When Winston Matthews’ $80,000 pristine classic car was stolen from his Far North property he thought if he ever saw it again it would be a mangled wreck.
But hours later, the team from Mangōnui Police Station delivered the 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Classic back home to the Taipa museum owner.
“Police need recognition for getting my car back so quickly," says Winston. "I think Police get a hard wrap, but they are doing a doing a great job up here."
Winston has owned the car for 30 years and lovingly restored it to mint condition. He uses it regularly and is a frequent on classic car runs around the country. Winston was away in Tauranga when the car was taken from the Matthews Vintage Collection Museum in Taipa on 19 September.
His nephew, who was looking after the property, let him know of the theft.
“A hell of a lot of things went through my mind," says Winston.
"I thought I’d never see it again and if I did, I wondered what condition it might be in. I thought it would be bashed and bumped.”
Constable John Walters says a member of the public made a traffic complaint about the way the vehicle was being driven and about “hand signals” the driver was doing out the window while driving on Inland Rd on Karikari Peninsula.
The team from Mangōnui Station – Constable John Walters, acting Sergeant Dave Reynolds and Constable Dean Rowlands - went to the coastal location and found the vehicle at a Whatuwhiwhi house. They arrested a local man who will now appear in Kaitaia District Court on a charge of burglary.
The vehicle was fingerprinted by scene of crime officer Constable Tim Murdock before being returned to the museum.
“By this time, I was just driving north and was on the Bombay Hills when I got the good news,” says Winston.
After inspecting the vehicle, Winston says there is only a small scratch on the passenger’s door, which may have been there before the vehicle was stolen.
The following day Winston made the trip to the Mangōnui Police station to “congratulate them on a great job”.