Dan Mathis Jr., the Florida man who claims ownership of the missing #1 Cunningham Le Mans Corvette, said early Sunday he still does not know where the Corvette is.
Mr. Mathis said he had been in Carlisle, Pa., where the car was unveiled Thursday night (August 23) at a private showing in connection the Corvettes at Carlisle car show. (For a photo gallery of the Corvette, go to this page at the corvetteblogger.com site.) The event was organized by Lance Miller, a noted Corvette collector, who claimed he owned the car briefly after it was discovered in June, in a St. Petersburg, Fla., warehouse.
Mr. Miller contacted me early Sunday via email, and wrote: “As you may, or may not know, I’ve been swamped do to holding one of our largest events of the season – Corvettes at Carlisle. Hence I haven’t had an opportunity to keep up with my email, phone calls and etc. Once the dust settles I’ll have more time to focus. You were the first to contact me regarding this issue at hand, hence my previous email to you. I will provide a statement in the near future. As you are aware I only owned the vehicle for 2 days and sold it to the current owner who asked to remain anonymous, I’m respecting his wishes.”
Mr. Mathis said he would continue to press his claim.
“We tried to retrieve the car, they are currently hiding it from law enforcement,” Mr. Mathis said. He said he was in contact with Det. Eric Dale of the Carlisle, Pa., police department, the Cumberland County, Pa., district attorney and the Pennsylvania State Police. Det. Dale told me, “No comment” when I contacted him Monday about the matter.
“I’ll be back there Monday to continue to try and locate the car,” Mr. Mathis told me in a telephone interview. He said he had presented his Certificate of Title from the State of Florida, showing his ownership of the car, to Mr. Miller and his associate Kevin Mackay, of Corvette Repair, Inc.
“Lance Miller and Kevin Mackay were previously contacted by sources inquiring about the true ownership of the car, inquiring about the title for the car, and inquiring [about] the previous transactions involving the car,” Mr. Mathis wrote to me. “They were also informed that there was an owner of record in Florida. After learning this new information, Lance and Kevin opted not to take the reasonable and prudent route to legitimize this famous car. Instead they took route of deception and theft.”
When the long-lost, long sought-after Corvette, raced by noted sportsman Briggs Cunningham at Le Mans in 1960, finally broke cover last month, Mr. Miller said little was known about its whereabouts since being sold at a Chevrolet dealership after the Cunningham team returned home from America.
It was discovered in a large warehouse in St. Petersburg, Fla., by Rick Carr. Mr. Carr said the warehouse was one of two owned by his late father, Richard W. Carr, who had died in 2010 at age 80. A retired Florida judge, Richard W. Carr had resigned from the bench in 1992 after being censured by the Florida Supreme Court for uttering a racial epithet in his courtroom.
Mr. Mathis said his father Dan Mathis Sr., who died in 1993, had purchased the car in the mid-1970s from a man named Jerry Moore, of Tampa. He said his father did some bodywork on the car, painted it a rather unique cherry chocolate color, and proceeded to campaign it at various central Florida drag strips. “A black man drag racing in central Florida was a rare sight, in those times,” Mr. Mathis added.
“Does anyone wonder who did the drag car modifications and alterations? Who painted the car?” Mr. Mathis said to me. “These questions should have been answered during the presentation of the history of the car, instead of kept secret. The answer to the above questions? The owner of the car, Dan Mathis Sr.”
Mr. Mathis said the car was stolen in the mid-1970s, and “disappeared for 35 years,” he said. “My dad died, not knowing what ever happened to his beloved race car.” Mr. Mathis offered to provide photos of his father with the car, but said efforts to do so were being complicated by Hurricane Isaac’s imminent arrival in the Tampa area, by the fact the photos are “in possession of my 90-year-old grandma, and she’s having a little difficulty locating them,” he added. “I can help her when I can get home.”
Mr. Mathis said he is a retired Florida law enforcement officer.
How the Corvette passed from the possession of the Mathis family, to the judge’s warehouse, is not known. “Great question,” Mr. Mathis said.
August 26, 2012