CLEARLAKE OAKS (CBS SF) – A Lake County man got a pair of surprises last month when his long-lost classic car was not only returned to him, but in much better condition than when he’d last seen it.

As the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports, Ian “Skip” Wilson got a call about three weeks ago from the California Highway Patrol saying they had found his 1957 Chevy Bel Air in a storage container awaiting shipment to Australia. The retired mechanic hadn’t seen the car since it was stolen in 1984.

CHP told Wilson, who lives in Clearlake Oaks, that the DMV had records of four owners since it was taken from him. It wasn’t clear why the DMV allowed the transfer of a vehicle that was reported stolen.

Wilson says he suspects the person who rebuilt the car had no idea it was hot, and feels for both them and the perspective buyer.

The rightful owner and car were reunited Monday.

“There’s all kinds of chrome added under the hood,” Wilson told the paper. He noted that the tires looked like they hadn’t even gone once around the block.

Wilson bought the car in 1975 for $375. Since then the value has soared faster than Bay Area real estate. According to the classic car value site Hagerty, the vehicle is likely worth well over $40,000.

Check out more photos of the customized ’57 Bel Air from the Press Democrat.

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