Mysterious Stories Of Stolen Cars Discovered Decades After They Went Missing

Imagine walking outside only to discover that your car has been stolen. It’s every driver’s worst nightmare and unfortunately, it happens often. The owners are often left with the responsibility of replacing their car or finding a new mode of transportation, which on top of that, could be pretty devastating if their car held sentimental value. Even when these stolen vehicles are reported to police, it could take months—if not years—to find the car again, if it is even found at all. These stories about stolen cars might be some of the strangest you’ll ever read.

Something Hidden Underwater

Pond Pond Unfreezing, Picture Taken In Oise (Picardy, France).
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Châlons-en-Champagne is a city in the Grand Est region of France, about 100 miles outside of Paris. There, a muddy pond was hiding something within its depths that had the French police completely dumbfounded.

A drought that hit the French city at the time had caused the pond’s water levels to run low. On August 28, 2017, police were called to the scene when something strange started to reveal itself.

The Car Survived The Dunk

missing peugeot found at bottom on pond in france

As it turned out, a Peugeot 104 was sitting at the bottom of the pond. Despite the fact that it was infested with crayfish, the car was surprisingly in good condition. They fished the car out of the pond and brought it to a local mechanic, who was impressed that the quintessential ’70s French car was still intact.

“It still looks like a 104. The paintwork is still blue and there’s still chrome on the bumpers,” he told The Telegraph.

It Was There For 40 Years

stolen peugeot found after 40 years in france
The Peugeot 104/France
The Peugeot 104/France

“Even the seats are in surprisingly good condition, and they’ve kept their [color] – beige. You can still read the number plate,” the mechanic added. With the plate still legible, the police put the number in their system and discovered that the Peugeot was reported stolen back in 1979—nearly 40 years before it was found!

They tracked down the original owner, who probably thought her car was a lost cause and was paid by her insurance company.

Not All Car Thefts Have Happy Endings

a stolen peugeot missing for 40 years france
The Peugeot 104/Facebook
The Peugeot 104/Facebook

Even though the owner had moved on from her beloved Peugeot, she was likely pleased to learn that it was finally found. She went to the garage where it was being restored to see her car for one last time.

“She was surprised that we contacted her because even for her this was a very old story,” the police told The Telegraph. But not all stolen car stories have such happy endings. One car in Oregon didn’t have the same fate.

No One Wants To Walk Into This

a protect your car sign.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

On January 20, 1991, the unfortunate owner of a Porsche 924 walked out of the Southside Cinema in Medford, Oregon only to discover that their beloved car had been stolen. They reported the crime to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, who began the search for the missing vehicle.

There’s no saying what must have gone through the owner’s mind at the time. But one thing is for sure: someone had taken something extremely valuable from them.

The Porsche Was Special

1982 Porsche 924 in Parkland, 2000.
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The owner of the car must have felt devastated, whether they spent a hefty amount of cash on the car or if it was given to them as a gift. Either way, there’s no denying that a Porsche 924 is one special car.

By 1991, the Porsche 924—the first Porsche with a fully automatic transmission—was no longer in production and as such, by the time this car was stolen from its owner, it may have been considered a vintage car.

They Searched Everywhere For It

Beach, sea stacks and Highway 101 on a foggy morning; Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor, southern Oregon coast.
Greg Vaughn /VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Greg Vaughn /VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A Porsche 924 has a distinct look to it, so you’d think that the police would’ve had no problem finding it. Unfortunately, that simply wasn’t the case. They searched far and wide for this person’s car with no success.

For two whole decades, the car was lost in oblivion. It seemed that finding this Porsche was a lost cause and eventually, the owner likely forgot about it. But by some miracle, the sheriff’s department got quite a strange call years later in 2017.

A Hiker Happened Upon A Wreckage

View of a hiker with a dog near the shore at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, California, 2017. Visible in the distance, across San Francisco Bay, is the peak of Mount Tamalpais above the fog.
John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images
John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

26 years passed while the car remained missing until November 28, 2017, when the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department received a call about a strange sighting along a rural hiking trail.

A hiker was walking his dog, who veered off the path to wreckage not far from the trail. To the hiker, it seemed that this crash could have occurred recently. So he did the only logical thing and called the police.

The Police Rushed To The Scene

Barranco del Infierno a hiking trail route on the rocks formed by a volcano
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When the hiker saw the wreck himself, he noticed that the car was overturned. It was likely that this incident may have been more deadly than it seemed. The police rushed to the scene to check it out for themselves, not only to potentially save a life but to also see if there was a crime committed.

As it would turn out, a crime was indeed committed and the police were surprised about what it was.

It Turned Out To Be The Stolen Porsche

the missing porsche was found in oregon woods
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office

Upon further investigation, it appeared as though the car had been on its side for quite a while. Police checked the tags on the license plate which were dated back to 1991. Looking through the DMV records, they confirmed that it was in fact the car reported missing from the Medford cinema more than two decades ago!

They’ve finally found the car but now they had to figure out why it was overturned in the woods.

There Were Unanswered Questions

a map of where the porsche was found
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office

There were plenty of questions that were yet to be answered. Because there was no way of knowing just how long the car had been in the woods, they didn’t know how it got there or who might’ve driven it there.

Police had to come to their own conclusions. “Heavy forest debris indicated the vehicle had been there for a significant period of time. The registration tags expired in 1991,” the sheriff’s report read.

Another Finding Was Cause For Alarm

some bones in the dirt.
Taylor Weidman/Getty Images
Taylor Weidman/Getty Images

The police got closer to the car to see if they could find any more clues. It appeared that the car had been abandoned, so there was no way they could track down the burglar who had stolen it in the first place.

But then, police found something right next to the car that was cause for alarm. Indeed, scattered next to the overturned car were bones. At that point, it appeared they might’ve had a different crime on their hands.

The Bones Didn’t Lead To A Culprit, But A Victim

the porsche pverturned in the woods
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office

Upon discovery of the bones, the police had their forensics team take a look right away. To their relief, they were not human bones but in fact, bones that once belonged to a deer.

Perhaps whoever was driving the Porsche ran into a deer on the side of the road and crashed, flipping the car over into the woods. The driver must have miraculously gotten out of the vehicle and left. But with no evidence of a culprit, the police planned their next course of action.

The Case Was Inconclusive

a cop in the woods.
Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Though the police were eventually able to locate the stolen car, the case was ultimately inconclusive. They even tried to contact the original owner, to no avail. They had no other choice but to move on but they still had to find a way to remove the vehicle from the forest.

“The position of the vehicle at the base of a cliff made it nearly impossible to see from the road above… The vehicle’s location on steep, rugged terrain presents logistical and environmental concerns for removal,” the report read.

It Happens All The Time, Apparently

a google maps screenshot.
Google Maps
Google Maps

Not surprisingly, this is not an isolated case. Stolen cars all over the world have turned up decades later and they were often found by some of the most unsuspecting people. It’s precisely what happened to a couple of kids from California one day.

In 1978, two kids in Los Angeles were playing outside of their home. Perhaps they were playing a game of pirates, on the hunt for some lost treasure because that day, they made an unforgettable discovery.

They Felt Something Strange In The Mud

a hand covered in dirt
John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images

Two kids who lived on West 119th Street in southern Los Angeles were playing in the mud outside of their home when they came across something that didn’t feel natural to the earth beneath them.

They immediately flagged down some officers that happened to be nearby, Sergeants Joe Sabas and Dennis Carroll of the Lennox sheriff’s substation. “They told Sabas and Carroll it felt like the roof of a car,” a report in Los Angeles Times read.

It Was A Ferrari In Mint Condition

buried-car-01
LostCatWantedDeadAndAlive/Imgur
LostCatWantedDeadAndAlive/Imgur

The following week, the detectives dug up something completely unexpected: a green 1974 Ferrari! The Ferrari Dino 246 GTS was buried in the kids’ backyard but it was a complete mystery as to how it got there. The car was in near-perfect condition and worth at least $70,000.

Investigators found out that the car belonged to Alhambra resident Rosendo Cruz, who reported the car stolen in 1974 just two months after he bought it.

They Couldn’t Figure It Out

a ferrari found in an LA yard
LostCatWantedDeadAndAlive/Imgur
LostCatWantedDeadAndAlive/Imgur

“But no one seems to know how it could have been buried without attracting attention in the neighborhood… Neither the present tenants nor the home’s owners knew anything of the vehicle, investigators said, so the case of the buried Ferrari remains a mystery,” read the LA Times report.

For his part, Cruz was reimbursed by his insurance company since he probably thought he’d never see his Ferrari again. But as it would later turn out, the car wasn’t there by accident…

Intentionally “Stolen”?

a green 264 dino ferrari
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Rosendo Cruz’s missing car was noted by police as a “righteous theft.” Farmers Insurance sympathized with Cruz and paid him out a total of $22,500. But come to find out, this is exactly what Cruz intended all along.

Reporters who’ve been obsessed with this story over the years have tracked down the car—which is still around today—only to discover that the Dino Ferrari was a victim of a sneaky case of insurance fraud.

They Completely Forgot About It

two guys next to 264 dino ferrari
Stefano Mecchia/Flickr
Stefano Mecchia/Flickr

A reporter for Jalopnik tracked down the car and one of the original cops who were called to the case back in 1978. According to retired detective Carroll, there was a snitch involved who told them how the car really came to be under someone’s backyard.

Apparently, Cruz had paid a couple of guys to steal his Ferrari, sell the parts and drop the body in the ocean. Instead, they tried to preserve it but somehow forgot to dig it back up.

A Cross-Country Corvette

manhattan skyline
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

In 1968, a Chevy Corvette was stolen from Alan Poster. He lived in Manhattan, and was devastated when his prized possession went missing. He had no idea that it would turn on thousands of miles away!

The worst part for Poster was losing his car, it was that he had never taken an insurance policy out on it, meaning he wasn’t compensated financially for its loss. Thirty-seven years after his car went missing, it was found in Long Beach, California.

A Reunion Decades In The Making

1968 corvette alan poster
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

At the end of the day, it turned out Alan’s failure to have insurance worked in his favor. When the car was found, he was still listed at the owner. If he had been able to take out an insurance claim, this wouldn’t have happened.

Even more amazing was the fact that by 2006 Poster was living in Northern California, where he had crafted a successful career for himself as a businessman. The reunion must have been fate!

A Dream Car

kyle cropsey dream car story
CBS New York/YouTube
CBS New York/YouTube

Kyle Cropsey grew up in New York and always felt most at home at the beach. As a teenager he also fell in love with vintage car culture, making his story all the more amazing.

When he found his dream car, he was already living the perfect life. The car that he would eventually come to own was the missing piece. He just had to be patient. Sometimes the best things in life come to those who wait.

It Happened Randomly

volkswagon bus
Rich Polk/Getty Images for Tommy Hilfiger
Rich Polk/Getty Images for Tommy Hilfiger

We don’t know where Kyle was or what he was doing when he happened upon his dream car, but he knew he couldn’t say no. After all, how could he not reach out to the owners of a 1971 Volkswagon Bus if they might be willing to sell it.

VW stopped making the iconic car years ago (although they are returning in 2020), and for Kyle, this one was perfect. He had to take his chance, even if nothing might ever come from it.

It Started With A Note

16-year-old-Kyle with his future vw bus
CBS New York/YouTube
CBS New York/YouTube

Kyle quickly jotted down a note to the owners of the car, letting them know if they ever wanted to sell their vehicle he was highly interested. He then glided the note into the door.

Expecting nothing would ever come of the note, Kyle took a picture of himself in front of the car. He was 16-years-old at the time and couldn’t resist the opportunity. Luckily a friend was nearby, meaning he didn’t have to take a selfie!

Time Passed By

vw bus kyle cropsey story
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

For the next eight years, Kyle tried desperately to find and buy a Type 2 Minibus from VW but failed. To satisfy himself, he did but a similar van, but it couldn’t compare to the real thing, so he continued to wait.

While he was waiting, the van’s owner made a discovery in Oakland that would change Kyle’s fate. The car he had coveted for so long was almost in his reach, but first, it had its own story to tell.

What Happened In Oakland

kyle cropsey note
Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Sadly, during the years that passed, the owner of the Omnibus passed away. He left the vehicle with his son, Chris Mead, who was put in charge of taking care of his dear father’s assets.

It was at this point that the note was discovered. Chris opened a book while sifting through some old items when a crumpled piece of paper slipped out. Chris read the note and figured his father had simply forgotten about it all those years ago.

A Hard Decision

chris mead vw problem
Reddit
Reddit

Chris faced a difficult decision. The note presented him an easy opportunity to take care of the bus, but that’s not what he wanted to do. It turned out the Minibus was his father’s prized possession. He couldn’t just sell it to anyone!

His father loved the bus so much he even named it; Matilda. In Chris’ mind, his father loved the bus like it was his own child. What would he decide to do?

A Healthy Patient

kyle cropsey bus story
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Another thing Chris needed to consider before contacting Kyle was whether the car was in good enough condition to actually sell. Cornelius (his father), had driven Matilda so much that her odometer had run out of digits.

Cornelius loved his car though, and even though he drove it into the ground, he kept it in remarkably good shape. This may have been the reason Chris made his final decision. Matilda was old, but she deserved to hit the road again.

Another Potential Problem

vw minibus reunion
Wolfgang Schweitzer/Oneworld Picture/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Wolfgang Schweitzer/Oneworld Picture/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Chris was definitely leaning towards selling the can to Kyle at this point, but still needed one question answered. After eight years waiting, would Kyle have lost patience and moved on?

Of course we know the answer already, but Chris had no idea. Kyle had tried to fill the hole in his heart with other cars no avail. Now Chris just had to pick up the phone and dial his number and the reunion of lifetime would happen!

Kyle Had A Problem, Too

Kyle-driving-a-van
CBS New York/YouTube
CBS New York/YouTube

Getting in contact with Kyle turned to be the easy part. Kyle couldn’t believe that the note he left eight years ago was suddenly being responded to. In the time that had passed, however, he hadn’t settled into a lucrative career.

Chris had an asking price of $1,500 for the minibus, which wasn’t going to be easy for Kyle on a teacher’s salary. His funds were limited, but he wanted to strike a deal if it was at all possible. Would it be?

The End Of The Road

kyle cropsey new van paint job
CBS New York/YouTube
CBS New York/YouTube

Despite asking for $1,500 for Matilda, Chris also wanted to honor his dead and sell the car to a person who would love it. That person was obviously Kyle, so Chris decided to gift him the car!

Kyle was stunned by the selfless act. He celebrated by splashing Matilda with a fresh coat of paint. Today, the two still keep in touch about the car and all the new adventures Kyle is taking her on.

The Cat Got Away

missing 1968 jaguar
Roland Weihrauch/picture alliance via Getty Images
Roland Weihrauch/picture alliance via Getty Images

When Ivan Schneider was 35-years-old his life seemed to be going perfectly. He had just become a trial lawyer, taken out a lease on a Manhattan apartment, and even bought his dream car: a convertible Jaguar.

Almost as quickly as he bought the car, however, it went missing. Decades passed with Schneider believing he would eventually be reunited with his “baby.” Sadly, that dream started to fade over time. The something amazing happened in 2014.

The Phone Call Of A Lifetime

ivan schneider jaguar
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Schneider had lost hope in being reunited with his Jaguar in 2014. He was 82-years-old and living in Miami Beach when the phone call came in. After 46 years, his car had been found on a shipment to the Netherlands.

Schneider couldn’t believe it, “I feel wonderful. It’s a miracle. I never thought ‘d see the car again,” he told The Orange County Register. Even more incredible, Schneider’s Jaguar wasn’t the only car recovered!

How They Found The Car

jaguar returned to owner
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Along with Ivan’s car, authorities recovered four other missing vehicles’ two Mercedes, a Corvette, and a Camaro. After finding the cars, officials were then tasked with returning the to their rightful owners.

To track down Ivan, officials traced the cars identification number. Because it had been reported stolen, they got a hit on their search. No one knows who stole the car or what happened to it in the years that passed, but today it almost feels like none of that matters.

Stolen Or Not?

frankfurt germany skyline
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

Sometimes a car is reported as stolen when it is exactly where the owner left it parked. In Frankfurt, this is exactly what happened when a man reported his care missing in 1997 after what failing to find it on the street.

While we can’t assume what made the man forget where he parked his car, it would be easy to guess he had a few too many rounds at the bar. He must have been in shock 20 years later when police called him.

Where He Parked

empty parking garage
Interim Archives/Getty Images
Interim Archives/Getty Images

The car had been left in a garage and was seemingly abandoned when workers reported it to police. They were inspecting the building before demolishing when they came across the curious vehicle.

Police then drove the man to his car to be reunited. Unfortunately, not all reunions have happy endings. After an inspection of the vehicle it was determined to be unsafe to drive. With no money to fix it up, the man let authorities deal with the car. They quickly announced it was going to be scrapped.

A Rare Treasure

rare austin healy
Manfred Schmid/Getty Images
Manfred Schmid/Getty Images

Bob Russell was the proud owner of a rare 1967 Austin Healy 3000 when it was stolen. He had purchased the car for $3,000 and planned to own it for a long time.

Sadly, it was gone in the blink of any eye. What happened to his Healy? Did he forget where he parked it? No. In the case of Russell, his rare treasure had indeed been stolen, and it was pretty shocking where it was found!

Four Decades Missing

austin healy reunion
Rust/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Rust/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The search for Russell’s missing Austin Healy lasted for over four decades. He left no stone un-turned. Even when police continued to turn up nothing, Russell refused to give and up kept looking.

Then, when the internet came into existence, everything changed. Russell had a whole new world at his disposal to hunt for his car. He began searching eBay, hoping that one day his car might show up. Then, “I checked on Friday, May 11, and there it was. The fact that the car still exists is improbable.”

A Fight For The Return Of His Car

ebay sold car
Bildquelle/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Bildquelle/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Russell’s Austin Healy was being sold through a deal on eBay, and it wasn’t easy to convince them that the car wasn’t actually for sale. First he had to prove the VIN number from his old car matched the one listed.

Russell then had to find all his old documentation to prove ownership as well as provide sworn testimony by friends. At the end of the day it was all worth it as this small town Texas man got to get behind the wheel of his dream car one more time!