Image: Schnatter, Camaro
Associated Presss
John Schnatter created a Web site to track down the car and offered $250,000 at one point for its return.
updated 8/25/2009 7:37:07 PM ET 2009-08-25T23:37:07

With the help of a $250,000 reward, the founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain has finally reunited with the muscle car he sold years ago to help keep his family’s business afloat.

John Schnatter sold the gold-and-black 1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 for $2,800 in 1983. The money helped save his father’s tavern in Jeffersonville, Ind., and he used the rest to start what would become a worldwide pizza business.

But he still missed his beloved Camaro and spent years searching for it. He created a Web site on the search, held promotional appearances and eventually offered $250,000 to whoever found it.

It turns out he didn’t have to leave Kentucky, where the pizza chain is based in Louisville. The car only changed hands twice from the original buyers, ending up with Jeffery Robinson in Flatwoods, about 165 miles to the east.

“When I first saw it I still wanted to look it over to make sure it was the car even though I knew it,” Schnatter told The Associated Press. “That kind of hit me emotionally. I was kind of numb.”

The original buyers of Schnatter’s car heard about the search when he appeared in a TV interview before an NFL game this month. An online search led them to the car blog Jalopnik, which has followed the search and tipped off Papa John’s.

Robinson, who bought the car about five years ago for $4,000, recently delivered the Camaro to Schnatter, earning the $250,000 reward. The original buyers will get $25,000 for their help tracking it down.

Schnatter says it looks very much the same as it did when he sold it in 1983, but with a larger motor and fatter tires for drag racing.

The car will be displayed at the company headquarters in Louisville, replacing a replica Schnatter commissioned while he searched for his original car.

In honor of the reunion, Papa John’s planned to offer all Camaro owners a free pizza at stores on Wednesday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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