Last week, I wrote about somebody's beloved El Camino being stolen, and, as always, I called upon the Jalopnik community to help find it. Now I'm happy to say that half-truck, half-car centaur is back home where it belongs.
As many people speculated, the well-known GM "EZ-Steal" steering column was a factor in the theft.
While the actions that led to the car's recovery weren't quite as dramatic as the recovery of the Delorean or even my Beetle, the publicity the car got and the pictures of it being splashed all over the web certainly helped. Here's what the owner had to say about getting his baby back:
After a depressing day of driving around, looking for the El Camino in all the places you'd think it would be (industrial/warehousing districts, ends of alleys, crapy neighborhoods), I called the search quits.
My buddy Mark swung by and we went out for pizza and beers, he paid for it all feeling so bad about the car theft. Sympathy beer and food, that's pretty nice! I guess I owe him some pizza and beer now, a debt I will gladly repay.
I got a text from Adam during dinner, but it's a picture text and my phone is old and slow and the reception is bad at the pizza place so I just think I'll see it on the walk back home. Enter house, get ready to go across town to play some music with friends, check messages.
This is turning out to be the long story.
Check text from Adam, words come up first, "Is this your car?" then up flashes a pic of the Elky in the dark, taillights and California Sheriffs Association sticker reflecting brightly. So first I think, oh this is an old picture from some camping trip or house party we were at, he's making sure he's got the right image in his mind when he goes out looking for it.
But wait a second, hold on, he's on Facebook! He should have been notified about the photo album of the El camino I posted! (As well as the pictures of food that I've just started to eat, resets of self-realization goals, somewhat new-agey quotations falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin/Thomas Jefferson, and accidental likings of some consumer product or service.) He doesn't need to be reminded of… and
That's when I realized he had found my car.
On my phone, dialing someone who sends you a message is pretty easy, you just touch their avatar in the face and then press another button. It took a few minutes to figure out how to use my phone, like it was the very first time or something.
I get Adam on the phone, and manage to get a few hysterical half-questions, squawks and grunts out before he calmly says "it's sitting on the street a block away from my house," in a Very Nice Neighborhood in Eagle Rock, complete with happy walking/biking neighbors who smile and say such outlandish, old-fashioned things like "Good Morning," and "Hello."
I manage to get the rough location scribbled down, race downstairs to jump in the wagon, and proceed to drive way too fast to the 2500 block of Las Flores Drive between College View and Live Oak View. The BMW shines in this moment that I need her, reminds me of the brilliant mistake of buying a german car.
When I filed the initial police report at the northeast station, the strikingly attractive large blond police woman warned me that if I found the car to MAKE SURE I CALLED THEM BEFORE DRIVING IT. If you get pulled over driving a car reported stolen, they order you out at gunpoint, whole face-down thing, foot on the neck, super embarrassing. Called them while driving over, they'd send a unit over right away.
On the way over, Adam's wife Katie calls: She is sitting in her Honda Odessy (as incognito in this neighborhood as you can get), keeping watch on it. HOW AWESOME IS SHE?
Arriving I meet Katie, hug, roughly shove her aside and run up to the Elky. Everything seems to be in place! Nothing, not even the $25 pile of quarters, was taken from the interior, but the steering column is smashed, broken chunks of pot metal on the floor mat. This is how to steal these older GM cars, and if I remember correctly, there is a scene in one of the Terminator movies where the adult John Connor smashes open the steering column to get around the ignition-steering interlock.
Los Angeles police show up soon after, two very nice cops. One very young and smiley, wanted to talk about muscle cars and the numbers-matching '69 Chevelle he was restoring. Other officer is older, maybe 45, serious and standing ramrod straight.
Turns out this very nice street in this very nice neighborhood is something of a purgatory for stolen vehicles. The police theorize that the stolen vehicles are dumped here for a few reasons: One, let the "heat" of the just-committed crime cool off for bit in a quiet, "safe" neighborhood. Two, wait and see if anyone comes to get it since it might have one of those satellite locators in it. Three, the f@ckers live somewhere close by.
They recovered a stolen Ram 3500 pickup towing a toy hauler with a '57 Bel Air convertible inside on the same spot as my truck. Worth over $100,000, they said, super rare, had twin antennas and fuel injection and a kleenex dispenser, or something like that.
The serious one interrupts our lingo-laced hot rod shop talk with "Hey there partner, we have a code 2 meeting with the sergeants, hate to break it up." Serious Officer warns me again about the possibility of gun-point car extraction; be careful, it might take a little bit for the new information to propagate through the system. We all laugh.
I call AAA roadside assistance, sit for an hour, thinking. Man, I used to call them all the time, getting cars towed here and there. That was when I was much more financially pinched, but still, cars just don't break down like old sixties and seventies cars used to.
Tow truck driver comes, he starts to poke at it, says you want to try driving it home? We try to start it, it starts, I drive it home. Junior was the driver's name, said there's a guy who sits outside the Pick-Your-Part on Penrose Street up in Sun Valley, just sells rebuilt or nice used steering columns, probably get me a nice one in the same blue from some seventies/eighties G-body for $125 or so.
I get home, it's midnight. I'm suddenly really tired.
That's the story. Thank you again for everyone keeping an eye out or just saying you felt bad for me, that sympathy sure is sweet, ha!
Extra special thanks to Adam and Katie for helping me find and protect my sweet Elky!
Once again, thanks so much to everyone who kept their eyes open and put the word out — fundamentally, that's how we can get these cars back to where they belong.