The Strange Case of the Buried Ferrari

The guys from CarStuff dig up the case of the Ferrari Dino that someone intentionally buried. Learn more at HowStuffWorks. National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Image

When digging around the backyard, most of us find things we'd rather keep underground. (Think wasps' nests and desiccated animal carcasses.) But some people have all the luck, and find themselves clanging their shovel on the roof of a 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS.

But as Scott C. Benjamin and Ben Bowlin will tell you on this episode of CarStuff, finding a primo car buried in the yard doesn't mean you'll be driving around in your new wheels within a few days, crowing to anyone who will listen about your good fortune.

In the case of the Ferrari Dino found inexplicably buried in a Californian yard in 1978, it led investigators, and eventually journalists, on a wild goose chase to figure out how the car got there in the first place — and what became of it in the decades after its resurrection.

Let's start with the story that was initially told to the public: Some children playing in south Los Angeles waved down some cops and said they found a car buried in a backyard. The cops brought in a skip-loader and some shovels, and unearthed a green, 1974 Dino (pronounced deeno).

Tracing the car's ownership was easy. After all, the plates and identifying characteristics were still intact. It was registered to a Los Angeles area man who had reported it stolen in 1974, and the cops turned the car over to the insurance company that paid off the original claim for it.

The custom Dino was a seriously high-end one; it was valued at $18,000 new. That translates roughly to a $67,000 value in today's market although some Dinos now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars). The Los Angeles Times even reported it was in "surprisingly good" condition. That caused a flood of folks to call the insurance company, wanting to buy the buried treasure.

Except that report wasn't accurate. The car was actually in terrible shape, which seems predictable after four years in the dirt. Rust marked both the interior and exterior, mud plugged the vents, the windshield and engine compartment were smashed from the skip-loader. While the thieves who buried it seemed to have attempted some sort of preventative measures (like placing towels in the windows to prevent interior damage), they also didn't know what they were doing (they forgot to roll up said windows all the way).

The insurance company put the car on display so folks could make an informed bid, which led to people stripping the car of anything they could while "checking it out." Finally, the company agreed with a purchaser — a young mechanic, supposedly — for a bid between $5,000 and $9,000.

But if you think that's the end of the story, think again. In fact, that story? With the kids just happening upon the buried car, the poor original owner suffering a theft, and a mechanic coming to the rescue? Not true at all.

Ben and Scott will explain in this episode how decades later, the real story about the Dino's provenance comes to light, complete with skeptical cops, crooked insurance scams — and just maybe redemption for our little Dino. 

Rear view of a 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Image