Posted by: Jerry Garrett | August 25, 2012

#1 Cunningham Le Mans Corvette Reportedly Stolen

Three Corvettes entered by Briggs Cunningham went after glory in the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans

The scheduled public unveiling August 24 at a public event in Carlisle, Pa., of the long-lost, recently found 1960 Chevrolet Corvette, campaigned at the 24 Hours of Le Mans by sportsman Briggs Cunningham, was cancelled abruptly after a man from Tampa, Fla., presented documents claiming the car had been stolen.

The odd turn of events was explained by Lance Miller, the organizer of the Corvettes at Carlisle and the man who was to have been identified publicly Friday as the car’s new owner, in the following statement:

“We had hoped to present the 1960 No. 1 Le Mans Corvette to you today. As you probably know, after I purchased the car in Florida and brought it to Pennsylvania, we held an event last night to reveal it. As you also know, I have sold the car to a third party, who wishes to remain anonymous at this time. Unfortunately, for security reasons, the car has had to be moved to an undisclosed location. While I am disappointed, as I am sure you are, it was important to respect the buyer’s wishes in this matter. I have confidence that the car will be well cared for, and we hope to have it back here in Carlisle at a future show looking better than ever.”

Mr. Miller had purchased the car from Rick Carr, of St. Petersburg, Fla., sometime last month. The transaction was apparently consummated on a Bill of Sale, not a title.

Meanwhile, Dan Mathis Jr., who identified himself to me as a retired Florida law enforcement official, is brandishing a Certificate of Title for the car, issued by the State of Florida, in his name.

“The car belonged to my father, Dan Mathis Sr., and was purchased by him from Jerry Moore of Tampa in the mid-1970s,” Mr. Mathis said. His father died in 1993. “We can show a continuous chain of title in our family since 1974.”

Mr. Mathis said the car, drag-raced by his father in central Florida, was stolen in the late 1970s, and “disappeared for 35 years”. How did the Mathis Corvette, made over in sort of cherry-chocolate custom paint and bodywork scheme, turn up 35 years later in a storage warehouse of a Florida judge, Richard Carr (Rick’s father)?

“Great question,” Mr. Mathis said.

Mr. Mathis said he traveled from Florida to Pennsylvania to meet with Mr. Miller and his associate Kevin Mackay, of Corvette Repair, Inc. But he said he was refused a meeting.

“The Miller Group and Kevin Mackay have been in this business for 30 years; they know better than this,” Mr. Mathis told me. “All they have to do, is do the right thing. It just stuns me that they have instead decided to involve themselves in a criminal enterprise, for which I am going to seek prosecution.”

When contacted about Mr. Mathis’ claims, Mr. Miller emailed back, “This is news to me, I’ll have my council [sic] look into it. Thank you, Lance”

I did not immediately receive any further word from Mr. Miller, in answer to additional questions I posed.

I have obtained a copy of Mr. Mathis’ valid Certificate of Title from the State of Florida, and will be posting it on this blog, along with other documents in the next 24 hours. For an update on this story, including a photo of the title: http://jerrygarrett.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/florida-man-presses-his-claim-for-1-cunningham-corvette/

For more background on this story, please check our these earlier columns:

http://jerrygarrett.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/is-the-quest-for-cunninghams-le-mans-corvettes-finally-over/

http://jerrygarrett.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/a-father-son-story-for-the-24-hours-of-le-mans/

Jerry Garrett

August 25, 2012

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Responses

  1. Hello,
    I read your post of the #1 Corvette. Mike Pillsbury was a friend. He asked me to pick up the #2 Corvette for him with my trailer. He paid $300.00 for the car and did not know what he had for better than a year. He called me at 3:00 am in the morning. He was at his shop and had found a picture of the three La Mans cars. The correct top was still on the car with the cut out rear window and the big gas tank. The drive train was missing as well as the front end.
    He spent several years gathering the correct parts and with great care restored the car with help from Chevrolet. I was with him the first time he drove the car at Laguana Seca. He got excited and spun the car. Came back in and put it on the trailer. Your story made me smile. Mike died some time ago.
    Rick Sailor

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  2. I remember seeing a movie in the mid-1980’s called “Middle Age Crazy” with Bruce Dern and Ann Margaret. I can’t find any mention of it anywhere. Was I dreaming???

    Bette

    • No, you are not dreaming. That was a real movie, and you have the correct title. It came out in 1980. Here is a link to more information about it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081157/
      At first I thought this was just a random, off-topic comment. Upon further research, I don’t believe it was meant to be off-topic.

  3. did mathis sr. report this car stolen?

    • I have been told that he did. But I have not seen documentation to that effect.

      • how would mathis jr. get a reissued title without police viewing a car that had been reported stolen?

      • He said the title was reissued because of proof of “chain of ownership”.

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  7. I first saw Mike’s car in August 1987 at Laguna Seca. I had recently purchased an old junk Corvette that had been driven hard and busted to pieces. Seeing Mikes car as well as the Ernst 62 Gulf Racer was a real special experience. Since then, it has been really great staying in touch with the history and what is left of these old cars.

  8. Can’t believe Lance Miller or Kevin McKay would go into something like this blind, its not like this is the first rare Corvette that either of these guys have bought. I am sure that a complete search of the car was done, you would think something like this, if it was a stolen car, would have surfaced before they bought it, I really dont think they would of bought it from Mr. Carr without proof that he actually owned it, something just doesn’t add up. It was a shame , we were there on Friday and looking forward to seeing the car, its a piece of Corvette history. Neither one of these gentleman got to where they are by doing shady deals, both are guys are in the upper tier in the Corvette world, both owing some of the rarest Corvette’s on the planet.

    • Just to add one more thing I find it strange that a judge would be in possession of a stolen vehicle for some 35 years

      • Having lived in Judge Carr’s jurisdiction in Pinellas County for more than a decade while he was still on the bench, I fail to understand why a sitting judge could not get a Certificate of Title granted to him by the State of Florida – in 6 or 7 years of trying. Those judges had a completely free rein in those days (if they don’t still). That’s what makes no sense.

      • Yeah that doesn’t make much sense, wonder what was the original reason in buying the car, I guess from the salvage yard, then evidently just letting it sit.

    • Well, I only got involved in this because I called last Friday to see what the promised mega-introduction revealed at Carlisle about this prodigal Corvette. I was pretty shocked when I found out the whole thing was cancelled at the 11th hour, and in a rather messy fashion. That’s when I started digging. What I found was so unexpected. You are right about Lance Miller: He has a five-star reputation in this sport. But somewhere in the due diligence it seems some i’s didn’t get dotted, and some t’s remained uncrossed. I hope it all gets sorted out and put behind everyone. No one likes reporting unhappy news.

      • As to your prior post, there are plenty of people that have cars in storage, something like this, it seems that a restoration was started, according to his son, if it ended abruptly, for some reason, why go through with the title and pay for something that can not be put on road, maybe they had hopes of finishing it one day and that day never came, That does not seem strange to me

  9. I agree, something went wrong, somewhere.I can say there were a lot of people disgusted, like I said its a piece of history, and would have been really neat to see, It just didnt make sense, and we were not given any reason other than, for security reasons the car was moved, left people wondering, Then with all the added attention from law enforcement, it made it difficult for vendors trying to make a buck. We had a friend that had been going to Carlisle for years as a vendor in the swap area, that was questioned about his license, Just made for a bad weekend

  10. wow intrigue what was the price they pd supposed to be??????

  11. My real Question is Was this an all cash deal or are there cancelled checks?? If it was all cash WHERE DID ALL THAT MONEY COME FROM 1???
    AND 2 WHO HAS THAT KIND OF MONEY HANGING AROUND
    3 WHERE DID THEY GET IT??????

    • I am pretty sure it wasn’t cash number 1 number 2, have you every been to an auction, money really isn’t a factor, car exchange hands every week for millions of dollars. People who buy these types are cars, basically have money to spend its an investment more than anything, there are alot of very rich people out there

  12. as i read more Lance miller changes his story on how he came across,bought, aquired the car seveal times. AND All they had to do was a TITLE search.

    • The more I read and research this, I think in the end we will see that the guy from Fl is not being truthful. A search was done and nothing turned up, as I stated before, guys like this who purchase these types of cars dont go into it blind I am sure Lance had attorneys handle the sale, and I am sure the deal wasnt done in some back alley, in the middle of the night. Miller and McKay are way to smart and have been involved in car collecting for too long to do something that would hurt their reputation, both have some of the rarest cars out there and have well established businesses

    • You’re right: A title search is always highly recommended for ANY vehicle sale!

  13. Ed makes sense unless it was an all cash deal?????

  14. ed they never claimed to do a tittle search

    • Statements made by the sellers(Carr’s) and Lance Miller have stated that a 50 State check was done, and I’ve been involved with car collecting for years and I have never heard of a deal , for a car like this, ever being done in cash, That’s not to say that it does happen, but I am sure that its rare, this is business not some guy buying a car for 500.00 out of the paper

      • Title search would have shown who had title They simply didnt do it. The title owners tried to meet with them they wouldnt. the car has been handed over to the authorities. Why is that? Maybe there is a proper paper trail. Then no problem. If there isnt and this was handled in an all cash transaction then there are questions to be answered that are deeper than mere high end car collecting. The plot thickens!!! Both side have dug in with their legal representatives. Apparently the ultimate buyer out of NY just wants his money back and wants to get as far away as he can from the whole deal. Ed drink some more coolaid !!!!!

      • I don’t know where you get your information from, but in Lance Millers statements a check was done, I will insert it here:
        “What your blog post does not go into is the extensive due diligence I conducted before I purchased the Corvette from the Carr family in Tampa on July 20, 2012. I was told by Mrs. Carr (Richard’s wife) that she was present when the car was sold to her husband via a bill of sale. It was represented to me that he paid consideration for it and they were never aware of any police report claiming it was stolen. Also prior to my purchase, a fifty (50) state stolen vehicle search was conducted by a third party investigator which did not come back with any evidence that the car had been reported stolen.”
        I would like to know why the date on the “Title” is Aug 27 2012 date of issue, and if the car was his fathers why does it have Jr’s name on title. Real funny the date is 1 day before the car was due to be shown huh? And on top of that the Carr family says the car was not even that color when they bought it , they had it painted and the workmanship was horrible as far as it being a drag car. You might want to look at more than one persons statements, I know both of these gentleman and they don’t buy car like this for cash, like I said it’s not some piece of junk that somebody buys for a few hundred bucks.I guess we will just have to wait and see who ends up with the car

  15. Just wondering why the Carrs never attempted to Title or license the car in all the years that they owned it. Florida is a Title State yet they bought a car without a Title and never sought to secure a Title for all the years that they owned it.
    This seems a bit strange to me.


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