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Thursday is going to be a big one for the vintage automotive universe. This week, Ohio judge Norbert Nadel is expected to decide who is the rightful owner of a 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus – one of the most valuable Prancing Horses in the world. Right now, says NPR, one Jacques Swaters has possession of the vehicle and has performed an extensive restoration to bring the car back to life. Thing is, the family of the original owner, Karl Kleve, apparently still has the title as well as a bevy of parts that were on the car originally.
According to Kleve's daughter, Kristi Kleve Lawson, Kleve bought the car in 1958 only to discover that it was a stolen vehicle 30 years later. Somehow, the car disappeared, and Kleve eventually managed to track it down in Belgium. For whatever reason, Interpol released the car to Swaters instead of Kleve. At least, that's what Lawson says happened.

The story is a little different from Swaters' point of view. According to him, he bought the car for $100,000 from an auto dealer in 1990. At the time, it was little more than pieces of a derelict shell. When Swaters learned that the Ferrari was reportedly stolen, he had a lawyer arrange a settlement with Kleve. Swaters says that paid the former owner $600,000 and that Kleve cashed the check.

Lawson says that's just not true, and that if Swaters has a canceled check, the signature on the back must be a forgery. Meanwhile, Swaters has sued the Lawson family for failing to transfer the car's title.

Whatever happens, you can bet someone's going to be very unhappy by week's end.

Ferrari only built six 375 Plus models. Of those, only four survive today. The car in question is estimated to be worth around $15 million in its current restored condition.

[Source: NPR]


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  • 23 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      This story has more holes than swiss cheese. 1) If the car that Kleve bought in 1958 was stolen, how does HE have the title 2) It would be fairly easy to find out if Kleve infact cashed the "settlement" check 3) The title tells the ultimate story of ownership. If it was discovered in 1990 about the vehicle stolen, why is the story just surfacing now?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Autoblog botched the story, read the original NPR article for better info.

        Summary of events after reading about it on Ferrari Chat:
        1. Kleve bought the car in 1958 in a wrecked condition
        2. Kleve stored the car in a field
        3. In 1988, Kleve found that he had been robbed
        4. Thieves apprehended and convicted, car was not recovered
        5. In 1990 Swaters purchases chassis in Europe (Kleve still had quite a few parts that he had previously removed from the car before it was stolen, as well as the title to the car). Swaters obtains a title in Europe, but it is not valid in USA and the car would be subject to seizure if ever brought into the US because it is still listed as stolen.
        6. Kleve tracks down car in possession of Swaters with help of FBI, Interpol and local congressman.
        7. Kleve is unable to take possession of car because VIN doesn't match his title.
        8. Swaters proceeds to restore car, though there may be some shenanigans involving its VIN while in his possession.
        9. Sometime between 1990 and 1998, Kleve loses his title and gets a new one from Ohio.
        10. In 1998 Swaters claims to have paid Kleve $600k for the car, but never receives the title. Payments don't seem to match exactly the terms of the signed agreement, and there are 2 versions of the agreement.
        11. In 2005 Kleve's daughter tries to sell some of the car's parts, but Swaters prevents her.
        12. This year Swaters files suit against Kleve's daughter to get the parts and title to the car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'd at least want my 700 grand back if I had to lose it after spending so much time and effort on it. If it's worth 15 million, I'd ask for a million just for costs and pain and suffering the loss of a Ferrari.... I mean 30 yrs is a long time after all.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Poorly written article.

      Nevertheless, who would you rather own it? The family that took 30 years to realise it was stolen or the guy who has already spent $700,000 plus the cost of restoration to return it to its former glory? Of course if the guy who restored it was also the one that stole it that's a little different, but seems very unlikely!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Don't assume it took them 30 years to realise it was stolen, it could very well have been stolen the previous year or even the same year.

        What can be assumed is that professional thieves stole it, and had it shipped out of the country, most likely they were contracted to do so.

        The important fact is the current owner realised it was indeed stolen, the judge needs to determine if he did have a deal in place with the former owner.
        Why would someone pay $600,000 and not get the title?
      • 4 Years Ago
      This did not make any sense to me.
      The guy bought the car in '58
      But 30 years later he discovers it was stolen when he bought it?
      And for all this - nobody knows how or when this valuable thing disappeared !?

      What !?
        • 4 Years Ago
        oops nevermind, its the daughter.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Summary:

        Mo' money mo' problems.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Max PL - Exactly what I thought. Good thing we both re-read the article.

        Lets learn how to properly compose an article, Autoblog. Then we can tackle the spelling issue....
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've read up on this quite a bit more than the article says and from what I can tell is Swaters should have no claim to this car at all. The vehicle in question is 0384AM. Kleve owned this car and it was stolen from him in the 80s and the thieves were caught but the car was not recovered. Jack Swaters bought this car in 1990 and it was not in very good condition at all at this time but that really doesn't have much of an affect on its value. Kleve found out that Swaters had the car and tried to have it returned to him but Interpol said that Swaters had car 0394AM, but the thing is 0394AM never existed. The $600,000 that Swaters said he paid was not paid directly to Kleve and supposedly not in the full ammount. This should have nullified any deal and Kleve believed he was getting the car back. Now that Kleve has died, Swaters is suing Kleve's daughter for the parts that they still possess, the title to the car, and the 0384AM chassis plate. It appears that Swaters knew it was a stolen car all along and concealed it as 0394AM and now that Kleve is dead he wants to make it authentic and go after the daughter as right now it cant be run at any Ferrari sanctioned events.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Here's a bit more on how the car disappeared... Still full of holes!
      Kleve's daughter, Kristi Kleve Lawson, says the car was stored outdoors in a Cincinnati lot with a hundred other old cars. She says her dad knew the car was valuable when he bought it in 1958 for $2,500.
      "He collected Duesenbergs; he collected Rolls-Royces. I know he had at least a dozen," she says.

      In 1988, Kleve discovered the Ferrari was stolen. Two Cincinnati men were later convicted of the crime, but the car had disappeared. Lawson says her dad searched for it for years, eventually tracking it down in Belgium.

      This is where the case gets a little more complicated. Lawson says Interpol got involved and convinced Belgium authorities that the car was stolen. She says it was eventually released to Swaters.

      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129138503
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hooray for the peanut gallery coming to the rescue, as this summary was poorly written and made no sense.
      • 4 Years Ago
      sell it split the cash, how much money do you need antway
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Ferrari only built six 375 Plus models. Of those, only four survive today."

      Only 4/6 suvive today? I can't think of many other cars built in 1954 of which 67% of the examples are still around. :)
        • 4 Years Ago
        It was a joke. And if your talking about build quality anything Italian WILL fall apart outside the hands of a collector.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Probably old school Land Rovers and most Rolls Royces and there are a lot of limited models who 100% of the cars survive.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Chevy built 5 1963 Grand Sports. All 5 are accounted for. That's 100% for American reliability.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Jesus, have they ever heard of Carfax?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Shame on Mr. Swaters, for being dumb. One of the first things you learn in the old car biz is that you don't spend money on it until you have all the paper work nailed down. Cars this rare and valuable leave an ownership/possesson trail a mile wide, part of the ownership experience for a collector is being able to tell where it has been and who had it. Not going to convience me that he did not know he did not have the title.
        • 4 Years Ago
        From what I just read, he paid for the title, he is suing because they have yet to hand it over, and now that the car is restored and worth far more than the $600k he paid, they are reneging on the deal.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I find in favor of the person holding the title....

      now I've heard that posession is 9/10ths but in this case.....
      I'm with the the Lawsons....

      this is a case of stupid rich folks fighting over an awesome toy/collectible.

      nobody is going hungry but they sure will shell out legal/investigation fees
      to get their way.

      .... I think I'm gonna go read the original article....
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't. Give me ten minutes and I'll make you a perfect 1958 car title.

        In other crime news: someone stole the Chicago Manual of Style belonging to the writer. This article reads like the work of a confused old lady.
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