You can't help driving around Monterey during Pebble Beach car week as we did two weeks ago — the only time and place on earth where the sight of a couple Bugatti Veyrons on the road become commonplace — and not think at least once that an enterprising car thief could hit a jackpot. This year the thieves took note, swiping four classic Chevys in separate incidents, three of which had just been up for auction.
Of the four, the most valuable was the car above, a 1961 Chevy Impala Super Sport 409 convertible, billed by auction house Russo & Steele as the only all-original, numbers-matching example in existence. After the car failed to sell Friday night after bids reached $220,000, it was reported missing from the fenced and guarded lot along Fisherman's Wharf in downtown Monterey, Calif., where hundreds of other auction vehicles are kept.
Two other classic Chevys — another 1961 Impala convertible and a 1957 Chevy Bel Air coupe, both valued around $50,000 — were reported stolen from the Mecum auction house lot on a golf course later in the weekend. As with the Impala 409, both had failed to sell at auction and were supposedly taken back to secure lots.
The other theft reported during the weekend of a well-preserved 1962 Corvette happened at a bed and breakfast. Pat Monahan, a retired Sacramento firefighter, and his wife had driven his Vette down to take part in a rally and see the sights; they discovered the car missing Sunday morning. While the other stolen models were up for sale, Monahan had no plans to let go of the Vette he's owned and restored over 20 years. "I would take it back in pieces," Monahan told The Herald newspaper.
Classic cars in California can be especially prone to theft; they often lack tracking devices, they're valuable either whole or for their parts and given their proximity to southern California's ports, can be smuggled out of the country quickly. While it would be easier to fence parts from old Chevys than, say, a stolen classic Porsche 911, in these cases the vehicles themselves are likely worth far more if left intact. The California Highway Patrol told The Herald of Monterey newspaper the thefts were the first known to have taken place during car week. If the cars aren't recovered, it's all but certain Monterey will have a different kind of car enthusiast to worry about next year.
Anyone who knows anything about these vehicles can contact the California Highway Patrol auto theft hotline at 1-800-TELL-CHP.