In 1963, Ferrari built four 330 LMBs, a GT race car meant to hit the track at Le Mans. All four still exist and are each worth nearly $15 million.
One of the cars, chassis number 4619, is owned by the Korean Chairman of Samsung Electronics, Kun Hee Lee.
But there's just one problem: Some records show the car was stolen in 1977 and there's a court order in the U.S. demanding that the car be returned.
There are so many Ferraris out there that are "rare" it's hard to keep track of them. The 330 LMB is one of the rarest, with just four in existence. Powered by a four-liter engine, the 330 LMBs were higher powered versions of the rare 250 GTO. They are among the last front-engined race ready cars to come out of Maranello, which makes them extremely valuable.
Of the four that were built, the car in question is the only one with three carburetors. It also doesn't have a competition history and wasn't raced from the factory.
Tales about cars like this aren't uncommon. An irreplaceable classic exchanges hands for decades, when a supposed "former owner" comes out of the woodwork to claim that the car is actually his.
This case is a little different. The man who alleges he owns the car provided us with a notarized title, an original police report, a court order demanding its return, and we were able to get confirmation from the FBI and Georgia police that this is indeed an open case.
Ivars Blumenau from Atlanta, GA, bought the 330 LMB in 1974 from Atlanta Ferrari mechanic and dealer Donald Fong — a flamboyant and mythical man in Ferrari circles. Blumenau told us the 330 was not his first Ferrari, but it was certainly one of the most exclusive that he ever purchased.
Instead of keeping the car on his own property, the car was left with Fong for safe-keeping.
We spoke with Blumenau at length, and he told us that he still elected to keep the car with Fong because they had a number of dealings with each other and Blumenau found Fong to be trustworthy.
Blumenau was about to learn he was wrong to trust that instinct on March 18th, 1977.
According to a copy of the police report filed in DeKalb County, Georgia, the car was stolen from Donald Fong's shop in March 1977. But here's where things start to get weird. The owner on the police report is listed as Donald Fong. The police report shows that the man that was storing the car said he was the owner, even though the car appears to have been titled to Blumenau.
Occasionally, when a car is placed in the care of someone else, it is given on consignment so there are no penalties if the car is sold while it is in the caretaker's custody. Mr. Blumenau assures us that isn't what happened here. Instead, he alleges the car was part of an elaborate scheme that resulted in Blumenau losing a rare Ferrari and high-dollar investment.
Another man, Stephen Brusini, allegedly worked with Fong to make the car appear stolen, when in reality it was sold to a new owner, John Hadjuk, of Chicago. We were unable to find Mr. Brusini, although a search revealed no one with that name with a criminal record.
A poster on the online Ferrari owners forum Ferrari Chat had possession of the car before it made its way across the country to Fong from California.
I recall acting as middle-man when a well-known ex-racer/dealer in Orange County, Ca sold this car to Fong, then a highly regarded Ferrari mechanic (around Atlanta, as I recall). I was fortunate enough to have the car in my possession for a short while; it combined all the best features of a 250GTO and a Lusso — what a sweet car! I have no idea if the money for the car was Don's or that of a customer, but I recall that he ended up in jail for selling customers' cars and keeping the money. I wonder if he is still around?
According to Blumenau, the last time he saw Fong was in court, and he "was in jail for another crime." We searched public records, and found that Fong served time in prison for embezzlement, which would verify the alleged dubious dealings seen by the poster on Ferrari Chat.
Blumenau told us, Fong was "car rich and cash poor" and also said there is "hearsay that two other cars were involved in the deal" along with 330 LMB #4619.
But it doesn't appear this was Fong's car to sell. The original Georgia title, which was provided to Jalopnik by Mr. Blumenau, shows he purchased the car in 1974 and had the title issued in 1975. The bank that loaned him the money for the car no longer exists.
However, the title means nothing when there is no actual car. Once it left Don Fong, Blumenau says that the 330 then was sent around the globe because of the alleged fraudulent sale by Stephen Brusini, who Blumenau says helped Fong steal the car.
The 330 went to new homes in Chicago, Germany, and the Netherlands, even selling at auction in 1989 for $4.7 million. When it returned to America, it was seen infrequently, occasionally appearing at car shows like Pebble Beach. The car took up residence at the Behring Museum (later renamed the Blackhawk Museum) in Danville, CA in 1994, and at some point in the '90s it was sold to Kun-Hee Lee, Samsung's Chairman.
While the car was bouncing around the country, Blumenau says he tried a number of angles to get the car back. Blumenau involved the FBI in the case and they did confirm to Jalopnik that there is a case file for the car (the FBI told us they "don't confirm or deny an investigation unless they charge someone"). Likewise, DeKalb County also confirmed that the case is still "active," although there hasn't been actual "activity" of late. The case is actually now civil instead of criminal, because the statutes on the criminal charges have expired.
Blumenau told us that when he was digging and searching, subsequent owner Joe Marchetti "threatened him and his family" for being nosy about the car. "If the car wasn't stolen, there is no reason for him to threaten."
Blumenau directed us to speak to the Blackhawk Museum, as he claims they sold the stolen car to Kun-Hee Lee. The Blackhawk Museum is an institution that displays cars from all over the world on a rotation. The car is listed as being at the Blackhawk Museum in Ferrari Registries, but never says that Blackhawk actually owned the car, just that it was displayed there.
We spoke to Blackhawk's owner, Don Williams, who immediately said "I never owned the car, it's a scam and I don't want to get involved." The "It" he refers to appears to be Blumenau's search, but Williams was unwilling to go on the record discussing the car.
Blumenau told us that "Blackhawk are the experts, and they certainly wouldn't want their name to be tarnished by being involved with a stolen car."
This is where Samsung's Chairman comes into the picture. In the 1990s, Kun-Hee Lee purchased the car as an investment, but appears to have kept it in the states. A number of Asian investors do this to avoid import tariffs and other taxes that would be applied to the cars if transferred to their homes. It was apparently easier to keep the car in America and let the value skyrocket.
The car, some assume, has now finally been transferred to South Korea.
Lee has a bit of a checkered past himself. In 2008, he was sentenced to a suspended three year prison term for allegedly bribing influential figures around South Korea. In fact, so influential and important is Lee that he ended up being pardoned by the South Korean government for any wrongdoing.
Of course, there is no evidence that Lee was involved with the stealing of the car. Given the large gap in time and numerous owners it's likely Lee has no idea of the car's checkered past.
However, there are also some questions about Blumenau. In 1977, Blumenau was banned from working with the New York Stock Exchange. According to a document from the NYSE, Blumenau was discharged from an organization in 1975 and started working at another firm. After two years of requesting documents as to why he was removed from his post at Bache & Co and no response, the NYSE barred him from employment with any member firm until the documentation was provided. Blumenau says that he "can't remember what it was about, it was some sort of administrative thing. They were asking and I said 'screw it.' There wasn't any point defending my position. I have no idea what generated that."
Blumenau has made attempts to repossess the car, he says the most recent was last spring. But when they got to Blackhawk to get the car back, it was gone from the exhibit, and Blumenau says it was replaced by something else. The only thing remaining of the 330 was the plaque.
Even with all the time that has passed, Blumenau provided us with a new title from the state of Florida after he moved there as well as a court order to have the car returned. We've confirmed with the court that the order is valid.
Obviously, the resources to get a car like this back are not cheap. Lawyers, law enforcement, and timing means that there are few chances to get everyone in the right place. And Blumenau says that every time they got close, "someone would tip off the owners and the car would disappear."
While Blumenau told us that even Interpol is involved, it is going to be very tough to get a car back from what is one of the richest men in the world and one of the most powerful men in all of South Korea.
We have reached out to Samsung and they say it's been forwarded to the "appropriate party" who will contact us soon, though we haven't heard back as of publication time.
Photo Credits: Ed Niles, Document Credits: Ivars Blumenau