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Rare Ferrari found buried in backyard has remarkable history

It's a mystery with a lot of mileage.
  • Ferrari Dino discovered buried in a backyard
  • It had lain hidden for four years
  • Thankfully the story had an unexpected happy ending

Published on Jan 10, 2024 at 6:03PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Jan 11, 2024 at 1:43PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Alessandro Renesis
Rare Ferrari found buried in backyard has remarkable history

In a story that should be made into a Hollywood blockbuster – the mystery of a Ferrari Dino discovered buried in a backyard seems farfetched.

But it turns out that the tale of buried treasure is fact rather than automotive fiction – and it has a surprise happy ending.

Considered one of the Prancing Horse’s greats, the 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS  is a true classic.

READ MORE! Mind-boggling car graveyard hidden behind this home includes a $300k Porsche Speedster

It wasn’t popular when it was first launched in 1967.

It was sold under the Dino brand – essentially a racing sub-division of Ferrari – and available in three different variants: the 206 GT, 246 GT and GTS.

The GTS was the only open-top model available.

All three cars were powered by a V6, unusual for Ferrari, but because the car was so light (about 1,000 kg) it was agile and fun to drive.

The Ferrari Dino in question was bought in 1974 in California by a plumber for his wife for $22,500.

However the couple didn’t get to enjoy their new addition.

While out celebrating their wedding anniversary at a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard – the car was apparently stolen.

It was thought the Ferrari Dino was gone for good until four years later.

Dennis Carroll and Joe Sabas, a couple of L.A. police detectives, received a tip-off from an anonymous informer.

According to the tip, the sports car had been buried in the backyard of a quiet neighborhood.

Why? An alleged insurance scam.

With the knowledge that the whistle-blower was partial to recreational drugs – the detectives were ready to shrug off his far-fetched fable.

However they still decided to give the property the once-over – just in case.

Prodding the yard with sticks, Carroll is said to have heard an unmistakable metallic clunk.

Shortly after ordering a digger to come and do its thing, a bedraggled two-seater sports car was uncovered.

And it’s not the only car found abandoned with this Audi R8 left rotting for 5 years that got a heroic restoration and this F1 car graveyard.

The Ferrari dino was found topped with rugs and stuffed with towels to absorb moisture.

It was fortunate for the detectives that the state been suffering a drought for those four years it had lain hidden.

Unbelievably neither the car’s owner not the thieves were ever caught.

The detectives blamed their failure on a lack of evidence but how the car ended up there reminds a mystery – much like this BMW M3 CSL that was abandoned in a London garage for a decade.

When the Ferrari Dino was put up for auction, its condition meant it sold for a mere $9,000.

Sold to realtor and car enthusiast, Brad Howard, he knew what he was doing.

He took the recovered relic it to LA Italian sports car specialist, Giuseppe Cappalonga.

As it was uncovered and dragged from its grave, the engine hood, windscreen and roof had been damaged.

“It looked like it had chickenpox,” said Cappalonga.

“The paintwork may have been heavily pitted with rust, but it had also done a good job of devouring the wheels and the camshaft cover.”

Howard was keen that the dark, metallic green paint formula used for the re-spray should come from the Ferrari factory to ensure that his investment to bring it back to life paid off.

The repaint alone took around four weeks as, in the absence of filler, the damaged bodywork had to be heat treated.

There was a notable hole where the ‘Dino’ name once sat.

This was done by the thieves either as a trophy or to delay the car being identified.

But the refurb was more than skin deep and the interior also got a much-needed makeover.

The seats were re-foamed and Howard splashed out on Campagnolo wheels that had been designed for this particular model.

Under the hood, Cappalonga stripped out the engine and replaced the water pump as well as three pistons and rings.

Fortunately the only obvious work needed on the 2.0 liter V6 was an oil change.

In a tongue-in-cheek final touch, Howard decided to replace the original ‘832LJQ’ license plates.

Instead he affixed plates that seemed far more apt: ‘DUG UP’.

As of 2021 the car was still in working order and being shown off at classic car shows.

And, with models costing as much as $635,000 – it seems like Howard struck gold on his $9,000 investment.

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