In October of 1974, a plumber in Alhambra, California named Rosendo Cruz purchased a brand new Ferrari Dino 246 GTS. It was meant to be a gift for his wife.
He purchased the car from Hollywood Sports Car. This was a Ferrari dealership in Los Angeles that had previously catered to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. This only added to the esteem of the vehicle.
The buying price was $22,500 (about $140,471 today). It included optional Campagnolo wheels and Daytona seats, demonstrating Cruz spared no expense for his gift.
Cruz’s Stolen Ferrari
Just two months after purchasing the car though, it would disappear. His wife had only driven the car for 500 miles.
On December 7, the couple went out for dinner on Wilshire Boulevard. When they arrived, Cruz claimed he was suspicious of the valet and decided to park his car a few blocks from the restaurant.
Once the couple was done with dinner, they returned to find that their car was missing. Cruz filed a police report to find the missing vehicle and filed an insurance claim.
The company paid out the exact amount that Cruz had paid for the car. It was like they never owned it. The police could not find any leads on the case and it eventually went cold with the cops ruling it a “righteous theft.”
Four years later the Ferrari would reemerge in the least likely of places: buried just beneath the grass in someone’s front yard.
In 1978, a group of kids were playing in the front yard of a house in southern Los Angeles, digging in the mud. As they shoveled away the mud, they suddenly struck metal.
The kids waved down a sheriff in the area who came to investigate what could have been buried in the yard. When it became clear that what the children had struck was the roof of a car, a full investigation began.
Police were called to the scene. Detectives Joe Sabas and Dennis “Lenny” Carroll began digging up the yard with a small team of men, while LA Times reporter Priscilla Painton documented the unearthing of the vehicle.
Painton’s article in the LA Times, published February 8, 1978, is the most comprehensive primary source on the unveiling of the car. However, She misidentified Carrol as “Lenny” in the article, which granted him a new nickname around the precinct.
A Dino with No Bones
When the crew had finished digging up the car, they were astounded. Before them was the 1974 Ferrari Dino. After running the serial number and the plates, it was confirmed to be the car that had gone missing four years before.
Reports vary on the condition of the car as it was dug up. Some claim it was rusted out and pockmarked from the water and dirt, but most records claim that the car was in surprisingly good condition for a car that had been buried.
Although no one knew who had buried the car, or why, it seemed evident they had intended to return for it since they did their best to preserve it. It was covered in plastic sheets and had towels shoved in the exhaust in an attempt to keep the elements out of the more sensitive parts of the car.
Renovating the Dino
Since the insurance was already paid out to the previous owner, the car deed defaulted to Farmers Insurance. The company tried to sell the car with little luck. Even when they set up a deal with businessman Ara Manoogian, he was hesitant to follow through.
Luckily, his real estate agent Brad Howard overheard Manoogian talking to a mechanic about repairing the vehicle. He offered to buy it if he could get it to run.
Howard hired Ferrari mechanic Giuseppe Cappalonga to repair the car. The windshield had been purposefully cracked by the thieves, and the engine had taken serious damage while buried and in the process of being removed from the hole.
But other restoration and repairs were minor. The pair was able to easily restore the car to its former glory.
Howard attributes the good condition of the car to the drought in the mid-70s, which kept the dirt mostly dry for the time it was underground. Howard now drives the fully restored Dino around as his daily car with the plate DUG UP as a memorial to its past,
The Insurance Fraud Plot
Journalists later uncovered in 2012 that the car was buried as the result of an insurance fraud scheme. Although Cruz had bought the car for his wife, he must have quickly regretted the decision and set up the plan.
He had hired two thieves to steal the car, with whom he would split the insurance check. The plan was for the thieves to take the car, hide it until the check arrived, and then send the car to a chop shop to be dismantled and sold.
However, it seems the thieves decided they wanted another payday and tried to preserve the car to sell for themselves, making twice as much. But, in a strange twist of fate, it seems they forgot where they buried it.
No one around the house at the time noticed the buried car. The thieves never came back for it, so it merely became an odd case of fraud with a leftover Ferrari. It was never determined who stole the car or how they buried it in the first place.
Gorgon, Elena. “1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS Found Buried in a Garden Remains Most Famous Dino.” Auto Evolution, March 1, 2021. https://www.autoevolution.com/news/1974-ferrari-dino-246-gts-found-buried-in-a-garden-remains-most-famous-dino-156970.html.
Spinelli, Mark. “The True Story Of How A Ferrari Ended Up Buried In Someone’s Yard.” Jalopnik, January 11, 2012. https://jalopnik.com/the-true-story-of-how-a-ferrari-ended-up-buried-in-some-5872514.
Spinelli, Mark. “We Solve The Mystery Of How A Ferrari Ended Up Buried In Someone’s Yard.” Jalopnik, August 9, 2012. https://jalopnik.com/we-solve-the-mystery-of-how-a-ferrari-ended-up-buried-i-5933077.