THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY: Temple Graduate Finds Stolen Austin Healey On eBay 42 Years Later

JALOPNIK: Bob Russell of Dallas, TX was just reunited with his 1967 Austin Healey 3000 after it was stolen 42 years earlier, according to the Associated Press. Russell’s Healey was taken from his Philly area apartment after his second date with the woman that would eventually become his wife. After that, Russell left the car for dead. He thought the ride he paid $3,000 for in 1968 was probably parted out, wrecked, or like many British cars, had succumbed to various leaks and electrical issues. But he never gave up hope. Russell checked eBay religiously to find the car and boy did he get lucky this May. He found his exact car for sale in California at the Beverly Hills Car Club. Then he got even luckier. The car didn’t meet the auction’s reserve price and Russell still had the original keys along with signed affidavits from friends and the original owner that he never sold the car. He just didn’t have the police reports. Thankfully, Philadelphia and Los Angeles Police stepped up to the plate and reopened the case. The police impounded the stolen Healey and Russell just had to pay about $1,500 in impound and transport fees to get the car back. That’s way better than the $24,000 price the dealer offered Russell for the car. MORE

PHILLY.COM: He was a graduate student at Temple University in 1970 when he parked the English roadster at an apartment complex after a date with his future wife. When he went to the lot the next morning, the car was gone. Because he was a cash-strapped student, it was a double whammy: He had liability coverage, but no theft insurance. For more than four decades, Russell searched for the cream-colored convertible. This year, against all odds, he found it. And with the help of the Philadelphia Police Department, he has his Austin-Healey back. According to the Dallas Morning News, Russell was scouring eBay, the Internet sales website, when he spotted his hot car listed for auction by a Los Angeles auto dealer. The final bid on the Austin stood at $19,700, which, Russell told the News, did not meet the reserve price. The listed VIN matched his beloved Austin. Russell, now living near Dallas, still possessed the title and set of keys. The only thing he didn’t have was the original stolen-auto report. Russell told the newspaper that he called the dealer. “I hate to sound indelicate,” Russell told the dealer, “but you’re selling a stolen car.” The dealer offered to sell it back to him for $24,000. Russell called Los Angeles police. Their hands were tied. There was no record in the national database. They couldn’t recover the Austin unless it was listed as an active stolen car. And, technically, it wasn’t. So Russell called Philadelphia police. But what police department keeps stolen-auto reports for 42 years? And even if the report could be located, would the theft then have to be tallied in this year’s crime stats? The prognosis was not good. Fortunately, Philadelphia cops love a good puzzle. “We had to make sure we did everything right,” said Detective Walt Bielski of the major-crimes unit. Though there was no computer record, Deborah Sanborn in the department’s information-systems division found an old Teletype reporting the theft of the roadster. MORE