Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

23 years later, this stolen Corvette is still hot

LOS ANGELES — The cherry-red 1989 Corvette convertible that Corky Rice has is in cherry condition.

It ought to be. It still has its original new car invoice sticker on its windshield and a mere 67 miles on its odometer.

The shiny two-seater was stolen in 1989 from the new car sales lot at what was then called C & M Chevrolet in San Diego and driven straight to a nearby self-storage facility, where it was locked in a garage-size unit and left there. For 23 years.

The rent on the unit started at $50 a month. Over the decades, it gradually increased until it reached $300 last summer. That's when the renter stopped paying and called his attorney.

In early September, the lawyer contacted San Diego Police Department auto theft Detective Andrew Spear to explain that self-storage operators would soon be cutting off the lock and opening the unit, and would discover the stolen sports car.

Spear said the lawyer gave this account: He said the renter was a recent immigrant from Ireland in 1989 who got mixed up with some men who had somehow leveraged him into stealing the car, or helping them steal it. He had rented the storage locker to stash it.

"The story from the lawyer was that after that, he would periodically get calls from the men checking up on him, asking 'Do you still have the car?' '' Spear said. "He was supposedly instructed to continue hanging on to it. If it's true, then he felt threatened and kept paying."

When he hung up the phone, Spear hurried to the storage unit. He found that the facility's operators had already cut open the lock and were preparing to file a lien against the renter, whom they assumed was the car's legal owner. Examining the storage unit's records, Spear discovered that over the 23 years the renter had paid $70,000 for the space.

"We didn't get a search warrant since the guy was being cooperative through his lawyer," Spear said.

Sitting on four flat tires and covered with a layer of dust so thick that the color of its hood was hard to determine, the Corvette otherwise looked like it had just rolled off the assembly line in Bowling Green, Ky. There were no keys to the car so Spear called a tow truck to pull it out of the storage space.

The tow operator used his truck's compressor to re-inflate the Corvette's tires. "They still held air," Spear said. "And it still had that new-car smell on the inside."

Because stolen vehicle databases are purged after five years, Spear checked insurance records to see if the car's VIN number popped up. Sure enough, it had been stolen and C & M's insurance company had long ago reimbursed the dealership for its loss.

Because of the renter's cooperation and the amount of time that had elapsed since the theft, authorities decided not to file charges against him. He has not been identified.

Rice entered the picture when the insurance company recharged the Corvette's original Delco battery, dusted the car off and sold it to a friend of his who specializes in buying cars that have been repossessed. He resold it to Rice, who is wholesale car manager for Glendale Kia and a subsidiary called Cars 911.

Rice won't disclose the price he paid because he and his partner, the Kia dealership, plan to sell it for as much as they can. It's currently listed on eBay in an auction that will close shortly before noon Sunday. As of Friday night, $24,600 was the top bid.

If he's not satisfied with the closing bid, Rice intends to load the Corvette in a trailer and take it to a large Phoenix car auction scheduled for January.

"I've bought and sold over 25,000 cars in my career, and I've never encountered something like this," Rice, 58, of Los Angeles said as he popped the hood and gazed at the spotless 5.7-liter, V8 engine. He estimates the car's value is as high as $40,000. "It would be a perfect display piece in a Chevrolet dealer's showroom," he said.

The sticker price of the car in 1989 was $39,480. The value of a used 1989 Corvette ranges from $8,600 to $9,700, according to the Kelley Blue Book.

"But with the Internet, the interest in this car is now global," said Al Shirali, manager of Cars 911. "If a guy in Dubai wants it, he has money to spend on anything he wants."

The Corvette's selling price could surprise everyone, said Raymond Amerson of Mid America Motorworks in Effingham, Ill., which specializes in Corvette parts and accessories.

"If I owned it, I'd drive it, not park it," Amerson said. "I don't buy cars to collect them, not in this economy."

Comments
Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays first baseman Jake Bauers sat at his locker after Sunday afternoon's 7-6, 12-inning win over the Yankees and thumbed through his text messages. There was no way he could get through them all. That's what happens when ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Yarbrough was only supposed to throw on Sunday if it was an emergency. In the 12th inning with the score tied 6-6 and a runner on first, there was an emergency.Jonny Venters tweaked his right hamstring trying to cover firs...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

Hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

A Tampa man suffered life-threatening injuries and his 3-year-old son is in serious condition after being struck by a hit-and-run driver as they went on a family bike ride Sunday afternoon."This is a family in a very tough situation," Tampa police Ch...
Updated: 1 hour ago

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, local players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But hockey?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Winnipeg Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forwar...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURGSuspect dead, 2 injured in home invasion, shootingThree people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the peop...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. Thatís what 19-year-old Ce...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

TAMPA ó Stripped to the girders, the old Bromley office building looked about as substantial as fish bones on a dinner plate.But the 5-story structure proved Sunday it still had a surprising amount of fight left in it.A demolition team had planned to...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

NEW PORT RICHEY ó A 19-year-old driver died in a three-car crash on Moon Lake Road on Saturday afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.Jillian Faith Hitt, 19 and of New Port Richey, was driving north on the road in a 2008 Hyundai Accent, weari...
Updated: 7 hours ago
President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

STERLING, Ill. - As a longtime editor of small-town newspapers, Jeff Rogers has seen his industry face the collapse of print advertising, the rise of the internet and more. Today, his 18 employees work in a newsroom here that puts out two daily newsp...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Police: St. Petersburg driver falls asleep at wheel after drinking, kills motorcyclist

Police: St. Petersburg driver falls asleep at wheel after drinking, kills motorcyclist

ST. PETERSBURG ó A 22-year-old driver fell asleep at the wheel after drinking and ran a red light, hitting and killing a motorcyclist Saturday night, police said.Just before midnight, Michael P. Majchrowski, 48, was riding a 2016 BMW motorcycle eastb...
Updated: 10 hours ago