Classic car cold case conundrum: Stolen Mustang resurfaces after 30 years but owner can't get it back

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A stolen car missing for decades suddenly reappeared, but the woman who lays claim as the rightful owner had to fight to get her wheels back.

So she called 7 On Your Side's Nina.Pineda. Then the former New Yorker hit the highway from Florida to tell us her unbelievable story.

Teresa Wojno thought she'd be reunited with her convertible classic pinched from a Flushing parking lot where she stored it 29 years ago.

"It's like a piece of your heart falls down to your feet," she said. It was March 1989, and Teresa Wojno discovered her baby, a '66 Mustang convertible gone in 60 seconds.

She reported the theft but kept hoping her car would surface. She even kept the keys. Then last fall, like surfing the internet for an old flame, she found it. Her stolen 'stang - now painted red - restored, remodeled and for sale on a bunch of classic car sites.

Teresa called the cops and the Suffolk County Police showed up at the house of the seller.

"They called a flatbed truck and I watched them load my car onto their truck," said a distraught Stephen Merced. The Holbrook classic car collector said detectives showed up at his house and told him they may have bad news.

He led them to his garage where the police matched the VIN on his Mustang to Teresa's stolen classic.

"Suddenly it was not my car any longer. They tell me the car was stolen back in the 1980s," said Steven while showing us photos of what the Mustang looked like when he bought it in 2003

The rust bucket the Mustang enthusiast lovingly restored and painted cherry red was a gift for his daughter's sweet sixteen.

"I had all the paperwork. I bought the car, insured the car, went to DMV, drove the car for years, registered the car," he said.

He's re-registered it four times. Steven questioned why the vehicle never came up stolen.

Steven said "the DMV lets you register, then they come to you 10 years later and say it was stolen? How could they let this go on?", he said.

Until that's sorted out, the car is impounded, frozen in legal limbo.

New York's DMV told us the car wasn't listed stolen in the FBI's database - so it didn't know. But the DMV is going to research the vehicle's registration history.

And Suffolk County Police never answered our repeated requests for comment.

Right now the car is in limbo - Mr. Merced filed a legal claim to it.

What can you do before you buy a used car?

Check out VINs on the car to see if they match the paperwork. Be wary of a car whose VINs are missing or scratched out.

Run a vehicle history. But just know: In a classic car, vehicle history reports only stretch as far back as '81.

You haven't seen the end of this classic car cold case getting very heated.


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