updated 3/30/2005 9:41:35 AM ET 2005-03-30T14:41:35

A reliable family car suddenly developed a tendency to decelerate, leading to the discovery that it had been driven for years with $40,000 worth of cocaine stashed in the gas tank.

A suburban New Orleans family had bought the 1996 Toyota Camry from a used car lot in 1997.

“They hadn’t had any major mechanical difficulties with it until last week,” the sheriff’s spokesman James Hartman said Tuesday.

When the car started losing speed, it was taken to a mechanic, who discovered two bricks of cocaine wrapped around the vehicle’s fuel line. The wrapping had apparently come loose recently.

The car’s owners are not involved in drug trafficking, Hartman stressed. Their names were withheld in case the owners of the stash come looking for them.

“Our investigators will now attempt to work backward and see where that vehicle had originated,” Hartman said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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