It was February 1978 and a group of kids were digging in the mud outside a house at 1137 W. 119th St. in the West Athens section of Los Angeles. Just below the surface, they struck something that felt like the roof of a car. They flagged down a sheriff’s cruiser. After assessing the yard, Sergeants Joe Sabas and Dennis Carroll decided that they would need to assemble a team.
Later, Sabas and Carroll returned to the house accompanied by a skip-loader and a crew of diggers, who began removing tons of earth from the scene. In fact, they painstakingly excavated the yard, finally exposing something so magnificent that it would become a permanent part of Los Angeles urban folklore.
What did they find? Nothing less than a 1974 Dino 264 GTS Ferrari – a singularly stylish vehicle then worth some $22,500, or around $110,000 in today’s money. Intent, Carroll peered through the grubby windscreen and saw no bodies or contraband visible. However, the car had been listed as stolen some four years earlier.
The strange discovery immediately caught the eye – and imagination – of local reporters who saw parallels with the eccentric funeral of a certain Sandra West. It seemed that, a year earlier, Ms. West had died from an unintentional pharmaceutical drug overdose in Beverley Hills. And her last wish was to be buried inside a Ferrari next to her late husband.
But what of the buried Dino? Who had owned it, and how had it been stolen? The Los Angeles Times only reported that the car had been procured in October 1974 by an Alhambra, California, plumber called Rosendo Cruz before it was stolen two months later. In fact, it wasn’t until 1986, thanks to some investigative work by Greg Sharp of AutoWeek, that some further details became public record.
According to Sharp, the Dino was picked up by Cruz from Hollywood Sports Cars – the preferred dealership of the rich and famous – as a gift for his wife’s birthday. She drove it just 500 miles before the fateful night of December 7, 1978, which also happened to be the couple’s wedding anniversary.
Sharp wrote that Cruz had apparently been spooked by “the anticipatory gleams in the eyes of the valet parkers” at the Brown Derby eaterie on Wilshire Boulevard. So instead of parking in the restaurant, Cruz had left the Dino on the street. However, when he and his wife returned from their romantic dinner, the car was gone.
|Entrance of the original Brown Derby restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard in Hollywood.|