A 1975 Chevrolet van in a police impound facility may be the controversial Wild Cherry van, though it appears to have been painted and the interior partially stripped.
The Los Angeles Police Department took possession of the van last week, more than a month after 39-year-old restorer Chris Carter was arrested in the case of the van’s disappearance from private property, an official told the Belleville News-Democrat.
“The dashboard, the engine, the transmission and the plates are missing,” Cheryl Peralta told the publication. Another lot employee, who did not want to be named, said the van was painted black. Only the roof was red.
Peralta said the van had VIN No. CGY144U143803, which was registered to a Vicki Carter in Collinsville, Illinois. She is Carter’s grandmother.
The controversy around the van began more than two years ago, when Carter first spotted the vehicle on social media.
“After I saw the picture, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind,” Carter told the News-Democrat in February. “To see that van abandoned with a tree on it, and to know its former glory, how nice that it looked, how it was in a movie … I knew I had to do something.”
He located the van in Lancaster, California after months of research and drove 1,900 miles just to ask around. The way he tells it, locals said the vehicle had been abandoned and one even opened a gate so Carter could load the van on a trailer.
Carter restored the van to its movie glory — it appeared in the 1979 film Van Nuys Blvd. — and began touring around the country. In June, a stolen vehicle report was filed.
“We didn’t know it was missing,” said Laura Godin, who co-owns the property where the van was left. She said her husband, Steven, bought the van in 1980 and the couple had dreams of restoring it.
“(Carter) has no idea the sentimental value that I hold in my heart for that van,” Godin, 54, told the News-Democrat in September. “… It’s been mine since I was 16. He has no idea what it means to me.”
Godin acknowledged the van had not been registered since the 1990s when filing the report.
Carter was arrested in Illinois after the allegations were made. He was reportedly extradited to California to face felony charges. Should he be found guilty, he could be sentenced to more than four years in prison.
The controversy around the van and its possession has dominated online conversations among classic van fans. Multiple Facebook groups have popped up so either support or criticize Carter, while at least two GoFundMe pages have been created to help pay legal bills. As of publication, both failed to reach their goals.