Miller and Carr Respond to Ownership Dispute Surrounding the No. 1 1960 Briggs Cunningham Corvette
After working this weekend to ensure that Corvettes at Carlisle, one of the largest Corvette shows in the country, went off successfully without a hitch, Carlisle Event’s co-owner Lance Miller is now responding to Dan Mathis Jr’s claims that his family is the owner of the #1 1960 Briggs Cunningham Corvette that ran at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Miller emailed CorvetteBlogger.com a copy of the letter he sent to New York Times writer Jerry Garrett who has covered the saga of the former race car’s ownership dispute on his Garrett on the Road blog from the beginning.
Here is the full letter sent to Jerry Garrett at the New York Times:
The New York Times
620 Eight Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Dear Mr. Garrett:
I have read your August 25, 2012, blog post regarding the 1960 No. 1 Le Mans Corvette. I must first tell you that I was quite shocked that you would print any story on this matter without first making some effort to ascertain the facts. I find it somewhat disturbing that you not do some preliminary investigation prior to writing an article with your name it which was so one sided and without regard to what has actually transpired.
With that being said, I am willing to respond to you with the hope that any future articles will be factually accurate and not portray the situation as you have carelessly done so up to this point. As you know, I recently purchased the car in Tampa, Florida. Based on a commitment my father made to a friend before he died, I transferred ownership of the car to that person, who wishes to remain anonymous for now. I will respect that wish until the buyer agrees to be named or I am ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction. I transferred the car to the new owner for the exact same price I paid for it, based on my late father's promise. I have no pecuniary gain in the transfer as that was never my intent or the intent of my late father. I was solely honoring a promise he made if the car was ever found and I was fortunate enough to purchase it.
What your blog post does not go into is the extensive due diligence I conducted before I purchased the Corvette from the Carr family in Tampa on July 20, 2012. I was told by Mrs. Carr (Richard's wife) that she was present when the car was sold to her husband via a bill of sale. It was represented to me that he paid consideration for it and they were never aware of any police report claiming it was stolen. Also prior to my purchase, a fifty (50) state stolen vehicle search was conducted by a third party investigator which did not come back with any evidence that the car had been reported stolen.
The car had already been sold by me when the allegations of theft were made by Mr. Dan Mathis Jr. and Mr. Domenico Idoni. Contrary to what you wrote in your article, I was never advised that Mr. Mathis or Mr. Idoni requested a meeting with me or any of my family.
However, on Friday afternoon, August 24, 2012, the first day of our Corvettes at Carlisle show, I was contacted by an attorney in Tampa, Florida, purporting to represent a general partnership of Domenico Idoni and Dan Mathis Jr., who were asserting ownership of the car based on a Florida title. Given my schedule, I requested that my attorney contact him to seek further information about Mr. Idoni and Mr. Mathis' claims. While the Florida attorney, Mr. Keith D. Skorewicz, Esquire, did not have much information other than what we heard through the grapevine, he did send our counsel the front page of a recent title dated August 17, 2012, well after the date of my purchase. My counsel requested a copy of the back page of the title and a copy of the police report indicating the vehicle had been stolen (as alleged by Mr. Skorewicz); as if this date we have received neither.
On Saturday, I was shocked when the Carlisle Police Department and Pennsylvania State Police showed up at our Corvette show demanding to search the Fairgrounds for the “stolen” Corvette, based on an alleged stolen vehicle report from Florida and a recently issued Florida title. At no time was a stolen police report ever produced. Upon further investigation, the local police determined this was not a criminal matter, but purely a civil one as to a dispute in the chain of title to the car. While many of the facts are not known or are in dispute, it is very clear that the car was has been in the possession of the Carr family for the last 35 years with the VIN numbers clearly attached. To my knowledge, no stolen vehicle report has ever been filed, even as of this date. If Mr. Jim Mathis Jr. or Mr. Domenico Idoni intends to file one, the matter may then turn criminal as opposed to civil if they do so without some more evidence.
As a purchaser in good faith of the vehicle, the answer to the “great question” posed to Mr. Dan Mathis Jr. or Mr. Domenico Idoni in your August 26th posting regarding how the Corvette passed from the possession of the Mathis family to the (Carr family) is easy â€“ it was sold. I urge you to speak with the Carr family directly on this matter before making additional posts regarding the Corvette's ownership history so that your articles portray the facts, not baseless allegations.
The ownership of the Corvette, in my mind, is not in dispute. Should Mr. Dan Mathis Jr. and Mr. Domenico Idoni continue to assert their claim of ownership, the matter should be settled in a court of law with all the facts presented. I will certainly cooperate with the appropriate authorities and the court system however possible, but I have sincere reservations about the validity of the title held by Mr. Mathis and his partner, Mr. Idoni, and the circumstances surrounding it.
Rick Carr, who says his father bought the Corvette on a Bill of Sale and stored the former Le Mans racer in a St. Petersburg, Florida warehouse, has also responded to Mr Mathis’s ownership claims though Jerry Garrett as well. We don’t have the full correspondence but this is what was shared on the Garrett on the Road blog earlier today:
“The wild allegations by Mr. Mathis presented by you in this article as fact, are wholly untrue”
“I did not sell the car to Mr. Miller. A member of my family sold the car to Mr. Miller. I merely facilitated the sale.”
My father was not forced to retire from the bench. He simply did not seek reelection. He had no intentions of running for the position since he was fully vested and past retirement age at the time and had recently had open-heart surgery. My father was indeed reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court for improper action in his courtroom, but his “slur” had more to do with gaining control of an unruly courtroom, rather than some form of racial putdown. His politically incorrect comment was made to a Italian man out of control in his courtroom. It should be noted that my late father's widow is of Italian heritage and he used to joke with her and her family using the same language. It was a stupid mistake that blemished an otherwise great career, but it had nothing to do with African Americans as Mr. Mathis has since claimed. It should also be noted that my father continued to serve Pinellas County and the State of Florida as a distinguished Senior Judge for many years after his retirement.
By choosing not to juxtaposition Mr. Mathis' story against comments by either Lance Miller or me, you created the appearance that what Mathis is telling you is the undisputed truth, rather than the myth that it is.
Here are some facts:
My father purchased the above-mentioned Corvette as a beat-up, rolling chassis with no motor, transmission or interior. He bought it from a gentleman in Tampa over 30 years ago. My father did not receive a title, but he did get a bill of sale. We are currently in contact with the Florida DMV and will produce all documents for investigators to determine if Mr. Mathis has participated in title fraud. It should be noted that “Bill of Sale” purchases are completely legal in Florida. This is common practice for parts cars, very old vehicles or for race vehicles that will never be driven on the street.
T he car was never reported stolen. There is no paperwork to substantiate this most important claim. We have documentation proving my father contacted the Florida DMV as late as 1982 to apply for a title to this automobile. He used the correct VIN number to do so. Had the car been reported stolen, it would have been found by the DMV at that time.
Mr. Mathis only attempted to title this vehicle more than two weeks AFTER its discovery was announced on the Internet, some 30-plus years after my father purchased the car.
It appears that someone attempted to wedge a big block engine into the chassis at one time (cut motor mounts, disconnected steering column, etc.) but the workmanship was sloppy and incomplete. It is highly unlikely this car was ever driven on a drag strip, as Mr. Mathis claims. If so, it would have been extremely dangerous.
Mr. Mathis' father did not paint the car its current color as he claims. There were major repairs made to the body and it was painted after my father purchased the car. This can be easily documented. Photographs were taken as it was being stripped and as the body was repaired and painted. The car was a completely different color when my father purchased it and brought it back to his warehouse. Therefore Mr. Mathis' memories of the “cherry chocolate color” Corvette was simply a fabrication he concocted after seeing pictures of the car posted on the Internet.
It also occurs to me (and should have to you as well), if this car is stolen, why then does it retain the very VIN plate that has helped identify its history. Were it stolen, wouldn't that be the first thing a thief would remove?
Your carelessness in posting unsubstantiated facts has caused my family great distress, as I'm sure it has for Lance Miller, his family and associates. Like Chip Miller, my father spent a lifetime building his reputation. It is unfortunate that neither of these great men is here today to defend themselves against these libelous statements.
So with the release of these emails from Lance Miller and Rick Carr, we now have the other side of the story. Neither side looks to be backing down and so we’ll unfortunately be along for the ride as the #1 1960 Corvette looks to be heading out pit lane for a lap around the U.S. legal system.
If you’re just joining us in progress and want to know the background, Check out the previous stories of the disputed ownership claims surrounding the No.1 Le Mans Corvette by Jerry Garrett on his Garrett on the Road website as well as these two documents circulated on behalf of Mr. Mathis Jr.: Mathis Document #1 and Mathis Document #2
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