Between doing features on our main focus of restorations and car modifications, we sometimes get a bit carried away by all of the great vintage car related material out there on the world wide web to choose from. In case anyone missed it when it first appeared on PelicanParts.com, we felt that this was one of those all time epic stories that had to be retold for posterity sake, if nothing else since it was just too good to simply pass over. It’s the story of the theft and then recovery of 6 of the most iconic race engines that Porsche has ever built, with a 7th hopped up 3.4 thrown in just for the fun of it…
Back in 2005, the CEO and owner of PelicanParts.com, Wayne Dempsey helped authorities recover 4 Porsche 917 engines, a type 771 (an 8 cylinder version of the 4 cam 550 RS Spyder engine), a type 908 engine and a warmed over 3.4 liter 911 motor that had been stolen from Vasek Polak’s warehouse following an auction.
What makes this crime particularly heinous is that all of the proceeds from that auction were to go to the Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Charitable Trust Foundation to help breast cancer research, making it a true crime against humanity and not only to fellow stupefied gearheads.
Before his own untimely death in 1997, Vasek made his name practically synonymous with Porsche itself as a titan in their motorsport’s history. When he lost his wife to breast cancer he became a huge philanthropist by giving large contributions to help promote cancer research and by helping build treatment facilities here in the U.S. and in the Czech Republic. After his passing, his legendary warehouses full of race cars and parts were auctioned off in 2000 and all of the proceeds were given to his charity.
Following the auction, the aforementioned 7 crated engines were left behind and somehow they were liberated, not heard from again until one day 5 years later when a couple of the 917 motors popped up for sale on PelicanParts.com.
When Wayne saw that on his site, he contacted the authorities and ended up working with them on a sting operation to get the stolen engines back, acting as a broker between a fictional buyer and the seller of the hot merchandise. They set up a time to meet one fateful night, and with the police in tow they showed up and confiscated the engines back into the arms of justice. Of course the seller claimed ignorance but the important part is that he released the engines without issue. Wayne went on later to become an expert witness in helping identify and place values on each of the Porsche engines. It turns out that he had been at the Vasek Polak warehouse auction and had taken detailed pictures of each engine for the love of all things Porsche, which he was able to use to help police identify all of the intricacies and tell tale signs specific to each engine, nailing the case closed sealed shut.
Working entirely pro-bono, Wayne and his Pelican Parts crew worked on overtime to set up an auction for the reclaimed engines. All of them ended up being sold together to high bidder Dale Miller of Miller Historic Motorcars in North Carolina with a winning bid of over $1 million, all of which went to charity, as originally intended. Years in the workings, they kept the story quiet until it was all wrapped up and they did the right thing. We at CBI praise them for their hard work and solid ethics, an absolutely epic ending to an epic story.