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‘I’m throwing a party!’ Kansas man thrilled new bill will save his classic Corvette

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 4:40 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2022 at 5:00 AM CDT
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FAIRWAY, Kan. (KCTV) - Rich Martinez is a happy man. It looks like his five-year battle to get his classic 1959 Corvette back is coming to an end.

He knows exactly what he’ll do when he gets his car back.

“I’m throwing a party. I’m having a good time,” Martinez said. “I want to give free rides around the block.”

The Corvette was Martinez’ dream car.

We first brought you his story last fall. The legally-purchased car was labeled contraband when he tried to register it. It was confiscated by Kansas Highway Patrol and almost sent to the crusher.

In the five years since, Martinez has been writing pleas, going to court, looking for any help he could find. Then, last summer, the Kansas Justice Institute filed an amicus brief on his behalf and media attention followed.

Martinez ran into trouble with the registration because there was an issue the VIN number. During the restoration, the original VIN was removed, then replaced — it had different rivets. That’s illegal under Kansas law.

But, it’s not a problem in other states. Martinez bought from a dealership in Indiana, after it had been restored in Illinois. Getting it registered and licensed in those states went off without a hitch.

Since the car was confiscated, it’s been sitting in tow lots and now a big storage shed in Topeka. It’s been damaged while in storage. An expert estimated damage to the car at $28,000. That cost is in addition to the $50,000 Martinez paid for the car and $30,000 in legal fees.

Martinez argues that he did nothing wrong. He’s been waiting for a judge’s ruling.

“This has been a very costly, and emotional time for me,” said Martinez. “I think that we can do better when there is no crime.” He doesn’t blame the Highway Patrol, they were following the law.

Finally, a Kansas lawmaker heard about the Corvette mess — one who understands the restoration process.

“I’ve personally seen where there’s damage, there’s rust, there’s repairs that need to be made where the VIN plates are,” said Kansas State Representative Leo Delperdang.

“And, per state statute as it stands today, the vehicle is considered contraband and needs to be destroyed,” said Delperdang. “There’s got to be a better answer than that, you know?”

Lawmakers recently passed a new bill addressing antique cars and they had Rich Martinez specifically in mind when crafting the bill. It passed the Senate and the House — unanimously — and is awaiting Governor Laura Kelly’s signature. You can view that bill by clicking here.

For now, the Corvette is still in storage but Martinez is confident about making those party plans.