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Motor Mouth articles 2012

Happy reunion for Healey theft victim

Robert and Cynthia Russell with the car back in their Texas garage

HAVING your car stolen is an experience not to be recommended, never mind how revolting the car happens to be.

It happened to me once. I had left my company car parked on the road outside my home and next morning there was just a gap with a sprinkling of broken glass where the car used to be.

The fact that it was an unloved and unremarkable car, owned by my employers, fully insured and swiftly replaced, did nothing to ease the sense of violation that I felt. 

So it must be many times worse to be robbed of a special car that you own, you cherish and you know you’ll almost certainly never see again.

That’s what happened to American Robert Russell back in 1970 when his beloved white Austin Healey was stolen – but this is a crime story with a happy ending.

Because retired sales manager Robert Russell (66) has just been reunited with the Healey 42 years on after spotting it for sale on eBay.

Robert lives in Southlake, Texas, nowadays but in his younger days he lived in Philadelphia. He had paid a friend 3,000 dollars for the 1967 Healey and it had special meaning for him because it was stolen the morning after he took his future wife out on their second date.

He says he never gave up looking out for the car, although realising that the likelihood of it being found or even being still in existence was pretty remote.

But white Healeys are rare beasts in America and when he spotted on eBay one being advertised in California, he checked the identification number and found it matched. He still had the original key.

The car had been put up on the auction website by a dealer in Los Angeles, who said they had bought it from a man who claimed it had been in his family since 1970.

The LA police checked it all out, confirmed the car’s true identity and told its rightful owner he could come and collect it. It is now worth 23,000 dollars so it has proved a sound investment.

Robert and his wife, Cynthia, drove to Los Angeles to collect the car after paying 600 dollars in impoundment fees. They also shelled out another 800 dollars to have the Austin Healey shipped to their Texas home.

A delighted Robert said: “We were probably 1,500 dollars out of pocket, as well as six days of travel and hotel costs but I’m not complaining. The car still runs, but the brakes don’t work well. We’re going to put it back the way it was.”

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