Kansas Has Spent 5 Years Trying to Destroy a 1959 Corvette

The Kansas Highway Patrol wants to destroy Mr. Martinez’s 1959 Corvette. He bought it in 2016 and while registering it, some undisclosed issues popped up. This pulled in the Kansas Highway Patrol who, in turn, seized the classic Corvette.

Kansas admits the Corvette owner is innocent

1959 Chevy Corvette
1959 Chevy Corvette | Getty

Mr. Martinez had no idea there were problems with the Corvette’s VIN number. Additionally, the state’s attorney says Martinez is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. Yet, the state maintains the Corvette must be destroyed and has spent years fighting in court to do so.

The case Kansas Highway Patrol v. 1959 Chevrolet Corvette, State of Kansas, ex rel. 1959 Chevrolet Corvette, an amicus brief was filed in an attempt to protect Martinez’s private property rights. Especially, since the KHP recognizes him as innocent. 

The Kansas Highway Patrol says the Corvette is “contraband”

red 1959 Chevy Corvette | Getty
1959 Chevy Corvette | Getty

Asset forfeiture is when the government takes a person’s property without a criminal conviction,” says Martinez’s attorney. “In some cases, the person is never even charged with a crime, as was the case with Mr. Martinez. The government should not get to destroy an innocent person’s car.”

What the KHP says is that the car needs to be destroyed due to it being “contraband.” Without further explanation, we can only guess the scenario that Martinez’s Corvette became contraband. The simplest outline is that the Corvette was used at some point as either collateral or as partial payment for something illegal. That probably means it is illicit drug-related. 

“They shouldn’t use their power and resources to take property”

1959 Chevy Corvette
Restored red 1959 Corvette | Getty

“When the government knows someone is innocent, they shouldn’t use their power and resources to take their property,” says Kansas Justice Institute Litigation Director, Sam MacRoberts. “Kansas’ forfeiture laws are to blame. The United States and Kansas Constitutions do not permit the government to acknowledge a person’s innocence, on the one hand, and then with the other, declare the innocent person’s property ‘contraband’ and take it.”

The amicus brief was filed earlier this month, so it will take some time to wind its way to an end. And it is anybody’s guess how it will end. On the surface, the judgment should go to Martinez. But a lot rides on how it could be potentially interpreted in years to come. 

If it sets a bad precedent for future forfeiture seizures, then it could go against Mr. Martinez. In that case, we at least hope the KHP takes video of the Corvette’s destruction. At least that would leave a record for how the classic Corvette met its end.

In terms of how rare the 1959 Corvette is, it is hard to say how many have survived. Production was just under 10,000. As far as collectibility, all of the C1 Corvettes have been desirable even when they were just used Vettes on car lots. The 1959 Corvette is almost identical to the 1958 and 1960 versions. Still, it would be a crime itself for the Kansas Highway Patrol to destroy this 62 year old classic

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