It’s really, really rare when car theft stories turn up with a happy ending. Amazingly enough, this one does. Jack Klunder, the president and publisher of the Daily News, had his college ride, a black-and-red ’66 Mustang returned to him after thirty-five years. Klunder had been at basketball practice at Rio Hondo Junior College in Whittier and was going to grab a bite to eat with some friends when he realized his car was gone.
“It felt like someone had punched me in the stomach,” Klunder recounted, “I went to the administration building to report it stolen and there was a line of kids out the door. I was 18 and in a panic. I cut to the front of the line and told the woman my car had been stolen. She told me to get in line, that’s why everybody was here. A car theft ring stole 60 cars that night.”
“[The police] promised me they’d call if they found it,” Klunder said. “But that was in 1974.” Decades later, Klunder bought a S195 few years back when the Mustang introduced its its retro look.
“I saw a black one on the lot that reminded me of my old Mustang,” Klunder said. “So I bought it.” It was this car that Dee Dee, Klunder’s wife of 27 years thought CHP Officer Jesus Gomez was talking about when he called in late 2009 to inform them that they had finally found Klunder’s Mustang.
“What do you mean you found it?” she questioned. “Jack just left for work driving it.”
“Not that one,” Gomez replied. “The one from 1974.”
When the Klunders saw the car in the CHP impound lot, there were less than impressed; time had been hard on the little pony car. “I drove it home and was lucky to make it,” Dee Dee shrugged. “It was in pretty bad shape.”
Klunder considered giving the ’66 back to the woman who had bought it in 2001 not knowing it was stolen. She had gone to sell it last year when the buyer noticed the vehicle identification numbers didn’t match. He called the CHP to verify the VIN tag only to discover it had been stolen decades earlier.
“I felt bad for her,” Klunder said. “She was a victim, too.”
It’s been a 10-month restoration over at Auto-B-Craft, a body shop owned by a buddy of Klunder, Dan Veltkamp. With much fanfare, the Mustang finally came home.
It took 35 years, but the CHP finally made good on their promise.