Image: Recovered Van
U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP
This 1965 Volkswagen van was stolen 35 years ago in Spokane, Wash. It was found in a Los Angeles port waiting shipment to the Netherlands.
updated 11/6/2009 3:54:56 PM ET 2009-11-06T20:54:56

A Volkswagen van stolen 35 years ago in Washington state has been found in a shipping container at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport.

Customs agents found the 1965 van on Oct. 19 when they opened a shipping container bound for the Netherlands, The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported. They ran the vehicle identification number and discovered it was listed as stolen.

Law officers said the van, which is in great shape, was stolen from an upholstery shop in Spokane on July 12, 1974 — while Spokane was hosting the 1974 World's Fair.

Authorities have not been able to find the original owner, whom they would not identify.

The operators of a vehicle restoration business in Arizona were the latest to have possession of the van, which they refurbished and planned to sell overseas, said Michael Maleta, an investigator with the California Highway Patrol. Maleta said the shop is also considered a victim in the case, and he declined to identify it.

The van now legally belongs to Allstate Insurance Co., which paid off the original owner's theft claim back in 1974. The Highway Patrol turned over the van to Allstate this week.

Maleta said the van had been restored to pristine condition.

"Now it's probably worth 27 grand," he said. "It's a beautiful van."

Megan Brunet, a spokeswoman for Allstate, said the company is looking through old records trying to find the original policy and theft claim.

"Trying to find paper files from that far back can be pretty challenging," she said.

The company will likely have the van appraised and go through the process of getting a replacement title before selling it at auction, she said.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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