Kansas man finally gets his classic Corvette back

Kansas man finally gets his classic Corvette back

By Angie Ricono and Cyndi Fahrlander

October 30, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) – It’s a big day for Rich Martinez—one he’s waited six years for. He finally got his dream car back.

“It’s been a long 6 years,” said Martinez. “But it’s home, and we are going to start fresh.”

We first told you about Rich a year ago. He has a 1959 classic Corvette that was seized by the Kansas Highway Patrol. Kansas law said the car was contraband. It was set to go to the crusher.

Martinez bought the car legally in Indiana. It had been restored in Illinois. Registration in those states went off without a hitch. The trouble came when he tried to register it in Kansas. Turns out there was an issue with the VIN number. During the restoration, the original VIN was removed, then replaced but it had different rivets. Rich found out that was illegal in Kansas.

His dream car turned into a nightmare as was seized during an inspection as contraband.

Rich began his legal fight to get it back- questioning if a legal purchase in another state, documented in paperwork, could be considered stolen property by the state of Kansas. The battle lasted 6 years.

In the meantime, the car sat in parking lots and eventually a storage shed in Topeka. An expert estimated the damage at $28,000 as cars and boats bumped into the corvette. And through the years, lawyers battled it out. Martinez spent about $30,000 in legal bills—that’s in addition to the $50,000 he spent for the car.

“Sometimes I get angry,” Martinez told us last year.

But throughout the ordeal, he never blamed the Highway Patrol. They were just following the law. Eventually, Martinez got the attention of a lawmaker.

“They were following the laws that we the lawmakers made,” said Leo Delperdang, Kansas State Representative from District 94. “So, it was up to us to change the laws and make it more reasonable.”

The law did change, for Martinez and others with classic cars.

“I don’t think it’s just me,” said Martinez. “I’m not trying to take credit. I just wanted my car back.”

And now he does. But it wasn’t a perfect moment. The engine doesn’t start after sitting for all those years, and don’t forget the damage. Martinez questioned if the fight was worth it.

“Financially, emotionally, no,” said Martinez. “But I hope somebody watching this understands that sometimes you may be the only one standing out there to fight. What went wrong is wrong and needs to be corrected.”

And even though it’s a bittersweet reunion, Martinez is grateful—to the media who covered the story, the Kansas Justice Institute who went to bat for him, and yes, even the state. He was awarded $20,000 for repairs.

And now, the real work begins as he tries to revive a tired, damaged, 63-year-old car. When it’s restored to its classic beauty, Martinez says he’ll take his grandkids for a ride—in style.