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Tennessee man's stolen VW Beetle recovered 40 years later

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UNDATED: In a handout photo provided by the Customs and Border Protection, a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle stolen 40 years ago in Tennessee is seen in Detroit. (AP)

A Tennessee man whose Volkswagen Beetle was stolen while he was having dinner with a group of friends in 1974 never thought he would get his Bug back.

Joseph MacDonald says he's the owner of the 1965 car, which authorities say was recently discovered in Detroit, 40 years after it was stolen. 

Federal border agents in Detroit who checked the paperwork discovered that the 1965 Beetle was reported stolen. The last owner, a Michigan resident, didn't know that history. The vehicle was being sent overseas to be restored. 

The car was found in January before it could be shipped to Canada and then to Finland. The car now is white but was red in 1974. 

Knoxville, Tenn., police spokesman Darrell DeBusk said a man named Joseph MacDonald reported it stolen in 1974. He said a phone number left by MacDonald no longer works. 

On Friday, MacDonald showed WBIR-TV the title for the car, which he said he purchased in 1973 while studying at the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville. 

"I knew exactly where I had parked it, right on Highland Avenue, and when we came back there was just an empty spot there. Just poof. It just vanished," he told the station.

After reviewing photos released by federal border officials, MacDonald said he was sure the car is his stolen Beetle.

"She's got a new paint job, the same top. I know that's the bumpers. That's original bumpers. And that top stayed down. It didn't matter how cold it was," he told WBIR-TV.

"I had always hoped to be reunited with that thing. I've actually told my youngest daughter about that car and she said, 'Boy I wish you still had it,' and I said, 'I do too. I loved it.' And I never dreamed in my wildest dreams that I might get it back." 

The Knoxville Police Department told the station MacDonald will have to present the title to investigators in order to get the car back.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for more from WBIR.com.

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