But, curiously, no one ever told the guy who owned the car when it was stolen. Until yesterday, when AOL Autos found him.
"This month?" said Michael Patrick O'Toole, when we told him the Porsche had been located. "Really?"
O'Toole, who has one of the most common Irish-American first and middle names around, now lives in Oregon where he owns a construction company. His ride is a lot less fancy: He drives a 2005 Ford 350.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection department discovered the car at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport on Oct. 25, when they were going through a database of Vehicle Identification numbers. The car's VIN pulled up an alert -- it had been stolen Nov. 24, 1986 in Las Vegas.
O'Toole, then a pit boss at the Barbary Coast casino, had purchased the car used for $17,000 from someone in Germany.
He remembers the night it was stolen. He left the car in the parking lot outside his gym, the Sporting House Club on Industrial Road. The car had been giving him some trouble -- it had a broken fan belt.
But he didn't want to let it go.
"I wasn't even a sports car guy, but I loved that car," he said. "I was a cool dad in that car."
He went through his regular routine at the gym, and when he came out it was gone.
The police report reads like any normal police report. Color: Red. License plate: 822 BJV. Physical markings: A 1-inch scratch on the top of the passenger's side door. Odometer reading: 40,000.
O'Toole says he never heard back from the police. He filed for insurance, and got his money back.
He hasn't bought another Porsche since then, driving a number of Nissans and a BMW 7 series. He lives a quiet life with his wife and has two grown kids in their thirties -- a boy and a girl.
But he would like to see if he could buy it back. Customs officials returned the car to its rightful owners -- who now happen to be the insurance company.
"I'm going to go look this up," O'Toole said, before hanging up the phone.
Customs officials estimate the car is now worth about $27,000. In the past year, they have recovered 24 stolen vehicles that were heading overseas in the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport. They also seized 63 undeclared vehicles, seven that were undervalued on their claims forms and six with fraudulent documents. The combined estimated value is $1.8 million.
Marlene Figueroa, a supervisor of the CBP's Outbound Enforcement Team, said the Porsche was found during a routine check.
"It's not too rare to intercept mismanifested, smuggled collectibles," Figeruoa said. She said all vehicles that are leaving the country must be declared, and the shipper's export manifestation is required for anything over $2,500.
The vehicle had been registered several times since being stolen -- in New Jersey, Florida, and Washington state. The group trying to ship the car was a private party, who is either a collector or a smuggler.
Shippers will often write down that they are sending something mundane overseas, like "ingots or ladles in plastic boxes and sure enough, we find a nice new car," Figueroa said.
In this case, the car was properly manifested. But it may not have seemed that valuable, because it was missing its engine. With an engine it would have been up to $80,000. Why? It was a rare model prepped for U.S. driving that cloned the Porsche 911. As a turbo it was ready for speed.
"All you would need is roll cages and a 7-point harness and you'd be ready to hit the track," she said.