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 Los Angeles Police Department recorded the vehicle as missing, and the case remained open. Farmers insurance company paid the claim to Cruz, and the supercar remained missing.
Four years later, in 1978, investigators 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. 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.
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. It was clear whoever buried the vehicle wanted to extract it from its hole at some point, hoping the car would be preserved. Later it was concluded that the original theft was an insurance scam by Cruz, who paid two men to steal the car that night.
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 during the time 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 “DUG UP” vanity plates.