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Corvette

This historic 1960 Corvette has been stored in Portage and now is at the heart of a local legal dispute. It is insured for $2.5 million.

VALPARAISO — Nearly 60 years after making history by taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race in France, a 1960 Corvette is now at the center of a local legal battle fueled by the recent closing of Harbor Buick GMC dealership in Portage.

An emergency court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday before Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer, seeking to take possession of the vehicle — which is ensured for $2.5 million — from Gino Burelli, one of the owners of the car, and of the dealership.

"This car is a part of Americana," said Crown Point-based attorney Ryan Schoffelmeer, who is representing the other owner, Kevin Mackay.

The car, which was one of three that were the first of their make to take part in the 1960 race, has been in storage at the now-closed Portage dealership, Schoffelmeer said. The car's current location is unknown to Mackay, who has 30 percent ownership of the vehicle to Burelli's 70 percent.

The emergency nature of the hearing stems from the fact that creditors now are presumably swarming around Burelli and the car because of the dealership's closing, and as a result of debt of up to $500,000 owed by a former owner of the car who sold his share to Burelli, Schoffelmeer said.

"We're trying to protect the car," the lawyer said.

This threat further includes a claim of more than $28 million filed against Burelli, Schoffelmeer said.

There also is concern about the status of the insurance policy on the car, considering it was being stored at the Portage dealership, which is no longer in business, according to the court motion.

"Mackay does not know where the vehicle is located, if it is being kept in a safe location, or if it is still insured," according to the motion. "The vehicle may well be outside of the state of Indiana."

The car is under court order to be sold by Burelli by March 31.

Schoffelmeer said his client is OK with a sale, but wants to make sure it is carried out correctly to maintain the vehicle's value.

"The most certain way to secure the safety of the Corvette is to remove it from the possession of Burelli," according to the motion.

Attempts to reach Burelli for comment were unsuccessful.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.