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After years of litigation, judge orders sale of Briggs Cunningham Le Mans Corvette

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photos courtesy Kevin Mackay.

The years-long ownership dispute over the last unrestored Briggs Cunningham Le Mans Corvette — a car that could be worth millions — may soon come to an end now that a judge in Indiana has ordered the Corvette into the care of a receiver tasked with selling it.

The move comes on the heels of the closure of the Indianapolis dealership where Gino Burelli, one of the Corvette’s owners, had kept it for the last three years, putting the car’s current whereabouts in doubt, according to court filings in the case.

“The vehicle may well be outside of the state of Indiana,” Ryan Schoffelmeer, the lawyer for the Corvette’s other owner, Kevin Mackay, noted in a recently filed motion. “Mackay does not know where the vehicle is located, if it is being kept in a safe location, or if it is still insured. We’re trying to protect the car.”

Burelli could not be reached for comment on the Corvette or its current location.

While Mackay still owns the 30-percent interest in the Corvette that was granted him in a 2015 Pennsylvania court-ordered agreement, Burelli now owns 70 percent after buying out a third owner of the car, Domenico Idoni, in September 2017. Porter County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer — the judge who ordered the Corvette into receivership — also approved a lien against the Corvette to satisfy a $250,000 debt of Idoni’s now worth more than $430,000 with interest in May. At that time, Clymer suggested that, should Burelli not find a buyer for the Corvette by August, “there will be an auction of some type as determined by the Court.”

Exactly what the car may sell for is anybody’s guess, given its unique history. One of three Alfred Momo-prepared fuel-injected 1960 Corvettes that Briggs Cunningham raced in that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the No. 1 car, which Cunningham and Bill Kimberly drove, crashed in the rain on the 32nd lap, just a couple of hours into the race. The No. 2 car also DNF, but the No. 3 went on to an eighth-place overall win and first in its class.

Once back in the United States, Cunningham returned all three Corvettes to street trim and sold them off. Both the No. 2 and the No. 3 cars popped up again over the years, but the No. 1 car remained hidden from Corvette collectors until Cunningham historian Larry Berman located it in a St. Petersburg, Florida, warehouse. Berman tipped Lance Miller, who identified the car based on its VIN (00867S103535) and subsequently sold it to Mackay for $75,000.

How the Corvette made it to the St. Petersburg warehouse and how it acquired its many body modifications remains largely unknown, though at one point in the Seventies it belonged to Tampa resident Dan Mathis, who bought it to drag race and later reported it stolen from his driveway.

Mathis’ son, Dan Mathis Jr., who had reportedly hired Idoni to find the Corvette prior to its discovery, had the car seized prior to its public debut at the 2012 Corvettes at Carlisle and subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking ownership of the car. Mathis ended up filing for bankruptcy after filing the lawsuit, but Idoni and Burelli bought Mathis’ interest in the car from the bankruptcy sale for $25,000 and continued Mathis’ lawsuit, which concluded in the 2015 agreement.

As part of that agreement, Burelli shipped the car to his dealership in Portage, Indiana, and was expected to sell the Corvette. According to the May court decision, Burelli had signed a brokerage contract for the Corvette and he did have it insured for $2.5 million. However, that insurance policy was through Burelli’s dealership in Portage, Harbor Buick GMC, which closed in November amid the dealership’s foreclosure proceedings.

In addition, Mackay said that he last saw the Corvette this past June at the Bloomington Gold show in Indianapolis. However, he said he saw no indication that the car was for sale.

Details of the Corvette’s sale have not yet been released.