Kansas City, MO (KCTV) — A metro area man’s dream come true has turned into a nightmare. The Dream – 1959, red and white, hard-top convertible Corvette. Nightmare – The dream car is sitting in a confiscated lot in Topeka, waiting to be destroyed.
He saw his dream car for the first time when he was a teenager.
“I fell in love with it,” Rich Martinez said. “I said, this is what I want to get when I’m retiring! So I spent my whole life trying to earn it.”
After decades of searching, Martinez found the perfect restored Corvette at a dealership in suburban Chicago. He used to drive all night to get there, and he was already at the dealership before it opened for business that day. He loaded it onto a trailer, and took it to Olathe’s house.
Martinez had plans for the car.
“Every day, back in the driveway, wash it, put it back in the garage,” Martinez said. “And on Saturdays, go to my favorite hamburger joint, get a hamburger, take a short ride. Come home.”
But the dream lasted until Martinez tried to register the car in Kansas. The VIN number, or rather how the VIN plate was placed, was an issue.
“What happened, they removed it to restore it,” Martinez said. “When they put it back, they used modern bit rivets instead of the old ones. You can buy old rivets to put them back in but they didn’t. They just used modern rivets and put it back.”
Many states are flexible in how the VIN is renumbered after reinstatement. The car was licensed and registered in another state. But Kansas is not so resilient. The VIN number on the engine was of no help. It was no match as the original engine of the 62 year old car had been replaced.
So even though Martinez has the paperwork from the dealership, Kansas considers the car banned.
“He came out and told me he was going to confiscate the car,” Martinez remembered. “I was devastated.”
The Corvette is now in refinement. It was confiscated four years ago, and was left outside for some time at the time—not the pampering in the garage that Martinez had prepared for it. It is now inside, being stored along with hundreds of other cars and boats that have been confiscated.
Martinez tried to resolve the issues by going to court, but to no avail. Obviously, Kansas law does not provide for the return of property confiscated by the authorities. Even though no crime was committed and the car was never stolen.
“Sometimes I get angry,” Martinez said. He tells neither to the authorities, nor to the judge or prosecutor—but he is furious about the law.
Over the years of neglect, the car has suffered considerable damage. An expert who looked at the car estimated the damage at $28,000-$38,000. Martinez has spent about $30,000 in legal fees. There seems to be no easy solution.
A hearing was held in July, but the Johnson County judge presiding over the case asked the Kansas State Attorney General to weigh in before issuing his decision. The Kansas Justice Institute has filed its own brief in the case, arguing that the government should not be allowed to destroy Martinez’s car, which it did not.
But, weeks after the hearing, the attorney general decided he would not be involved in the case, leaving Martinez to wait for the nightmare to end.
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