In the original 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds, H.B. Valicki was challenged to steal 48 cars in five days for a South American drug lord. Naturally, all of his targets were given female names, and halfway down the list was Sharon, a 1972 Ferrari Daytona. (In the 2000 remake, the stakes were ratcheted up for Nicolas Cage—he had to lead his merry band of thieves in stealing a cool 50 cars in under 48 hours in order to save his brother’s life.)
Fast forward nearly half a century and you would be forgiven for thinking that two young Australian men were taking their cues from Hollywood when they decided to go on a crime spree—if their spree hadn’t been so utterly idiotic, that is.
Around 3:40 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2015, Matthew Ludwig and Bradley Abela, now 32 and 31 respectively, drove a stolen Ford Territory through the door of an auto repair shop in Melbourne and stole the two cars stashed inside: a 1986 Ferrari 328 and, yes, Sharon—a ruby red 1972 Ferrari Daytona.
The exact sequence of events that followed remains unknown, but a day later their Sharon was found burning in a field.
The 1972 Ferrari was by no means the only victim of the thieves’ two-week rampage. Their crimes included, but were not limited to, stolen car plates, a stolen Camry, Kia, and Nissan, the robbery of two Subways, and, of course, the Ferraris who both met their ends in fiery fields. But the burning of the Daytona hurt car lovers the most.
“It’s all about history, and this particular car has this history and therefore is a more important Daytona than the other 1,300 units built,” Marcel Massini, a Ferrari historian and consultant for Ferrari collectors, told The Daily Beast.
The history he’s talking about is the number of “VIPs or VVIPs” who are connected with the car, starting with its very first owner.
On June 29, 1973, Lady Kisty Hesketh bought the brand spanking new Ferrari. (The year before, she had been in a serious car accident that resulted in the adventurous noblewoman wearing a jaunty black eye patch over her right eye until her death at the age of 76 in 2006.)
Other than being a member of two prominent English and Scottish families, Kisty was also the mother of Lord Alexander Hesketh, who started his own Formula One racing team in the 1970s.
Her purchase was particularly apt given the luxury car company’s connection with racing.
Founder Enzo Ferrari originally started his commercial company in order to pay for his car racing obsession, and Formula One continues to be closely connected to the brand to this day. In 1978, the same year that Lord Hesketh ran out of money and had to take on a Japanese sponsor to keep his team afloat, his mother sold the car.
Only one year later, the car was introduced to its third owner, Roger Waters. The Pink Floyd singer enjoyed the car for a few years, presumably joyriding to the studio and around England in his sleek red set of wheels. But, in 1983, Waters decided to move on from that particular ride (after all, in “It’s a Miracle” he sang “We’ve got Mercedes / We’ve got Porsche / Ferrari and Rolls Royce / We’ve got choice").
The red Daytona went through two more English owners before it was sold in 1989 to Dodi Fayed for what would amount to around $100,000 today. Seven years after Fayed and Princess Diana died in a fatal car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, the Fayed family put the car up for auction at Christie’s.
The car would change hands several more times, although none of its new owners attained quite the status of the three previous VIPs. But that didn’t mean that this Ferrari Daytona’s prestige dimmed.
Before it was taken that fall night in 2015, a complete restoration had recently been completed and the Ferrari Daytona had just returned from being shown at the Motorclassica Australian International Concors d’Elegance and Classic Motor Show.
While this specific Ferrari may have been particularly rare due to its history—a history that have placed estimates of its value at around $1.5 million—all Ferraris are special given the prestige and quality of the brand.
For 70 years, the Italian company has been making legendary sports cars that are known as some of the best in the world. Over the course of the company’s lifetime, they have made around 200,000 cars, 1,300 of which have been Daytonas.
“Ferraris are rather expensive. They are not mundane road cars,” Massini said. “Forty years ago, you had to be A. wealthy enough to afford a Ferrari and B. you had to have a certain name to get one.”
Unless you’re willing to just go steal one from a local mechanics shop, that is.
During their trial, Ludwig and Abela claimed that they did not target these cars specifically. Reports in The Age newspaper claimed that the two were high on ice, a particularly strong form of methamphetamine, during their crime spree, and their lawyer said that when they forced the doors of the car shop open, they were surprised by what they found inside.
That didn’t stop them from driving off in the Ferraris, though, and the judge presiding over the case, Paul Lacava, wasn’t buying ignorance as an excuse. “You both had the chance to stop and not take the vehicles, but you both went ahead,” he said before sentencing Ludwig to six years in prison and Abela to three.
Neither was charged with arson as their direct involvement in the burning of the cars could not be proven.
These sentences are not quite strong enough for Massini, who believes that Ludwig and Abela knew exactly what they were doing and that he “can only hope that the thief will rot in jail forever.”
He added that the car can be saved—and he’s pretty sure plans for a full restoration are underway—but that “it’s going to cost a fortune to make it nice again.”
“It’s tragic because when that happened, it had just been finished from a multiple-year restoration, so it’s really super stupid,” Massini said. “It is like somebody goes to the Louvre Museum in Paris and throws an egg on the Mona Lisa painting. It’s basically destroying something very rare and unique or almost unique for no reason, just for pure vandalism or for stupidity.”