After 16 1/2 woeful years, Jack Storm was reunited Tuesday with an old love - his little red Corvette convertible.
His own motor has been racing ever since he heard that the flashy little beauty - a 1962 'Vette with a bright red interior and exterior - had been recovered years after it was stolen."I almost fell off my chair," said Storm. "At first, I almost thought it was some sort of joke."
In giving him the good news, Brookfield police detective Tom Vento told him, "No, no, it's for real."
Storm, who owns Brookfield Hills Golf Club and driving ranges in Brookfield and New Berlin, said he got a call two weeks ago from Vento informing him the car had been found. Although he held onto the title until three years ago, Storm had long ago abandoned any hope of being reunited with the Corvette that had been with him since the early 1970s.
"They always say (with stolen vehicles) that if you don't get it back in the first 24 hours, forget it. It's gone," said Storm. "But here the gods of the Police Department find it . . . years later."
For Brookfield police, the case marks the city's oldest unsolved crime. Although the car has been recovered, police are still investigating its whereabouts the past 16-plus years.
Detectives joined Storm, 52, at the city's impound lot Tuesday, where he peeled back a bright blue tarp, unveiling a beat and dusty car that had lost its luster for all but its rightful owner.
"About six days, what do you think? Shine 'er up," said Storm, laughing.
Brookfield detectives reopened the case about two weeks ago after a Raymond man who deals in classic cars reported to the Racine County Sheriff's Department that someone had tried to sell him a Corvette without a title.
Don Valenti, co-owner of Valenti Classics Inc., a classic-car restoration business, obtained the Corvette's vehicle identification number and asked authorities to trace it.
"You don't lose titles to cars like that," Valenti said.
The Racine County Sheriff's Department was able to track the stolen vehicle through a national crime data base.
Despite the car's condition, Valenti said, it is worth $5,000 to $10,000 now. If completely restored, Storm's Corvette could grow in value $30,000 to $40,000.
"That's a good car," Valenti said. "You have to look past its present condition. That's a very desirable car."
Waukesha County Assistant District Attorney Dennis Krueger credited Valenti for his keen eye and honesty.
"Without him," Krueger said, "we probably wouldn't have been able to ever find the vehicle."
Brookfield police recovered the vehicle after executing a search warrant Friday at a garage in Milwaukee, where the Corvette was stored without its door, hood and other smaller parts. Detectives said Tuesday they expected to recover the missing parts.
A Milwaukee man who tried to sell the Corvette to Valenti voluntarily submitted to questioning by police Tuesday and was released. Police said they were still trying to determine how the man got the car and whether he was involved in the theft.
Police do not expect to file any charges in the case because too much time has passed since the original theft, officials said. The car theft case was so old, it had been purged from the Brookfield Police Department's computer system.
Detectives reconstructed the case from microfilm, said Lt. Tom Hudock.
On Oct. 12, 1981, Storm reported the vehicle stolen. He had lent it to a friend to use that night to impress a date. Storm said that the man must have left the car running when he ran upstairs to pick up the woman. When the two got to the street, the Corvette was gone.
Storm had purchased the vehicle for about $1,500 and owned it for eight years.