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The Time Capsule in my Woods


When we first bought our house, all we knew about the four acres of wooded area that came with it would need a lot of work. Green Briar created thorny barriers that wrapped around fallen branches. But as someone who grew up exploring the woods, I viewed it as an adventure.

The moment I had some spare time and sunlight, I went exploring. I expected to maybe find a treehouse or prints left from the deer that I would hear at night, but what I found was much more interesting.

Not far into the wooded area sat the shells of two cars. One was so rusted out, it was hard to tell what it even was. The other looked as if it had been parked and was waiting on its owner to return. It was such an odd find and I was intrigued.

The parked car was easy to identify. It was an old Pontiac Grand LaMans with a license plate dated to October of 1988. Though it was a little rusted and the forest had left its mark, it was still in good condition.

However, the shell was a little harder to identify. Off about ten feet was a robin's egg blue hood buried partway into the ground. Chances are it belonged to the shell of what was once someone's family vehicle. But other than that, the only identifying feature was the Vin Number on what used to be the dashboard.

Armed with this vital clue, I began searching. At first, I tried the usual VIN lookup tools provided online. But they kept wanting a 17 digit VIN number, mine was only 13 digits.

I am not a car person by any stretch. But my love for true crime and history only made this more interesting. Was the VIN a fake? Had I stumbled across a piece of a crime scene? The answer was a lot less exciting than I had hoped for.

Prior to 1980, VIN numbers were shorter than 17 digits and modern VIN lookup software did not account for that. After all, any VIN shorter than 17 digits was more than 40 years old.

The history enthusiast in me perked up at this knowledge and I delved deeper. Where were the records of my mystery car? Eventually, I found a VIN decoder that would work with mine.

My mystery car turned out to be a 1978 Cutlass Calais. This model of Oldsmobile was discontinued back in 1988 in favor of newer models. While it was no rare sportscar or crime scene, it still held a fascination for me.

When we think of history, we often think of ancient buildings or treasures worth more than what we can imagine. However, history can be a number of things, including old cars found in your woods. I have not yet explored the remainder of woods located on our property, but I am hopeful there are more pieces of history hidden deep within.

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