T-Bird Swiped in 1976 Returned to Nest
Original Owner Credits Karma for Unexpected Reunion
By DAVID SCHOETZ,
Posted: 2007-06-23 09:25:20
(June 23) - Imagine Ronald Leung'* surprise. The 59-year-old Northern California car enthusiast and former sheriff'* deputy learned Thursday that a prized 1956 Ford Thunderbird stolen from his mechanic'* shop in 1976 had been recovered by the California Highway Patrol.
'It'* Like My Baby Finally Coming Home'
Jason Redmond, Ventura County Star / AP
This 1956 Ford Thunderbird, stolen 31 years ago, was returned to its owner due in part to the detective work of California Highway Patrol Officer Christopher Throgmorton, seen behind the car.
"I said, 'You're not kidding me,'" Leung, still giddy from the news, told ABC News. "The car'* been gone longer than my son is old. My son'* 30, the car'* been gone for 31 years."
In fact, Palo Alto police called him on the same exact day -- June 21 -- that the car was swiped in 1976.
Leung has a sharp-thinking California Highway Patrol officer named Christopher Throgmorton to thank for the classic car'* discovery.
A Ventura County woman bought the Thunderbird, now restored and painted blue, on eBay from an Ohio seller.
When trying to register the car, the buyer contacted authorities because the vehicle identification number listed on the car'* title didn't exist in the California Department of Motor Vehicles registry. Throgmorton, reportedly an ace on these type of recoveries, picked up the detective work from there.
"It was a 2 and a Z and it'* actually a 2," Leung said, explaining how a close eye caught the mixup that led to the unexpected reunion.
When Palo Alto Police Officer Brian Philip told Leung they had recovered his car, Leung, who runs a car rental company in Milpitas, Calif., called Rent A Heap Cheap, figured authorities had picked up one of his missing rentals.
Not so. Instead, they were calling about the T-Bird, a car that was originally blue, but which he painted after watching "American Graffiti" and falling in love with Suzanne Somers and her white model.
The only problem, Leung said, is that he can't collect the keys to the car just yet. He spent the day Friday working with AllState to try to reproduce the original paperwork for the car.
I'm like a kid in the candy store," Leung said, referring to photos of the car -- which is in excellent condition -- on the Internet. "I see the candy, but I can't get it."
Of course, Leung has waited 31 years, so he doesn't mind waiting a little bit longer to drive his T-Bird again -- an opportunity he chalks up to three decades of good living.
"It'* like my baby finally coming home," Leung said. "It'* karma. You do good things for people all your life, and it comes back to you."