When Ivan Schneider's Jaguar convertible was stolen from in front of his Manhattan apartment 46 years ago, the now-retired trial lawyer thought it was gone forever.
He reluctantly replaced the British sports car and went on to collect other classic vehicles. But Schneider never stopped talking about his first love, a 1967 Jaguar XK-E.
"I would tell stories about this great car that got stolen," he said Wednesday from his Miami home via video news conference. "I have had a lot of great cars since then, but none has been as pretty."
Last month, he received an unexpected call from Lou Koven, a special agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Customs agents had found Schneider's beloved two-seater -- in a container on a cargo ship en route to the Netherlands.
"He was in a state of disbelief," Koven said. "He thought it was a scam."
The Jaguar and four other missing cars were discovered in late August by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, who were assigned to inspect cargo leaving the Port of Los Angeles. Some were already at sea, destined for the Philippines, Sweden or the Netherlands, by the time a computer search of vehicle identification numbers showed they had been stolen.
They included a 1969 Corvette taken during a burglary in Portland 26 years ago, a 1976 Mercedes 280 fraudulently obtained through a real estate scam in 2002, a 2007 Mercedes E350 fraudulently leased in Glendale in 2008 and a 2014 Camaro ZL1 with illegal paperwork.
The cars were displayed Wednesday inside a Carson warehouse.
The Jag brought back fond memories for the 82-year-old Schneider, who had it for just six months before it disappeared.
He described waking up before dawn on weekends, pulling back the top and taking it on 100-mph spins on the open highway.
"That particular car was ahead of its time. You had to do something to keep the carbon out of the motor," he said, explaining his high-speed excursions.
He purchased it for $5,000 after winning a big case. The car was painted a shiny gray and shaped like "a bullet," Schneider said, with a sleek body and oversized headlights.
Koven sent over pictures of a white Jaguar with a dark-colored passenger door. The thieves had painted the exterior, which was in good shape. The interior was beat up. Schneider forwarded the emails to close friends and family.
"I figured they would think it was my imagination, that I was writing a book or something," Schneider said. "Who would figure a car would show up 45 years later."
In its current condition, the car is worth about $23,600, according to Customs estimates. The same model car in better condition can fetch near $100,000.
Schneider plans to have it shipped to New York for painting and restoration, which he expects to cost as much as $100,000. He's hoping the fixes will be made by the end of the year.
"My Christmas gift," he chuckled.