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Sometimes sad stories can have very happy endings.

A California man built up his dream car, a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda drag racer. The classic muscle car was truly ready for the drag strip, with a custom roll cage and Good Year drag slicks. Then in 2022, the unthinkable happened. Someone stole his car in its trailer, along with his tools and spare parts.

The thieves went to the trouble to steal the car trailer from a secure facility in Perris, California which is outside of San Bernardino. Then they repainted the Barracuda and swapped its VIN tas so they could register it and drive it freely. claims that the average 1971 Plymouth Barracuda resale is currently at $180,527. But the site reports there are still classic Barracudas from this era reselling for $36,500, and I would guess that enough sales of these “project” quality cars fly under the radar that the average skews high. And collector-caliber special editions, like a 1971 that sold for $5 million a few years ago, push that average even higher.

That said, a complete drag car kit will command a high price. The value of the parts alone is in the tens of thousands. The seller also lost his trailer, his tools, and a set of spare parts that included a built V8 engine complete with headers. In addition, the owner must have had countless hours into the carefully engineered race car build. It’s impossible to put a price on that kind of sentimental value.

Plymouth logo on the body of a 1971 Barracuda muscle car
1971 Plymouth Barracuda | Dylan Mcleod via Unsplash

The CHP reports it turned to the “local racing and classic cars community members.” And these enthusiasts came through, helping to investigate, recover, and return the spare car. It had been sold and resold several times, but besides the repaint it was shockingly well preserved. The engine appears to be removed from the car, but we don’t have any information as to whether it was pulled after it was stolen, or whether the thieves stole it already disassembled.

On January 25th, the CHP invited the car’s original owner to its Oceanside office. There, the police officers reunited him with his lost car. He is every bit as speechless as you’d expect.

The CHP has not said whether it traced the chain of ownership back to the original owner, or even completed an arrest. I will say that its harder for the California government to track a non-smog classic (pre-1975), or anything never registered for street use. But there are a finite number of drag racing tracks in California. So if the motorsports community was looking for the Barracuda, and its thieves tried racing it, they might have raised a red flag.

While any classic car enthusiast would be eager to see this muscle car reunited with the man who loved it, the “Mopar” community (Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth muscle cars) is much smaller than their Ford and GM counterparts. And Plymouths are the rarest of the Chrysler brands. So if enthusiasts were wise to the stolen car, buying any parts could be tricky.

Though the CHP didn’t offer specific details, it did have a warning for would-be used car buyers:

“As a reminder, please be careful when purchasing privately sold vehicles from online marketplace apps or anywhere online where fraud is highly prevalent. Ensure the paperwork/title you receive is accurate during a vehicle purchase. Protect yourself by asking a seller if they will meet you in front of a police station or at a bank to conduct a purchase.”

CHP Capt. R. Goulding

Next, read how to stay safe while buying classics from private sellers, or see the muscle car enthusiast reunited with his Barracuda in the video below: