The story goes like this: In 1989, an Irish immigrant who was mixed up with the wrong crowd got talked into stealing the car off a dealer's lot. He promptly drove the car straight to a storage facility in San Diego, where he parked it and walked away. But he kept paying the bills for the storage unit, pressured by annual calls from his crime associates to keep the car stored. So it sat there, untouched and totally protected in the perfect San Diego climate, for 23 years.
But after doling out nearly $70,000 in storage fees, the Irish guy (now back in Ireland) decided he'd had enough. He called an attorney to talk about his options, and turned himself in. Except there wasn't anything to turn in. The statute of limitations covering the crime had long expired, so police couldn't charge him with anything. They picked up the car and sold it to a wholesaler. Who then called up Rice, and asked him if he wanted to buy it.
"I didn't even rush – I took two or three days to get down there – because I didn't want to sound overly excited," Rice told AOL Autos. "But when I got there, I was blown away."
The red Corvette with black leather interior was in immaculate condition. Rice opened the door, and the new car smell hit him in the nose. The sticker price was still in the window, showing the car was being sold for $39,410. There was still a paper insert over the parking brake, with directions on proper use of the brake.
Most importantly: The car had just 67 miles on the odometer, making it incredibly valuable since vintage cars are more valuable when they have a low number of miles on the odometer.
Rice bought the car and began hyping it. He posted it on eBay with a ton of photos, calling it a "Once In A Lifetime Opportunity To Buy A Brand New 1989 Corvette." Pretty soon The Los Angeles Times wrote a feature on the car, and interest started gathering.
Mike Robertson, an advertising executive from Newport Beach, Calif., was reading The L.A. Times on Dec. 21, a couple of days before Christmas, when he came across the story and his interest was piqued. He told AOL Autos that he'd long fantasized about buying a brand-new car and then just putting that car in storage, only to take it out 20 years from now and drive it around as if it were brand new.
"Like time capsuling a car for myself ... it was just a fantasy," Robertson said. "But I thought I'd take a shot at seeing if I could get it."
He drove up to Glendale and checked out the Corvette. Rice said Robertson announced he was going to win the eBay auction, but Rice just shrugged it off. There was another guy, up in Canada, who had already said he was going to be the winner and was pricing out shipping options to Canada.
But Robertson also had a price in mind. He hoped he could get the car for the original sticker price: $39,410.
He was off by just $300.
Roberston was schedule to pick up the car Friday afternoon from a dealer who flushed out all of the fluids and replaced them with new ones, and replaced the tires which, while still holding air, had become shaped like the letter D from where they'd rested on the ground for 23 years.
He's not sure what he's going to do with the car. Robertson says he doesn't entirely feel like he's the Corvette's rightful owner, so he might try to sell it again in a little while. There might be a Chevy dealer who could envision themselves with this car, and it's sticker price still in place, on their dealership floor.
Or maybe he'll just keep it.
"I'll drive it when I feel like it," he said, just a couple of hours before he was scheduled to pick it up from the dealer. "And I feel like driving it today, I'll tell you that."