Bob Russell reunites with much-loved and much-searched for British sports car stolen after second date with future wife
Bob Russell had not seen his much-loved British sports car since the morning after the second date with his future wife. But he never gave up hope of being reunited.
Years of internet searching has paid off with his 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 back outside his US home after a separation that lasted nearly 42 years.
Russell, a retired sales manager from Southlake, Texas, spotted the car on eBay in May, and finally managed to recover the vehicle – which he bought from a friend for $3,000 (£1,930) in 1968 – last month after proving his credentials with authorities. He had first called a Beverly Hills car dealership that was selling it.
He said the identification number matched that of his car and had the original key and car title, but not a copy of the stolen-car report to prove that it was stolen from him. Russell contacted Philadelphia police for help and learned that the stolen-car report did not show up at the FBI’s national crime index because one vehicle identification number was entered incorrectly. The report was finally found and the file was reactivated, enabling Los Angeles authorities to impound the car.
“It still runs, but the brakes don’t work well. We’re going to put it back the way it was,” he said.
“The fact that the car still exists is improbable,” said Russell, who had reported it stolen from an apartment complex in Philadelphia where he then lived. “It could have been junked or wrecked.”
In the years that followed he eyed similar Healeys he passed on the road, he told the Dallas Morning News.
Russell said ever since eBay started he periodically search the website for his beloved motor. “I checked it on Friday, 11 May, and there it was.” Once the authorities had verified his story, Russell and his wife, Cynthia, drove to LA to take possession of the car, paying roughly $600 in impoundment fees. They also paid about $800 to have it shipped to their Southlake home, he told the Dallas Morning News.
“We were probably out $1,500 plus six days of travel and hotel costs,” Russell said. “I’m not complaining about any of that. I couldn’t get the credit card out of my pocket fast enough.”
He reckons the car would probably be worth $50,000 when restored.
“I had a hobby car but got rid of my Porsche 911 a year ago,” he said. “I used to have an antique Corvette and a couple of motorcycles. Now I have a grandpa [Toyota] Camry.”
He and his wife were graduate students when they met and went on their first two dates in the car, which he was too cash-strapped to insure.
“It’s a bit of a relief,” said Russell on having the car back. “Nothing’s ever linear – you’re up, you’re down, you’re being whipsawed back and forth, and suddenly it’s over.”