The classic ute stolen while the owner was driving a busload of volunteer firefighters to Wodonga earlier this month has been found in Ballarat.
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.
The Warrnambool man 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".
The Courier's story about the stolen ute had more than 4000 shares on Facebook.
"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.Geoff Royce
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.
A 27-year-old male from Yendon has been charged with theft of a motor vehicle while a second male, from Sebastopol, is currently assisting police with their enquiries in relation to the theft.
Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Andrews from Ballarat CIU said the vehicle was recovered at a property between Ballarat and Smythesdale.
"We were happy to help out," he said.
"It is one of those things that would touch a lot of people because of how it came to be stolen. We were happy to be part of the process to get it back to the owner."
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