CC Story: A Long Story About a Long Search For a Long-Lost Car

Rob was a German car aficionado. He loved all things Volkswagen/Porsche/Audi. In high school he had a VW-based Myers Manx.

Rob went to college in Atlanta, and after graduation he got his first real job there. One of the first things he did was buy a brand-new VW Corrado. Rob’s plan was to eventually work his way up to a Porsche. Like many VW enthusiasts, he had always loved Porsches and told friends that one day he would own one.

In addition to his day job, he was also working nights as a waiter. All his cash tips went straight into his “Porsche Fund”. After a lengthy time saving, his dream finally came true. He traded his Corrado for a used 1988 Turbo 944. It was a beautiful black on black car. A gorgeous, meticulously maintained, low-mileage example.

The n/a 944s weren’t quick, but the Turbo version was a significant upgrade. Quite fast in its day, and about 10 years out it was still not too shabby. He took me around in it both times I visited him in Atlanta. He loved that car and doted on it endlessly. He regularly spent hours detailing it and had it serviced “by the book”. He loved that black Turbo 944.

But his girl was jealous. Rob was dating a waitress at the same restaurant. He was head-over-heels in love with her. He talked about her constantly. They made a lot of future plans together. He gave her his grandmother’s diamond engagement ring. Guess what she gave him? She gave him the “Either me or the car” speech. She wanted to use the proceeds of the sale of the Porsche to use as a down payment on their first house. Naturally, rob wanted the Porsche, the girl, and an apartment (in that order – I believe).

She nagged him for months. She even found a buyer for the Porsche, a regular at the restaurant. At this point they were fighting more and more often. She broke off the engagement at least twice during this time. Even gave his ring back.

Rob loved this girl, and thought that if the Porsche were gone, everything would get better. Rob had a plan to bring the girl and the car back together. He very reluctantly sold it to this couple that came into the restaurant every week. The deal included a right of first refusal. Rob made it clear that he was to be given the chance to buy the car back before the guy ever tried to sell it to anyone else. Rob was confident he would have the car back soon enough.

The funny thing was that with the car gone, the relationship fizzled anyway. Selling the car didn’t fix their problems. Rob had quit waiting tables by this time, but kept the phone number and address of the guy who bought the Porsche.

When it became clear they were never getting back together, Rob decided he wanted to get his 944 back. He called the owner, but the phone had been disconnected (this was the era before cellphones). So Rob drove out to their house in Marietta, but it was empty! The couple did not live there anymore. Neighbors said they moved somewhere in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.

Rob was a man on a mission. The new owner had a fairly-common name so he began calling everyone with that name in the Knoxville phone book. The good news was that after many calls, he finally found his guy! The bad news was the Porsche was gone. The man apologized profusely, saying he sold it to a neighbor right before they moved. He didn’t have Rob’s contact information, or forgot about the promise (or both).

Rob peppered him with questions about this new owner: Name? Address? Phone number? The seller couldn’t remember anything, but said it was a neighbor on the same street. He said the guy lived a few houses away. This guy (the current owner) once made a comment about the car while out walking his dog, and that conversation eventually led to the deal.

Rob was determined. He wanted “his” car. He drove out to Marietta and began searching. He looked in every driveway. He peeked in garages. He got a few people to answer their doors. Some were suspicious, and none knew of a black Porsche. Some did not even know what a Porsche was. One person got spooked and law enforcement was called. A Marietta Police officer made it clear that if he found him on Hickory Drive again, he would be arrested.

After Rob told me all this, I suggested finding another 944. But Rob was adamant, it had to be THAT car, any other one would not do. I couldn’t understand his fixation with that particular example. Surely there are other black 944 Turbos in the world. I let it go, I figured Rob did too.

The story doesn’t end there.

Last year, Rob was moving to a new house. There were boxes piled everywhere. The bottom fell out of one box marked “attic” and a bunch of papers hit the floor. One old file folder was marked “Porsche”. There were some dusty papers with some maintenance records too. Rob stopped and looked through everything, getting a little nostalgic. He hadn’t thought about the car for a long time. He noticed that on one receipt for tires the car’s VIN number was recorded at the top of the form. Rob had an idea. He Googled the VIN number. A picture of his car popped up! It was for sale on a used car lot in Ft. Wayne, Indiana! He was stunned! He stared at the photo on the screen – there was his car, the object of his old search.

Rob immediately called this used car lot, a small independent place on the west side of the town. No one answered. After three or four calls throughout the day, someone finally answered. It was a Salesman who knew nothing about any Porsche. They had no Porsches for sale. Undeterred, Rob called back the next day. This time he spoke to the owner, and he remembered, “Yes, we sold a black Porsche almost two years ago!”

The used car pro offered to find Rob a similar car. But Rob wanted that EXACT car. He asked for the information about the current owner and the car-lot guy cut him off. “I can’t give you any personal information.” He said.

Rob was deflated and discouraged as quickly as he was excited when he found the VIN. For a couple days he replayed the conversation with the used car lot owner in his head. As he was hanging up the guy said: “I still see it around town sometimes.”

Rob called the used car lot again. He offered him $100 if he could get the current owner to call him in Atlanta. Two days later, Rob’s phone rings. The caller ID shows an Indiana number. Rob smiles as he answers.

It is the current owner. The car is for sale and is now ridiculously overpriced. No matter, Rob arranges to come have a look. Rob books a flight – a round trip flight. He takes very little cash with him.

When Rob reaches the new owner’s house he immediately hops in the Porsche. Rob asks the seller to go fetch the title, the seller happily obliges. While out-of-sight, he works quickly. He unscrews shifter knob and pops off its leather boot. He slides his grandmother’s engagement ring off the shaft, and has everything put back together before the owner returns.

He tells the seller he has changed his mind, and doesn’t want the car. He leaves quickly.

That ring has some monetary value, but even more sentimental value. Oh, and Rob has a new fiancée back in Atlanta.