The battle to establish proper ownership of the once lost No. 1 Briggs Cunningham Corvette has already been an arduous battle, but according to Penn Live, the fight over the car is not nearly over. That’s because U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III recently denied a plea by the defendant to stall out the case, citing that the statue of limitations in Pennsylvania, normally just two years, does not apply to this court proceeding as the defendant tried to establish. This revelation comes just days before the 90th anniversary race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is run.
The No. 1 Briggs Cunningham Corvette has been a coveted piece of racing history for decades, following its racing debut at the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans. The No. 1 Corvette, part of a trio of Alfred Momo-prepped (with the unofficial help from Zora Arkus-Duntov) fuelie Corvettes, took to the track on June 25th, 1960 with Cunningham in the drivers’ seat. Unfortunately, Cunningham and his co-driver, William Kimberley, fell out of the race for good following a collision on lap 32. After the race, the car’s history is hazy, though it was returned to the U.S. some years later and sent to a shop in Florida without an engine or transmission.
From there, Dan Mathis Sr., an employee at the shop at the time, bought the Corvette for $700 and turned it into a drag car, not knowing its Le Mans ties. Mathis Sr. bought the car in 1974, and by 1975 or 1976, Mathis Jr. claims that the car was stolen and not recovered. The car’s whereabouts then became a mystery and it wasn’t discovered until recently who had possession of the highly sought-after race car.
When the Corvette finally popped up, it was set to make its return debut at the Corvettes at Carlise event. But right before the show, the car was pulled from the itinerary due to a sale and subsequent dispute over ownership of the vehicle. As it turns out, Dan Mathis Jr., upon finding out where the Corvette was, contacted authorities reporting that the car had been stolen from his family’s driveway in the 1970s. Mathis claims to have been just 9 years old when the car was taken, but remembers his parents stating that they had reported the car stolen.
On the other end of the dispute sits Kevin J. Mackay, a Corvette repair firm owner who also claims ownership rights to the car after purchasing it from Lance Miller, co-owner of Carlise Productions, for $75,000 in July prior to the Corvettes at Carlise event. Prior to the sale to Mackay, Miller apparently purchased the car from the family of a former Florida judge.
While the dispute raged on in courts over the last several months, Mackay began arguing that even if the car had been stolen from Mathis’ family in the 70s, Mathis had not properly pursued the vehicle, nor had he made his claim of stolen property within two years of the car’s disappearance.
Having heard both sides, Judge Jones opted to keep the court case going, denying the argument about the statue of limitations in Pennsylvania. It is Judge Jones’ opinion that Mathis, being only 9 years old at the time of the car’s supposed disappearance, could not have filed a lawsuit when the car was taken, nor was he the owner of the car at the time. Upon finding out who had the car, Mathis filed a lawsuit for his rights to the car, which Judge Jones concluded to be proper proceedings.
With the Briggs Cunningham Corvette still tied up in a court battle, there is no telling when the former race car will make its long-awaited journey back into the spotlight, but if there’s any consolation to come from this news, it’s that U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III is giving the car and its rightful owner the consideration they deserve.