Stolen Jaguar XK-E Returned to Owner 45 Years Later
09/19/2014 AT 06:30 AM EDT
It was the first (and "prettiest") of many luxury cars he would own, his companion on fast drives — and the only one that was ever stolen.
Forty-six years later, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol analyst running a routine export check through a stolen car database came up with a hit. The 1967 Jaguar XKE was hot.
The problem: It was already on a cargo ship, in a container, headed for Europe, two days out of the Port of Long Beach on the Pacific Ocean.
Investigators with the California Highway Patrol and nonprofit National Insurance Crime Bureau got to work.
New York police still had the March 1968 incident report.
CHP investigator Michael Maleta spoke with Schneider in Florida, where he now lives. Schneider thought it was a prank.
"After we convinced him, he was excited," said Maleta.
After all, Schneider told the Associated Press on Wednesday, he would think of the car every time he bought a new one. And, he said, he is a car guy who has owned quite a few exotics.
For the months he owned it, he was in love.
"I've always said that was the prettiest," Schneider, now 82, said.
Tracing the car's history, Maleta learned the Southern California man exporting it to the Netherlands had bought it about three months ago from an owner in the San Joaquin Valley, who himself had it 40 years.
What happened between its disappearance from the concrete canyons of the Upper East Side and its California sojourn – hopes his investigation will answer that.
After its out-and-back sea journey to the Netherlands, the car is back in Southern California, more than two months after the law finally found it.
It's rusty and scratched, but still worth about $24,000 – and far more if restored, as Schneider plans to do.
He just won't push it too hard.
It's old, so is he, and though beautiful, it is known for trouble under the hood.
"I'll use it as a Sunday car," Schneider said. "They were never reliable."
At least, one day soon, it will be back home.