“Wild Cherry” van restorer is arrested for felony theft


The “Wild Cherry” saga has taken a very sour turn. Chris Carter of Collinsville, Illinois, who received plenty of attention for resurrecting the red 1975 Chevrolet custom van that appeared in the 1979 movie Van Nuys Blvd., has been arrested on felony charges, accused of stealing the then-dilapidated van from a California couple last year.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/10/04/wild-cherry-van-arrest-update


OK, so Carter really did steal it BUT for sure the Godwins would NEVER have restored it ( it had a tree on top of it ! ) so they should make a deal with Carter that everyone comes out happy.


Common sense says that you don’t go onto private property and take stuff. It’s no different than pocketing a coin you find on the floor in a house you’re visiting. You may not know who it belongs to, but you know for sure who it does not belong to!


I am sort of in favor of the guy who took the van. I think the owners are just jealous because he brought it back from death. I think that they should resolve the fact that they were going to let it dye in the field and this guy brought it back. Just give it to him and transfer the ownership because you obviously didn’t care about it!!


the people should be decent and sell him the van for junk price, my god , they were just going to let it rot anyway. granted he should not have taken it with no title , but he did them a favor by getting it of their property, b4 californistan envirowhackos charged them a $1000 to move it !!!


OK so I have some questions on these people. She was born in 1964 and got the van when she was 16, that was 1980. The movie was made in 1979. Who owns the van when the movie was made? When did she receive the van? What records are present? When was it abandoned? Is the neighborhood taking care of the property? Are they able to assume rights to the property under squatting law? The neighbor was acting as the agent giving authority for the “thief” to take the van, I think if I were him I’d be looking at my options on filing suit against that person.
Oh and what the Sam Hill do you mean you can’t find the van?

I really wish I actually read news on about this from a real journalist and not just on this car blog.(no hard feelings I love Hagerty Forums)


Wow, some of the comments. The van was on private property. That alone is a huge warning sign. While many of us hate to see a car/van rot away it isn’t our call. It certainly isn’t our call to go onto private property and remove it.So yes he must now answer for what he took. On top of it the whereabouts of the van is currently unknown!? Maybe to all except Carter.


Just that drive across country to pick it up tells me there’s more to the back story than what we have here.



Wonder who publicized the van’s location to begin with? So the “neighbor” granted access to the property, and facilitated the removal of the van . I am sure that person has been charged as well?

The van gathered quite a bit of attention (granted, among select groups) during its resurrection, but the owners didn’t file a stolen vehicle report until after it was restored. I have an Alfa that I wish was in a similar situation. I would, however, not in any way be able to believably claim that I didn’t know it was missing.

The van can’t be returned in as-taken condition. Does that mean the van can be returned to the owners without the many parts added during the restoration? Those are many but tangible and certainly accounted for. Wonder if the almost-ex-wife is entitled to 50% of their value? Are there taxes involved? Somebody is getting a free restoration out of this, if the van is recovered.

Strange and sad. I am reminded of the fact that you can’t “rescue” cars or vans like you can animals, though in my family neglected and abused subjects are viewed in similar ways, and a few of each have found homes. Both have their respective papers, and previous owners have legally surrendered their rights, involuntarily or without their knowledge only in the case of a horse.


Bottom line never remove anything from a property without the property owners permission. A simple land title search could have avoided this entire situation. The van belongs to the original title holder regardless of its neglect. Carter had bad judgement by taking the van without contacting the land owner, but hopefully felony charges will be dropped if the van is returned to original title holder.


Too bad its turned into a S### Show nice resto that the vehicle deserved that said time spent tracking the van to its sad resting spot was one thing but also tracking down the registered owner is only common sense here in Ontario you cant even scrap a vehicle without the title,paper is everything many people have found this out the hard way no title beware and dont cry about what might happen if you decide to move forward without the ownership abandoned or not.Rob R


There are a lot of ways to look at this but the bottom line is the guy stole it. A lot of amazing cars are sitting around wasting away as I write this but that doesn’t give anybody the right to haul them off without the permission of the legal owner. And, although we should never judge a book by its cover, this dude just looks GUILTY.


What you learned in kindergarten still applies “If it’s not yours don’t touch it”.
Taking others property is wrong

It is very likely the tree was placed onto the van with the purpose of keeping it in that spot so that it was not easy to remove it, a “Lumber Jack lock” so to speak. Had it fallen onto the van a tree that size would have crushed it down to the frame. From experience…

The tree actually shows the owner "stored the car & did value it and wanted it to be left alone in that place. Too bad a guy who knew better didn’t realize that…
I guess he does now.
“If the police man is not on the inside, then the police man will be on the outside”


So, you are in favor of going around to “save” other people’s property from them? What someone does (or doesn’t do) with what they own is of no business to anyone else.


I believe that in a previous article, he found the title inside the van. That alone sounds suspicious, but I suppose that the facts will come out in the courtroom.


This man should be executed - at the very least he must return it in exactly the same condition that he stole it … yes, dilapidated and weathered. That is how the owner wanted it.


Although I want to say the man resurrected an abandoned piece of junk, it wasn’t with permission of the owner. So I guess he could be called a thief but I prefer to call him a enthusiast who got ahead of himself

The owners, in my opinion, should recognize that and drop any charges and see if the situation can’t be worked out in an amicable way.

Too bad the guy was not putting his mind in gear before he put the van in gear.


They should settle out of court. The guy gives the lady a few grand, more then generous for a clapped out van with a story.


Well I side with the owner, True she and her husband had no thought of restoring it, But they did own it, maybe on vacation property, who knows, locked gate, someone wants their stuff secure, Ok someone before this comment did the math and figures her was then 16 in 1980 when she got the van, movie made in 79’. Well she lives in Burbank, that is where most studio’s are, I know this and that where a lot of picture car company are and yes, movie cars get sold, I’ve had a few, so her getting the van from the film (an for cheap some times too, if you know the right people) is believable. The guy who went and got it drove a long way’s acting on a guess? they could get it. I can see a planned thief, he should not be rewarded for his actions, or stupidity and money spent. Even his girl friend knew, and that why she splitting , she does not want to be a arrested with him for this thief…shes his wife, she knew.


For all of you who are crucifying Carter for taking the van please note. Calif. like many western states has huge sections of public land some of which has been used as a dumping ground for many things including cars etc. My guess and the article doesn’t go there is that Carter was told the van was abandoned and then let through a fence by someone who had a KEY. Whoever let him on the property is culpable in the crime if that is what it is.
The owners of the van should also be charged if any oil or antifreeze leaked from the vehicle. Typical of Los Angeles County to take on such a BS case. With all the gangs and drugs etc. etc. etc. in that county it’s not like they don’t have something important to do. But why bother with all that when they can spend huge sums of taxpayer dollars harassing Carter.