1 Man’s Stolen Austin-Healey Was Found 42 Years Later

What’s more heartwarming than a long-lost pet returning to its owner, or relatives reuniting after many years? If you’re a gearhead, you might get the same fuzzy feelings from finding your favorite car again. Sadly, stolen cars don’t get returned quickly, especially if it’s a rare find like an Austin-Healey.

Austin-Healey created many popular British sports cars at the time, including the Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III. The car is valued at around $60,000 today, but restored models are sold in the $100,000-range. That makes it a good target for thieves, but it appears that even an Austin-Healey can be reunited with its owner, according to Mass Live.

What’s the hype about the Austin-Healey 3000?

The Austin-Healey 3000, still regarded as the most popular car from this automaker, first appeared in 1959 as the Mk I. It was available as both a two-seater or four-seater, with disc brakes on the front wheels and a 124-hp inline-six engine. When tested, it reached 0-60 mph in 11.7 seconds, which was considered quite fast at the time.

The Mk II was released in 1962 with a slightly lower top speed, only 112.9 mph compared to 115 mph. It was quicker on its road test, racing to 60 mph in just under 11 seconds. This was probably due to its bigger camshaft and new carburetors. 

The Austin-Healey 3000 debuted in 1964 with yet another new camshaft, bringing its hp up to 150. In addition to the best performance specs, it was known for having the most luxurious interior. It came with new vinyl upholstery, roll-up windows, and a burled wood dashboard.

The Austin-Healey 3000’s fame was short-lived, as it was discontinued in 1967. It couldn’t comply with the latest safety regulations at the time, and demand was too low to warrant an update. Only 17,712 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III roadsters were ever created, making it quite the prize for an automobile collector.

How one man’s Austin-Healey came home

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While the Austin-Healey 3000 fetches a premium price now, Bob Russell bought his from a friend in 1968 for $3,000. Two years later, the car was stolen from his apartment complex’s parking lot in Philadelphia. According to MotorAuthority, Russell didn’t carry insurance, so he wasn’t even compensated for his car’s disappearance.

Russell filed a police report, but the Austin-Healey was never located. He would continue to fruitlessly inspect every Healey he saw afterward on the street until eBay came along. There, he could easily check online auctions from around the country every day for his missing car.

42 years later, Russell’s missing Austin-Healey’s auction was finally posted by a California dealership. He told the dealership that the car was stolen, but couldn’t prove it without his original police report. Additionally, it appeared that either the police or Russell had misentered the VIN number into the FBI’s database.

Russell alerted the authorities about this error and police reopened the case. Los Angeles police seized the car from the dealership and eventually put it back in Russell’s possession.

Is there hope for your stolen vehicle?

Surprisingly, Russell isn’t the only one to find his lost car after many years. The Proctor Dealerships site recounts even more heartwarming stories, including the recovery of 1967 Jaguar XKE. The car was lost for 46 years before police found the vehicle and returned it to its rightful owner.

A 1968 Corvette, missing for 37 years, was found by police just as it was about to be shipped overseas. Despite a 30-year absence, one Ferrari was found with only 45,000 miles on the odometer. You might have to wait decades, but sometimes a stolen car can find its way back to its owner.