Authorities searching for three stolen classic cars

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Authorities in Oakland and Wayne counties are searching for three classic cars reported stolen during this year’s annual Dream Cruise festivities, including one Chevrolet Camaro that belongs to John Schnatter of the Papa John’s pizza empire.

The first car, a red 1966 Chevrolet Corvette, was reported stolen Saturday afternoon in Birmingham. The convertible with a black soft top and custom license plate ITSMY66 was taken from the Park Street parking structure between 12:30 and 2 p.m.

Birmingham police said no new details were available Sunday afternoon.

News of the theft of a second classic car in Bloomfield Hills emerged early Sunday. Police did not release details of the theft, but Victor Martin, general manager of the Kingsley Inn on Woodward, confirmed that a guest at the hotel had reported the vehicle missing. He got word between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.

“It’s just an unfortunate thing,” Martin told The Detroit News.

“I feel really bad for the people. They have their heart and soul in these cars.”

According to WXYZ Channel 7, the black 1966 Chevelle 300 Deluxe was sitting on a trailer overnight in the parking lot of the inn. A 2007 Chevy Silverado that had been pulling the trailer and the Chevelle was also taken.

The pickup has a North Carolina Purple Heart license plate, and the Chevelle has a vintage 1966 North Carolina license plate with blue letters and an orange background.

Detroit Police Sgt. Cassandra Lewis reported that the third theft — a 1971 Chevrolet Camaro owned by the Papa John’s Pizza corporation — is being investigated.

Lewis said the vehicle had been inside a trailer attached to a truck that was parked at 960 E. Woodbridge at midnight. At 7:30 a.m. Sunday, the truck, trailer and classic car were reported missing, she said.

Police recovered the truck about a block away. The classic car, used as a promotional vehicle for the pizza company, had not yet been located, she said.

Lewis said the vehicle is “highly marked” and used in pizza commercials and as a racing car.

Schnatter, founder of the pizza chain, originally sold the gold-and-black Camaro Z28 for $2,800 in 1983 to keep the family business afloat.

The money helped save his father’s tavern in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and he used the remainder to start what would become a worldwide pizza business.

But Schnatter always missed the car and spent years searching for it. He created a website on the search, held promotional appearances and eventually offered $250,000 to whoever found it.

It paid off when Schnatter was reunited with the muscle car and regained ownership of it in 2009.

The 21st annual Woodward Dream Cruise was Saturday along a 16-mile stretch through nine host communities: Berkley, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Pontiac and Royal Oak.

The one-day automotive event is billed as the nation’s largest, drawing about 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year, organizers have said.

To report information to Birmingham police, call (248) 644-3405. Bloomfield Hills police can be reached at (248) 644-4200.

In addition, tips can be called into HEAT at (800) 242-HEAT.