These photos, taken in February, 1978, show a Dino 246 GTS being unearthed from the front yard of a home in Los Angeles. The photos have been making the rounds online for years. But what’s the real story? How’d the Dino wind up underground, and where is it now?
In May, 1977, Sandra Ilene West, dressed in her best lace nightgown and seated upright at the wheel of her powder-blue 1964 Ferrari 330 America, was lowered into a concrete mausoleum — just as her last will and testament had instructed.
The 37-year-old widow of a Texas oilman had died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs at her home in Beverly Hills. She and the car had been shipped to San Antonio for burial next to her late husband’s grave. After workmen placed the car, containing Ms. West, in its final resting place, two trucks poured cement into the bunker to discourage car thieves from digging it up.
The story of Ms. West’s subterranean Ferrari made national headlines that year, and in the decades that followed became part of Ferrari lore. But it wouldn’t be the only underground Italian sports car to capture the country’s attention in the late ’70s.
Nearly a year later, a group of kids were digging in the mud outside a house at 1137 W. 119th St. in the West Athens section of Los Angeles. Just below the surface, they struck something that felt like the roof of a car. They flagged down a sheriff’s cruiser.
Priscilla Painton, staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times, recorded what happened next for history. The story unfolded of a strange, four-wheeled treasure that two sheriff’s detectives would unearth from the front yard of a suburban house. When the story hit newspapers around the country, it reminded many of Ms. West’s odd Italian coffin, only this time the driver’s seat was empty.
Attacking the yard with a skip loader and a small team of men with shovels, detectives Joe Sabas and Lenny Carroll uncovered a dark, metallic green, Dino 246 GTS (serial number 07862) from the the sandy Los Angeles loam. In her article, which ran on Feburary 8, 1978, Painton wrote the car appeared to be in “surprisingly good condition,” and estimated its worth at around $18,000 (around $63,500 in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars). Ferrari enthusiasts would later note the Dino had been fitted with the optional Campagnolo wheels and Daytona seats.
Investigators dug into the provenance of the Dino — license plate 832 LJQ — discovering it had been bought in October, 1974 by Rosendo Cruz of Alhambra, California. On December 7, 1974, Cruz had reported the car stolen, and the police report was kept on file at the Rampart division of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mystery of the Buried Ferrari Dino Solved