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Story of a Stolen and Recovered Army Jeep

by David Zatz • thanks to Larry Vellequette

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Malachi Springer of Parker, Colorado has been restoring and customizing a World War II Jeep for five years; on August 19, the Jeep was stolen from the parking lot of the Wal-Mart where he worked.

The Jeep, made in 1942, is stenciled "War Buggy" on the side; Springer has shown the car at various shows, along with war memorabilia, wearing a period Army uniform.

Our Colorado News reported that Springer believes one of the thieves may have been a shoplifter he spotted but failed to catch, minutes before the Jeep was stolen.

The group that took the Jeep appears to have been two teens and two adults; surveillance cameras did not capture enough detail to help the investigation.

Still, the story of the theft got around, and people from the region provided sightings to the detective in charge of the case, making the car too hot to drive - or to chop, with Springer checking online auctions and local shows for parts.

Malachi Springer told us on September 11 that the Jeep had been recovered:

"It was nothing short of a miracle. ... on Saturday I got a call from the Parker police saying that they had found my Jeep. The officer on the phone was happy about it. He stated just how glad he was that they had found it, and that he missed seeing it at Wal-Mart. They said I could come get it or they could process it. There was no way I was going to leave it sitting any longer. I raced right over.

It was only about 5 miles from my house. The Jeep was sitting on the side of the road ... on a patch of dirt, and the tracks on there suggested it was dropped off of a trailer. I believe that it was dropped off on Friday when it was dark and there was little traffic, because that intersection is surrounded by open fields so it would have stuck out like a sore thumb in daylight.

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Photos are from before Max was stolen

It was drenched with bleach from front to back, and it was full of leaves and bird droppings. There were only 5 miles on the odometer. Wires were dangling down. I don't think they figured out how to start it.

The spare tire bracket was smashed pretty good from them pushing the Jeep from behind with their truck (I could see them do that on the security video). The front grill was smashed in on one side and the front of the tow bar was smashed in as well. They bent the front lip of the hood trying to close it over the top of the tow bar and they had pulled the horn out over the fender in the way of the hood closing so when they closed the hood they slammed it down and crushed the trumpet on the horn (which was an original). The lids on the toolboxes in the back were all bent up from being pried open to get inside them.

Oddly enough, of everything on there, the only thing that was missing was the ignition switch and a flashlight and a bungee cord for holding the top down. These kids were just amateurs, thankfully. There was some more damage on the passenger side near the exhaust pipe. I got in, hot wired it, and drove it home. Now I'm just doing bodywork and going through all the problems.

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