Harold Voelker tucked away the pink slip and memories of his prized 1956 Ford F-100 pickup after it was stolen in 1972 in Los Angeles.
Both were dusted off when authorities told Voelker they had found the vehicle in Modesto — 38 years after it went missing.
"I go to car shows all the time, and I thought, I'm going to see it one of these days," Voelker, 63, said Thursday. "That was my baby."
Voelker retrieved the car Tuesday after it was discovered last week.
The California Highway Patrol said officials noticed a discrepancy in the vehicle identification number when a Modesto couple tried to register the truck after getting it from a relative in Texas who didn't know it had been stolen.
CHP Officer Greg Bennett found the original identification number and contacted Voelker, questioning him about the truck and where he had lived when it was stolen.
"He kept quizzing and quizzing, and I answered everything," Voelker said. "He said, 'Guess what, I have your truck sitting here.' I said, 'Is this a joke?'"
Bennett said it was an unusual discovery.
"There's definite gratification in getting this guy his truck back, absolutely," he said.
Even so, Bennett called the case bittersweet, because the Modesto couple lost the truck.
Voelker said the truck is running well and seems to have more power than he remembered.
There were some changes, however. Voelker said it was pale yellow when it was stolen but is now white. It also has alloy wheels, which Voelker plans to replace with original stainless steel hubcaps.
He also intends to install a theft alarm and park the truck in his garage.
"I'm thinking about getting plates that say, 'Back Home,' or "It's Back,'" he said.