OMAHA, Neb. – Donald DeVault wonders what kind of memories his Triumph motorcycle helped make in the 46 years since it was stolen, and he's looking forward to making more of his own when it's returned.
The 73-year-old Omaha man learned last week that California authorities had recovered his 1953 Triumph Tiger 100 at the Port of Los Angeles. The bike was about to be shipped to Japan when U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents who checked the vehicle identification number discovered the motorcycle had been reported stolen in February 1967.
DeVault said he's eager to get the bike back, but he thinks investigators may be even more excited than him about the motorcycle's recovery. DeVault had had the bike for only a year or two when it was taken from his fenced backyard.
"I really want to protect it this time," DeVault said. "I'm sure there's people out there that would want to take it away."
The bike was valued at $300 when in 1967. The shipping documents listed its value today at $9,000.
DeVault already has a Harley-Davidson and a Kawasaki motorcycle in his garage, so he plans to reserve the Triumph for special rides.
DeVault said he's talked about the motorcycle over the years whenever he was around bikers. It had a couple features unusual for Triumphs made in the early 1950s, such as its hardtail frame.
DeVault recalls Marlon Brando riding a similar Triumph bike in the movie "The Wild One," and after that it seemed like everyone wanted to ride a motorcycle.
But DeVault said he was already riding motorcycles by the time the movie came out, and continued riding for much of his life.
What sold him on the Triumph was the blue color and the name "Li'l Blue Bitch" airbrushed on the side of the gas tank.
A friend with a trucking company is helping DeVault arrange to ship the motorcycle home from California.
Once he gets it back in a couple weeks, DeVault plans to have someone restore the bike's name and paint "46 Years Later" on the gas tank.