The Tail of the Rabbit

A tail of Mary’s first car in Florida from 1988/89.

Mary began shopping for a car not long after she moved to Daytona.  It didn’t take long for her to find a deal on a used VW Rabbit that was in decent shape and fit our budget.  She bought it and drove it home to our apartment on Butler Blvd, beachside in Daytona.  This Rabbit was light blue with three wide blue stripes down the side that were all a slightly different shade of blue.  We’ve never seen another Rabbit with the same stripes.  This feature will be important later in the story.  Also important is that the windows were tinted dark.  Very dark.  So there’s Mary’s Rabbit, parked on the side of the road, with a temporary license plate taped in the back window.  The dark tinting made the plate hard to see.  Since Mary was working only two blocks from the apartment, she didn’t have it insured and wasn’t driving it.

One fateful day, Pete comes home from school in the afternoon to find the car gone.  He thought it was unusual that Mary would have driven the car since it wasn’t insured and it wasn’t raining.  He waits for Mary to come home to see what’s going on.  Mary comes home a few hours later and asks Pete “What did you do with my car?”  Uh-oh…  Someone stole her car.  We called the Police, filled out the report, and never expected to see the Rabbit again.

Fast forward a few months.  Mary and Pete just finished their laundry and are waiting at a traffic light where Mason Ave approaches the Halifax River and crosses over to become Seabreeze Blvd.  A light blue Rabbit with three wide stripes zips by headed for the beach!  We look at each other in disbelief and both yell “That’s the Rabbit!”  Our light turns green and the pursuit is on.  Well, it’s a slow speed pursuit and we just tail the car from a good distance.  We head north on A1A and it soon pulls in to the parking lot at Steak and Ale.  We pass by as they park then we circle back for a closer look.

Upon closer inspection, the car is definitely Mary’s.  It has the distinctive dent on top of the left front fender and X scratched in the paint on the driver’s door.  Mary calls the police to report that we found our stolen car.  An officer shows up very soon and we explain the situation.  He calls in for backup and gets the Watch Supervisor to show up, too.  After all, we’re dealing with a dangerous car thief!  They were justifiably concerned because there was a big Rambo knife sitting on the dash.  Pete takes off back to the apartment to get the paperwork proving the car is ours while Mary hangs out on the stakeout.

So there are Mary and Pete, sitting in the back of an Ormond Beach patrol car, chatting with an officer about our stakeout.  The Watch Supervisor made a walk-through of the restaurant to look for the car thief based on our description.  That didn’t help any.  We helped prove that people’s observations about what they saw are usually incomplete or just wrong.  We did get the car right, though!

Pretty soon, a couple comes out of the restaurant and gets in the Rabbit.  They are immediately swarmed by patrol cars and officers, pulled out of the car and quickly put in handcuffs.  The officers soon determine the couple isn’t a threat and take off the handcuffs.  Turns out the guy bought the car from a dealership in Deland, about 30 miles away.  The bad thing was his date was asthmatic and didn’t enjoy the situation very much.  After sorting through the paperwork, the officers determined that Mary could take the car home since she’s the original owner.  That left the poor guy and his date stranded in Daytona.  We gave them a ride home to Deland because we felt bad about what happened to them.  Nearly being arrested and having your car taken away doesn’t make for a good evening.

The following day, Mary sets out to make the car less appealing to thieves.  We pull the battery, seats, door panels, carpeting, etc.  We pretty much stripped out the interior.  Mary wanted to overhaul the interior anyways.  She soon was working on custom door panels that looked really cool.  We weren’t too clever and put all the nuts, bolts, and fasteners in one coffee can.  That would normally be a problem but it was soon solved for us.

A couple weeks after getting the car back, Pete notices a wrecker parked out front and a couple guys looking at Mary’s Rabbit.  We go out and talk to them.  They are from the dealership in Deland that sold the car to the guy that was nearly arrested.  You can imagine they were in some hot water for selling a stolen car and, as it turns out, for stealing it in the first place.  They had taken a different blue Rabbit (not running and sight unseen) as a trade-in from a lady in our neighborhood.  They sent an 18-year old kid to get it with the wrecker.  He saw our Rabbit, didn’t see the temporary licenses plate, the key from her car happened to fit ours, so he hauled it off.  The dealership then failed to check the VIN number when they processed and sold it.  Whoops.

Now they needed our help to get out of trouble.  They wanted Mary’s Rabbit to give back to the other guy.  We told them no, we wanted to keep it.  They kept offering more money and we kept saying no.  I think we got up to $1500 for a car that Mary paid $400 for.  We liked the Rabbit and didn’t want to deal with shopping for another car.  They came up with another idea.  They had a friend with a car lot in Daytona.  They would take us there to look at his cars.  If we saw something we liked, they would exchange it for the Rabbit.  We said OK, we’ll look. The only thing we liked was a brown Toyota Celica hatchback.  It looked good, drove fine, but the tires were nearly worn out.  We told them the Celica would be acceptable, but they would have to put new tires on it.  They had little choice and agreed to the deal.  We later found out the price on the Celica was $2200!  Not a bad trade for a $400 Rabbit.  We drove the Celica home followed by the wrecker.  They hooked up to the Rabbit and tossed in all the loose interior parts.  They said not to worry, the kid that took the car the first time would have the pleasure of reassembling everything.

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