SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio-- George Collins has had a love affair with classic American cars for the past 50 years.
That's why Collins was devastated when he returned from his winter home in Florida in April and discovered thieves broke into his house in South Euclid. They took four vintage cars stored in garages on the property.
"It was heart breaking," Collins said.
One of the cars that was taken, a 1939 Willys Coupe, is valued at $20,000. Also stolen were a 1951 Ford valued at $22,000, a 1955 Chevy with a value of $32,000 and a 1980 El Camino valued at $14,000.
The thieves also ransacked Collins’ house, and took the keys and the titles to all four cars, along with anything valuable that he has collected over the years.
"I'm 77 years old. This is what I wanted to retire to, enjoy this. It's not there anymore," Collins said.
He said he believes it was a crime of opportunity, planned by someone who knew he had a collection of classic cars and knew he would be out of town for an extended period of time.
"I think that somebody in the area knows I go to Florida now and I was an easy mark," Collins said.
South Euclid police said a check of records indicates the title to Collins’ 1980 El Camino was transferred to two different men in the Cleveland area in March.
Investigators said they believe the thieves unloaded all four custom cars and used the titles to represent themselves as the legitimate owners of the vehicles.
"I tell people 'buyer beware.' You know when you're buying something that is too good to be true, you know you're going to buy a '57 Chevy in mint condition for $5,000, the red lights should be flashing, the bells and whistles should be going off, and there should be a little voice in the back your head saying, 'Hey, wait a second, there might be a problem with this car," Chief Kevin Nietert said.
Collins said he is on a mission to recover his cars and is offering a reward for their return.
“My time is in it, every nut and bolt, that's why I get emotional," he said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call South Euclid police at 216-381-1234.