Would you be surprised if I told you there was a 1974 Ferrari buried in your backyard? I’m guessing you would simply ignore the possibility.
There was a day in early 1978 when news broke of a Ferrari Dino 246 GTS found buried in a suburban Los Angeles backyard.
The story has been unfolding for the last 40 years and has only recently reached a conclusion of sorts.
A Los Angeles plumber, Rosendo Cruz, purchased the Ferrari Dino in October 1974 as a gift to his wife.
Two months later, during a night out on the town Cruz reported the car as stolen while he had dinner with his wife.
The Missing Ferrari Dino
The Los Angeles Police Department recorded the vehicle as missing, and the case remained open. Farmer’s insurance company paid the claim to Cruz, and the supercar remained missing.
Four years later, in 1978, investigators Joe Sabas and Lenny Carroll showed up at a residential home address in West Athens, Los Angeles. 1137 W. 119th Street, to be exact.
Two sheriff’s detectives told reporters a few children were playing in a yard when they reported something odd beneath the surface.
They felt something similar to a roof of a car. It turned out to be a buried Dino.
Most people now realize no kids were digging in the dirt, but most likely, a tip the detectives received led them to the West Athens home.
The Ferrari Big Dig
An excavation crew with a few shovels and a skip loader began to uncover the mystery treasure. It turned out to be the missing 1974 Ferrari from Rosendo Cruz.
The tenants at the house had no indication they had a Ferrari in their backyard. They had only been living there for a few months.
While uncovering the car, detectives noticed towels protecting the exhaust pipes and windows.
Ferrari Dino 246 GTS Found Buried
It was clear whoever buried the vehicle wanted to extract it from its hole at some point, hoping the car would be preserved.
Since it was wrapped in plastic so, other than a small hole in the right taillight, the car was undamaged.
Later it was concluded that the original theft was an insurance scam by Cruz, who paid two men to steal the car that night.
The Original Ferrari Heist Secret Plan
The original plan by Rosendo Cruz of Alhambra was to hire thieves to steal the car so he could split the $22,500 of insurance money with them.
After they were reimbursed for the Ferrari Dino cost, the thieves were supposed to dig up the car and bring it to a chop shop to be disassembled.
As the story goes, the supposed thieves forgot where they buried the car.
The Uncovered Ferrari Dino
News of the uncovered Ferrari spread from coast to coast in one of the most bizarre theft cover-ups of its day. Here’s the original story from the Los Angeles Times newspaper, which ran on February 7th, 1978.
The uncovered Ferrari was in rough condition after four years underground. The insurance company attempted to auction the car and eventually sold the car for somewhere around $6,000.
A local mechanic purchased the car with a hunch that he would be able to resurrect the engine and return the car to the road.
His thinking was that when the Ferrari was underground, there was very little rainfall in the Los Angeles area those years.
Minimal damage was done to the engine because of the dry conditions.
Recently the car has turned up as wholly restored and in driving condition. It’s been featured at car shows and has appropriately been given the “DUG UP” vanity license plate.
Who Purchased the Dug-Up Ferrari Dino?
The dug-up uncovered Ferrari Dino 246 GTS was purchased by Brad Howard.
Not only was Howard able to restore the car and get it running again in good condition, but the car has been his daily driver for over four decades.
After the insurance fraud went bad, Howard pounced on the deal, paying only between $5,000 and $9,000 for the GTS Ferrari at an auction just weeks after the car was dug up.
Howard had the car professionally restored by Ferrari expert Giuseppe Cappalonga, and today, Ferrari enthusiasts recognize the car as possibly the most famous Dinos of all time.
What Happened to Rosendo Cruz?
It’s hard to say what happened to Mr. Rosendo Cruz, the mastermind behind the Dino plot.
The current punishment for insurance fraud carries a maximum fine of five thousand dollars and five years in jail.
I haven’t found any indication that Rosendo served jail time for the Dino scheme, but I’m sure he paid a stiff penalty.