Betsy is a little red Corvette.
She is Kenneth Jelley’s 52-year-old baby. Now, she’s gone. Stolen, perhaps, on a Saturday night.
Betsy is – well, was – Mr. Jelley’s 1962 ’Vette. They have been together nearly 41 years, a lifetime filled with Sunday drives. Short ones. It had only 54,000 kilometres on it. Mr. Jelley, a 74-year-old Calgarian, paid $1,600 for the convertible in Bethesda, Md., back in the day. The seller just had twins, needed the money, and even then Mr. Jelley knew the make, model, and colour combo was special. The car is red, with a red interior, and a black top. Betsy rolls on whitewall tires. It has four speeds and a 327 cubic-inch engine. Everything is original, except for a paint job.
Chevrolet produced about 30,000 of these cars in 1962, and an insurance company last appraised Mr. Jelley’s at $40,000. In 1963, Chevy made some big changes to Corvettes – Betsy does not have pop-up lights, for example – making the missing car extra special. It was stolen between 7 p.m Mountain Time on Saturday, July 12, and 5 p.m. the next day.
“I’ll never see the car again. I’ll never take it out for a Sunday drive,” Mr. Jelley said in an interview. “I’m lonesome for it.”
It is insured, but that doesn’t mean it is replaceable.
“When a car you’ve had for 40 years disappears, it is like a kid, you know,” Mr. Jelley said. “… If your child goes off someplace and you don’t see them again, you don’t get yourself another child. You just live with the fact you won’t see it again.”
Brandie Broomhall owns Classic Performance, a restoration facility specializing in muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s. She agrees.
“Money in the bank doesn’t really replace your baby.”
Mr. Jelley has not told his grown daughter and son the news. They used to fight over who would inherit it. Betsy was well loved. If the family had three cars but only a one-car garage, Betsy got the spot.
But the vintage car was not in a garage when it was stolen. It was in an outdoor parking spot, covered with a tarp. Mr. Jelley, who lives in a condo overlooking the spot, ran a stainless steel cable through the tarp’s grommets and padlocked it. The keys were on his front hall table. He thought Calgary was safe. But a thief cut the padlock and stole the car, tarp and cable. The thief left the padlock on the post with the plug-in. Betsy was unlicensed.
The criminal likely cased the car, Ms. Broomhall thinks. “It would have been really easily recognizable as something collectible. It is really rare to have a car that vintage and that value just sitting out,” she said.
Most missing cars such as Mr. Jelley’s Corvette are shipped overseas in containers, she said, where the demand is big.
Police do not expect to see the thief zipping around town. “With a specialty car like that, I can’t see someone taking it to joyride in,” said Constable Wayne Suffesick of Calgary Police Service’s auto theft unit. “If they did, we probably would have recovered it by now. So if it is somebody who understands the value of the car and has a market for it somewhere else in North America, then it is going to be hard to find.”
Mr. Jelley, a former banker for organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, noticed Betsy missing when he went for groceries. He got in his Mercedes Benz AMG 355 – a modern hot rod – to go for groceries. Its parking spot is right next to the Corvette’s spot. He backed out and noticed Betsy was gone.
“Just bring my car back. When you’re finished with it, just bring it back,” he said. “I’ll take it back, no questions asked.”
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