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Imagine one day getting a phone call from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) asking if anything you owned had ever been stolen from you. That is the weird car news position that Betsy Montgomery found herself in when her phone rang on Oct. 19, 2012, and it took her a moment to remember the stolen Ford Mustang that was a part of her family.

The unexpected call revealed that a vehicle that belonged to her family had been found. It was a 1966 red Ford Mustang stolen from a driveway back in 1992 and found 20 years later. Sound extraordinary? It is, but not as uncommon as you may imagine.

How Betsy Montgomery’s missing Mustang story began

A 1966 Ford Mustang pony car model
1966 Ford Mustang | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

According to the Clarion-Ledger, the prospect of being able to drive soon excited Montgomery. It was this excitement that drove Montgomery most when her father began looking for a vehicle. They found a red Ford Mustang that was just down the road. The owners were asking just $750.00, and Montgomery says that she thinks her dad got it for $600.00 in 1973.

Years later, in September 1992, after Montgomery had grown up and moved away from home, her parents kept the car until it was stolen from their driveway just four blocks away. Police said that it “might” show up one day. That day came with that phone call 20 years later.

On Nov. 5, 2012, the car arrived at a mechanic’s shop near Wesson, and Montgomery thought of old times and her late father. “As they backed it off the ramp, I just started thinking about all the times me and my friends went riding in it and my daddy teaching me to drive a stick shift in it.”

The Ford Mustang itself was practically unscathed. There were a few nicks and scrapes, but it had been taken care of overall. Deciding that driving it again should be a special occasion, Montgomery waited three months until her 55th birthday on New Year’s Eve 2012 to get behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, Montgomery’s Ford Mustang story isn’t that unique

Beyond the case of a red Ford Mustang, there have been several instances where cars miraculously returned to their owners years after being reported as stolen. For Ron Reolfi, it was a Camaro he purchased in the 1980s. After restoring it, the car was stolen. It took 33 years for the car to be found.

Another story is about a 1979 Porsche 924. In 1991, it was stolen from a movie theater parking lot in Medford, Oregon. It took until 2017, 27 years later, for the car to show up at the bottom of a steep embankment. There was no sign of a thief or their remains.

As the number of stolen cars continues to increase, we must wonder how to protect ourselves from becoming another statistic.

How to ensure your car doesn’t get stolen

Is there a way to protect your car from thieves? Yes, but it does require you to do your part. Some of the best advice is to install car alarms, keep your doors locked, avoid leaving your keys in the car, and consider putting in a tracking system. The tracking system will make it easier to locate your vehicle if it is stolen.

Another great idea is to avoid keeping valuables in your car, especially in plain sight. Doing so may make your vehicle more appealing to thieves who may decide to do more than take your smartphone.

If your car does end up getting stolen, you should report it as soon as possible to your insurance company. Be prepared to let the police know the vehicle’s year, make, model, color, license plate number, and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), whether it’s a red Ford Mustang or any other car model.