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Originally published Friday, August 10, 2012 at 8:11 PM

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Puyallup thieves take auto collector's 'babies'

Not quite "Gone in 60 Seconds," but a Pierce County businessman says someone broke into a warehouse and stole two classic cars valued at more than $300,000.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A quick tip for detectives investigating a pair of spectacular car thefts this week: Check the alibis of Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie.

On the other hand, the thefts from the private car collection of businessman Gary Tucci in a nondescript warehouse near Puyallup showed little of the panache of international car thieves Memphis Raines and "Sway" Wayland, the characters portrayed by Cage and Jolie in "Gone in 60 Seconds," the popular 2000 movie of muscle-car mayhem that prompted a film franchise and video game.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ed Troyer said the thieves apparently crashed through and peeled back a sheet-metal wall of the warehouse and drove off with a pair of Chevrolets: a rare 1965 Corvette Stingray and a 1970 Chevelle SS, two classic American muscle cars that Tucci says are worth more than $150,000 each.

"They were my babies. I want them back," he said.

Both cars were immaculate and in original condition, Tucci said.

He purchased the Stingray on Jan. 21 for $115,000 at a Scottsdale, Ariz., sale by Barrett-Jackson, one of the world's premier custom-car auction houses. According to the auction information, it was painted Nassau blue, with a matching interior, and was powered by a 396-cubic-inch V-8 engine matched to a four-speed manual transmission — a rare combination for a Corvette, according to the information.

The car, according to specs, could generate nearly 425 horsepower. It had been completely restored, the auction house said.

Tucci said the Chevelle SS — introduced by Chevrolet in the late 1960s as an answer to the popular, street-scorching Pontiac GTO and the Ford Mustang — was purchased in Arizona three years ago for an undisclosed sum. It had just 20,000 original miles on it, he said.

The gray car, with a pair of black racing stripes, "was perfect," he said. It, too, was fitted with a 396 V-8 and four-on-the-floor manual transmission.

Tucci said the cars were kept with other vehicles in his private collection in the 20,000-square-foot warehouse. He declined to say what other vehicles were in the warehouse, adding that the thieves also took keys to the other cars. The warehouse also contains a "full-sized replica of a service station," where Tucci said he tinkers on his cars.

He said a new security system was being installed Friday.

Troyer said the thieves apparently smashed through a wall — possibly by driving another vehicle into the side of the building — and then pried back corrugated metal walls until they could squeeze inside.

After ransacking the place, they opened the front doors and apparently drove the cars out.

Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to call Tacoma/Pierce County CrimeStoppers at 253-591-5959.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

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