This is the kind of stuff that keeps enthusiasts and collectors up at night.
It’s every car enthusiast’s worst nightmare: a man in New Zealand bought and restored a 1974 Ford Falcon GT, then sold it, only to later learn it was stolen. The question of what legal liability he and several other owners of the car had in the messy situation has finally been put to rest through the courts.
According to reports, Brett Irwin, the many who restored the classic Ford, first purchased the car in question back in 2009. What he didn’t know at the time was that it legally belonged to Phillipa Mules. She was supposed to receive the vehicle from her ex-husband after being awarded ownership in 2003. Instead of delivering the car to her, he hid it and re-registered the Ford, ultimately selling it in 2006.
From there the Falcon GT changed hands twice, coming into Irwin’s possession in 2009. Reportedly pouring countless hours and significant money into the restoration, he finally sold the car in 2015.
Reportedly, Mules was able to locate the vehicle the following year and took it from the owner. Because Irwin had sold the car to the party who had it, he was pinned with the blame and made to pay $46,000 to the person he sold it to.
Here’s where the story gets really interesting: the deal Irwin struck with the man who purchased the car from him meant he could buy the Ford Falcon GT back for just $1, which he did. According to the original story, with the title legally in his name, he then launched a court battle for two years to get the car back from Mules, who ironically had done something fairly similar to what her ex-husband had done years before.
As if that’s not enough of a puzzle to sort out, the courts had to contend with the fact the Ford Falcon GT had a complicated financial standing, thanks to ties with three registered security interests. Then in 2006 Mules filed for bankruptcy, so she would have legally been obligated to give up her ownership in the car.
Anyone who’s been involved in complicated legal proceedings knows it can take years for everything to be worked out. This matter went through the system all the way to the Tauranga High Court where it was ruled the Ford Falcon GT legally belongs to Irwin. The only question now is whether he will keep the car or sell it.
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