When a Far North man had his car - a pristine 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Classic - stolen last month, he thought he’d never see the vintage car again, or if he did, it would be a mangled wreck.

But Winston Matthews’ $80,000 classic car, stolen from his Far North property, has been returned after suspicious ‘hand signals’ from the alleged thief were reported to police and a quick follow-up from officers on duty.

The vintage Chevy has now been returned to the museum owner thanks to the actions of a quick-thinking officer from the team at Mangōnui Police Station.

“[The] police need recognition for getting my car back so quickly,” Matthews said.

“I think police get a hard rap, but they are doing a doing a great job up here.”

He has owned the car for 30 years and lovingly restored it to mint condition. He uses it regularly and is a frequent on classic car runs around the country. But Matthews was away in Tauranga when the car was taken from the Matthews Vintage Collection Museum in Taipa on September 19.

His nephew, who was looking after the property, let him know of the theft.

“A hell of a lot of things went through my mind,” Matthews said.

“I thought I’d never see it again, and if I did, I wondered what condition it might be in. I thought it would be bashed and bumped.”

Constable John Walters said a member of the public made a traffic complaint about the way the vehicle was being driven and “hand signals” the driver was doing out the window while driving on Inland Rd on Karikari Peninsula.

The team from Mangōnui Station - Walters, Acting Sergeant Dean Rowlands and Constable Dave Reynolds - went to the coastal location and found the vehicle at a Whatuwhiwhi house. They arrested a local man who will now appear in Kaitāia District Court on a charge of burglary.

The vehicle was fingerprinted by scene-of-crime officer Constable Tim Murdock before being returned to the museum.

“By this time, I was just driving north and was on the Bombay Hills when I got the good news,” Matthews said.

After inspecting the vehicle, he said there was only a small scratch on the passenger’s door, which may have been there before the vehicle was stolen.

The following day, he made a trip to the Mangōnui Police Station to “congratulate them on a great job” in recovering his prize car so quickly.

2023-10-03T00:36:45Z dg43tfdfdgfd