Thursday, November 23, 2017

Murder and the million dollar car

Million-dollar find: Leon Paria's 1973 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7. —Photos courtesy Autofarm Inset: Unsolved case: Leon Paria


Update: The Express has learnt that the owner of this exceedingly rare vehicle is considering whether to restore it to showroom condition or just enough so that its Trinidad story is not erased. Read more here...

 

IF businessman Leon Paria was alive today, he would have likely been the 62-year-old owner of a piece of automotive history, worth more than $10 million.

Instead, he became a murder statistic.

Paria left home one morning in October of 2002, and never brought back the ingredients for the Sunday meal planned with his wife and two infant daughters.

His Toyota Rav 4 was found abandoned in Sangre Grande the next day. His remains were found in the bushes outside of the town, the next month.

He died in a year when kidnapping for ransom became a lucrative enterprise in Trinidad. It was also the year when the murder count reached a then- outrageously high 171. If we only knew how much worse it would get. As with the killings now, Paria's death was never solved, despite the best efforts of widowed wife Carol Paria.

For years she tried to get the homicide bureau to continue digging for information leading to an arrest, indictment, prosecution, justice. It never happened. The homicide “unsolved” rate in this pretend paradise is about nine out of ten.

Fourteen years later, Carol continues to operate the business she started with her husband, an auto air-conditioning service shop in San Fernando. Their children have grown up and made their own lives. She still maintains at the family home in Santa Cruz from which Leon Paria left that day, to come back in a coffin six weeks later.

Since that 2002 murder, one of Leon Paria's prized possessions, a 1973 model Porsche 911 Carrera RS had been parked in the garage of that house, a piece of German engineering defying the island's tropical weather. This car is now becoming world famous.

In 1978, that Porsche was bought in England by a Trinidadian businessman and shipped to island. And according to the certified copy, it was sold in 1989 and ended up in Paria's hands four years later.

Carol Paria recalled when it was purchased by her husband.

“He just loved buying these vehicles. It was his passion. And he liked special cars (Pontiac Trans Am, Benz 380 SEL). I am not sure how he found the Porsche. He was not one to discuss things like this with me. I only knew of him buying the car after the fact. When he got it, it was parked up, not functioning. He said it was in some tall grass in Trincity. He did a lot of work to restore it, dash board, interior, painting, and mechanical things”. 

And then it was back on the road. Carol remembers the car winning “best of show” at a car show in Chaguanas. How much Paria paid for the car, his wife never knew. It wasn't something he discussed.

One day, while heading along the highway, the engine began failing and Leon Paria had to nurse the car home. He never got around to doing the repairs, and never drove it again. And in the garage it remained, long after Paria's death. For Carol, it was a bold reminder of her husband and what he loved.

Meanwhile, Carol kept calling the police officers who were supposedly investigating the case.

“Up to five years after Leon died, I kept in contact, asking what was the latest? What did they find out. They always had a story, always had an excuse. So I stopped calling. They were not interested”.

But people were interested in that purple Porsche. Carol Paria said she got many offers for the Porsche, one for $20,000. But she knew it was a collector's item worth a lot of money. So when an American came calling last year, persistent and offering much much more, the Parias decided to sell. The vehicle was sent off to Florida, and is now back in the UK. Another piece of Leon Paria gone.

But Carol Paria says she will never forget.

“After his death, my daughters struggled. This was not easy. Although this will make it 14 years, I think of him almost every day, because this was such a huge loss, of course. This (article) may be a reminder to people. I want people to remember what was taken from us. If he was alive…things would have been much different”.

 

ONE OF A KIND

Even the Parias may have underestimated the pedigree of the Porsche. The vehicle is now being celebrated in the United Kingdom, and the subject of a story on BBC 's Top Gear website. For the Porsche groupies, only 16 'Royal Purple' RS 2.7 Touring Carreras were ever built, and seven were right-hand-drive. Paria's car was the very last one to be produced. Untouched, its value is upwards of 500,000 pounds. After restoration, it expected to fetch more than one million pounds.

Credit for fining the rare car was given to Porsche specialist Autofarm, which disclosed details of the find last April.

According to the experts, despite having received a number of 1980's style cosmetic modifications over its life in Trinidad, including the rear wing, alloy wheels, tinted windows and aftermarket seats and steering wheel, Autofarm found it to be an original survivor of the 94 RHD UK Tourings produced.

“Peel off these latter day accoutrements and Autofarm has discovered a 'matching numbers' RS 2.7 with the added kudos of being the last RHD to leave the factory. With so many RS ending up in competition, cars with a documented history and retaining their core originality are extremely rare. And this one has also thankfully retained the unique 'homologation' technical features of the very last of the RS series, the 'short' trailing arms for what became the Turbo suspension geometry, and the stronger Silumin crankcase, the material used on the 1974 3.0 RS and RSR's.

“The RS 2.7 is now highly revered by collectors and enthusiasts,” says Autofarm's Josh Sadler who freighted the 911 back from Florida. “Having worked and raced these cars since they were new and tracked a fair few over their lives, we are often contacted about cars, either for sale, or for help with sourcing or checking if they are genuine specification. A good contact Rikard Asbjornsen in the US alerted us to this car. As is often the case, especially given the circumstances of the former owner's demise, the family was understandably cautious about enquiries. They actually started to cover the car up with old furniture to conceal it and a number of dogs patrolled the garden. Eventually Rikard was able to agree a deal with the daughter and got the car back to Florida and I acquired it from him there."

The condition of the car surprised Sadler, who has turned up a considerable number of barn find 911s. “It had literally baked in the sun,” adds Sadler. “The fuel tank was completely dry and I've never seen that. However, it remains a very good car and very rare in purple, though it has subsequently received a later metallic hue. Retaining matching numbers is remarkable and we are already in contact with the original exporter so hope to continue to gather ever more details of its fascinating history.”

Plans for the car remain fluid with Sadler debating to either sell or restore it, or even to get it running again and use it 'as is'. “The modifications we now view as tasteless, but they do tell the tale of the car. It has led a remarkable life and the murder of its owner meant it was left undisturbed for a considerable time. I'm sure it will be worth a lot more if restored but cars are all about their owners and I've fallen for the story of this one.”

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