The owner of a 1956 Ford Thunderbird that was stolen from Palo Alto 31 years ago was surprised but also delighted to hear Thursday that his car had been located in Southern California, apparently none the worse for the wear.
Ronald Leung is making plans to travel to Ventura County next week to retrieve his long-missing car.
Leung is a retired San Mateo County Sheriff's Department Deputy who also had been a Palo Alto police officer. He lives in Palo Alto. He owns an auto repair shop in Milpitas and had owned one in Palo Alto.
The California Highway Patrol officer who discovered the car's hard-to-find vehicle identification number (VIN) said the car is in "perfect, original condition" with only 24,979 miles on the odometer.
The car came to the attention of the CHP when a Southern California woman bought it on eBay from a man in Ohio and had it shipped to her. When she went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new license plate, DMV couldn't find the VIN and sent her to a CHP officer, Christopher Throgmorton, who specializes in finding VINs on older cars.
That's when it was discovered that the car had been stolen from Palo Alto in 1976.
The Palo Alto Police Department wasn't able to find the original police report from 1976 but later found a reference to it in a database, identifying Leung as the owner.