When Bob Russell sat down at his computer for a late night eBay search, the last thing he expected to find was his stolen sports car - especially since he hasn't seen it in over 40 years.
One night last month, Russell, who was unable to sleep, climbed out of bed and sat down at his computer to do some late night eBay searching. Russell, who lives in Southland, Texas, says that every so often he'd do a search for his 1967 Austin Healey, a beloved sports car that was stolen in 1970.
"I used to always look at Austin Healeys parked on the side of the road. Every once in a while, I'd search the Internet. I knew finding it would be impossible," Russell told TheSpec.com.
The car displayed all the signs of a stolen vehicle: a missing VIN plate, a broken lock on the glove box and a missing trunk lock. Because eBay requires the seller to post contact information, Russell was able to get in touch with the dealer, who lived in Beverly Hills.
When Russell told the seller he was trying to deal a stolen car, the seller said he had bought if from a man who claimed to have owned it since 1970. That mystery man even presented official papers when the sale was made.
While local police were of no help in recovering the vehicle, Russell continued to haggle with the dealer. After six weeks of back and forth, plus discussions with the dealer's lawyer, the car was finally returned to Russell. No one seemed more excited than Russell's wife, Cynthia.
"Our first date was in that car," she said. "I liked him; he was cute. But I loved the car!"
The Russels were a new couple attending Templeton University in Philadelphia when the car was stolen - the vehicle went missing after only their second date. Russell filed a police report, which has long been lost, but has always kept the original title and keys. Russell was able to obtain an archived copy of the police report through the National Crime Information Center, then called the Philadelphia Police Department asking for help. After the report was reactivated, the car was impounded. The Russells headed to California to claim their long lost property.
When Russell originally purchased the Austin Healey, it was for $2,000 and had around 33,000 miles on the odometer. It now reads 42,000 miles, and in its current condition is worth between $20,000 and $30,000.
And while the car isn't in the condition it was in 40 years ago - Russell says he plans to get the car back into tip-top shape - the couple are thrilled they didn't have to buy the car back. And once the car is returned to its former glory, Russell says it will be worth even more.
"When it's fixed up, it will be worth $50,000."