Police find ute that was stolen while Warrnambool owner drove busload of firefighters to Wodonga

Recovered: Thieves who stole Geoff Royce's blue ute while he was driving a busload of firefighters to northern Victoria have spray painted his classic car grey. It was found in Ballarat. Picture Mark Witte
Recovered: Thieves who stole Geoff Royce's blue ute while he was driving a busload of firefighters to northern Victoria have spray painted his classic car grey. It was found in Ballarat. Picture Mark Witte

But the bill to fix it could be as high as $10,000.

Geoff Royce's beloved sky blue 1978 WB Holden ute was found in Ballarat on Tuesday night but it had been resprayed grey - the amateur job leaving a streaky finish.

Mr Royce had given up hope that his collector's car would be found and has since bought himself a new ute which he was due to pick up on Thursday.

Thieves broke into the ute, which was parked in Christian's buses yard on January 12, after cutting through a wire fence.

The whole experience has left Mr Royce with a "real bitter taste".

"I can't believe I've got it back to be honest. I thought it was gone," he said. "I'm very lucky to get it back."

Along with the dodgy paint job, the side trays have been removed from the ute as well as the rear bar, number plates and tray cover.

"They've done a fair few burnouts. They've burnt the back tyre out," he said.

He said he was not sure if the motor was OK because the rotor button had been taken out of the distributor and the car can't be driven.

The thieves had also taken a torch and a few ropes from inside the car but left the CDs.

"Obviously they don't like Cat Stevens and David Bowie," he said.

Mr Royce said it could cost up to $4000 to restore the ute if he did the work himself, but to get a professional to do it could cost as much as $10,000.

The ute, which he bought and restored 25 years ago, was worth about $10,000.

"I'm relieved to get it back but it's a horrible feeling," he said.

Mr Royce got a phone call from Ballarat detectives about 9.30pm Tuesday night to say his car had been found and, after the car had been fingerprinted, he was able to bring it back to Warrnambool on the back of a trailer on Wednesday afternoon.

He said two people had been arrested over the theft.

"I hope they get jail time for it, but they'll probably give them a few months, slap on the wrists and say don't do it again," Mr Royce said.

This story Stolen ute found but damage bill hits five figures first appeared on The Standard.