Mystery of the buried Ferrari

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By Robert Harland

Motoring

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


IN FEBRUARY 1978 kids playing in the dirt discovered a 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS buried in the backyard of a Los Angeles house.

The police were called and the car was dug up. A detective arrived and his job was to check the car for dead bodies, drugs and weapons.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective Dennis Carroll wiped the mud from the windshield and peered through. No bodies.

He checked the interior and trunk for drugs and weapons. None were found. But a check of the car's license plate confirmed what he suspected. The car had been stolen.

The Los Angeles Times reported the Ferrari appeared to be in surprisingly good condition and estimated its value at $18,000 - around $75,000 today (P 3.3 million). Ferrari enthusiasts also noted the Dino had been fitted with the optional Campagnolo wheels and Daytona seats.

Investigations showed the Dino had been bought in October, 1974 by Rosendo Cruz of Alhambra, California. On December 7, 1974, Cruz had reported the car stolen. It was never found, though the police report was kept on file.

The mystery remained. How did the Dino get there? Given that efforts were made to protect the car before it was buried convinced police that whoever was responsible had intended to claim it later.

With no leads, interest in the story waned and the unearthed Dino was returned to the insurance company, which had paid out $22,500 to the car's legal owner.

Although the LA Times had reported the car was in good condition, it was actually in poor state. At the time, it was rumored the Dino was sold off at a knock-down price to a mechanic who moved away leaving no forwarding address.

There was no record of the car's whereabouts after 1978 that the mystery was forgotten.

Then LA journalist Mike Spinelli came across a newspaper clipping from 1978 about the buried car and decided to write about the case in an attempt to find out what happened to the Dino.

He visited the scene of the burial, but the tenants of the house had only lived there for three months and could offer no explanation. And local residents were unable to shed any light on the matter.

The mystery remained until the story ran. Spinelli then received a call from a man called Brad Howard. He turned out to be the car's owner. He told Spinelli the Dino had been registered to him since he bought it in 1978 from a Los Angeles businessman named Ara Manoogian, who had bought it from the insurance company.

Howard had it lovingly restored by Ferrari expert Giuseppe Cappalonga. Finally the mystery of what had happened to the buried Dino was solved.

But what about the mystery of why it had been buried in the first place? Spinelli tracked down Dennis Carroll, the retired detective who handled the case back in 1978.

Carroll said the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) had received a tip-off saying the 'theft' had been an insurance scam.

The original owner had paid the thieves to steal the car and get rid of it by chopping it up and dumping the bits to the sea. But the thieves fell in love with the Dino's beautiful Italian curves so they decided to bury the beauty and retrieve it later.

Since 1978, the Dino has been Brad Howard's pride and joy. So, if you're ever in California and spot a green Ferrari sporting the plate 'DUG UP,' you've found the mysterious Dino.*

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 23, 2014.

Lifestyle

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