We at E3 Spark Plugs are a pretty likeable crew. But if there’s one type of person we just can’t stand it’s a car thief. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s recently released Hot Wheels Classics report on that American automotive icon, the Ford Mustang, it’s the 2000 model that most attracts a certain scourge of society. The study shows it’s the Mustang model most likely to end up jacked, stripped, VIN-falsified and sold. The classic models get plenty of attention from thieves, too. But now and then, it’s the rightful owners that get the last laugh.
Case in point: Scott Evans and his 1965 Shelby GT350. In 1982, Evans was in the Marines serving his country in Japan when he got some sobering news from his father, who had helped him buy the car in 1971. Evans’ prized ride had been stolen from his childhood home in Havelock, N.C. (Yes, we notice the irony here.)
Evans promised his father, who has since passed away, that he would one day find the car. And he did – A quarter of a century later.
The thieves took Evans’ Shelby to a restoration shop where they altered the VIN plate and sold it to a guy in Long Island, N.Y., who sold it to another gentleman three years later. The second buyer passed away and the Shelby was willed to his son. In 2007, the son and then-current owner got a call from the director of the Shelby American Automobile Club, who had stumbled across records and developed a hunch that the car, now in the family for more than two decades, was stolen.
Evans, of course, was elated to learn that his automotive first love had been found. But getting it back would prove a bit of a hurdle. The car had been taken out of NCIC (National Crime Information Center), the FBI’s online database of criminal information years before and had to be reentered and active in the system before police could take it from its current owners. A bit of sleuthing by the SAAC verified the bogus VIN. But there were a few other telltale signs that only Evans would have recognized – a cracked steering wheel spoke, a homemade rubber bumper he crafted to keep the gas cap from scratching the car’s paint job, and his name written in black in on the top of the transmission.
Evans paid $1,600 for the car in 1971. And while he was under no legal obligation, he did the honorable thing and paid the most recent owner $12,000 to cover the cost of the new engine he’d just had installed. To would-be buyers, Evans’ mint-condition Shelby is estimated to be worth anywhere from $250,000 to upwards of $400,000. But we have serious doubts Evan’s plans to part with the car anytime soon. After all, you just can’t put a price on a first love.
E3 Spark Plugs congratulates Evans on the highly unlikely return of his car, and the team who pulled off the near-impossible to write a 25-year wrong. Check out the short documentary about the reunion below. And if you’ve got a great story about a stolen classic coming home, we want to hear it. Post your stories and pics on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook fan page.