A 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi was bound for Poland, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents smelled something fishy when the paperwork was checked out as it awaited its trip at the L.A.-area port complex.
The vehicle identification number belonged to a 1982 Ferrari 308 GTS that had already been exported from the United States to Norway in 2005, the CBP said in a statement.
The feds brought in some help: a California Highway Patrol Investigative Services Unit detective, a National Insurance Crime Bureau special agent assigned to the Foreign Export and Recovery (FEAR) team, and even a Ferrari factory expert.
The iconic sports car, designed by the Pininfarina firm and featuring a 2.9 liter V-8 with a little more than 200 horsepower (it was the age of smog-wary government restrictions), had its VIN number changed illegally, authorities indicated.
Turns out the Ferrari was stolen from an Orange County used car lot on July 19, 1987, according to the CBP. “The owner was compensated by his insurance company back then and wishes to remain anonymous,” the agency stated.
The discovery was made April 8.
“This VIN discrepancy is what raised a red flag and prompted further scrutiny,” said Carlos Martel, the CBP port director in Los Angeles and Long Beach. “Such keen attention to details by CBP officers is commendable, especially considering they process a daily average of 500 vehicles intended for export.”
The 308 GTS is the Ferrari arguably most associated with television's Magnum P.I., but the website Classic TV Cars says the GTSi (the “i” was for a new mechanical fuel injection system) also was used on the show.
This 45,000-mile example doesn't appear to have been used by our mustachioed hero (played by Tom Selleck), so its value was estimated to be a relatively low $50,000, according to the CBP.
For a Ferrari, anyway, that's a steal.
The mid-engine vehicle was returned to the insurance company that originally covered the theft, CBP spokesman Jaime Ruiz told us.
Here are some photos of the actual car: