State

Thieves pull a fix-it job on Corvette

OAKDALE -- A 1966 Corvette Stingray stolen last week from a storage warehouse in north Modesto was found Thursday morning in better condition than before it was taken, the car's owner said.

The classic car was found abandoned along the 7300 block of Langworth Road, just south of Highway 108 and east of Oakdale, according to the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force.

Dale Fitzpatrick of Modesto said he had not driven the car in five years. It had four flat tires and no battery when it was stolen sometime between May 21-24 from a Quonset hut in the 2700 block of Bangs Avenue in Modesto.

He said the car was found about 9 a.m. Thursday.

"It's in better condition than when it was in storage," Fitzpatrick said, describing the improvements made by the thief or thieves: "They washed it, they fixed the flats on the tires, and they put in a battery."

Lt. Jeff Morris, of the auto theft task force, said it's uncommon to find a stolen vehicle intact. They are usually recovered stripped of their parts. He said the Corvette probably was worth more intact to those who stole it.

"The engine was still hot, so it was driven pretty recently when my guys found it," Morris said. "There are so few cars of this genre out there that anybody selling off these parts would immediately be suspect."

Fitzpatrick said he was surprised to find the car in such good condition. Because it had been stored for five years, he said, he has no insurance on the car.

"I thought they were going to find it with all the parts stripped," he said.

Fitzpatrick said his white Stingray is worth $100,000 because the parts are original and there are only about 30 other cars like it in the nation.

A 1966 Corvette Stingray with original parts would be worth about $100,000, said Terry Michaelis, president of www.proteam-corvette.com, a Web site for an Ohio-based classic Corvette dealer.

Fitzpatrick paid for a classified advertisement in The Bee, which had a phone number for tipsters. In the ad, he offered a $7,000 reward for information that led to the recovery of his car.

He said two women called him Thursday morning and told him they had seen the stolen car on Langworth Road. Fitzpatrick called 911 and the auto theft task force responded to the scene.

Fitzpatrick said he thinks the tipsters were involved in the theft.

Morris said they have not identified any suspects. Investigators contacted the tipsters, he said, but declined to comment on whether they were involved in the theft.

Morris said it is up to Fitzpatrick to pay the reward. Fitzpatrick said he will wait for the investigation to be completed before he decides.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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