of the Corvette Homecoming in Bowling Green, Ky.
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