Sébastien Michaud thought he would likely never see his beloved 1992 Honda Prelude again.
On October 27, overnight, a thief stole the car – right from their Moncton home. When he woke up in the morning, he saw an empty road and broken glass.
“I was nervous,” he said. “I was thinking maybe this is it. Maybe this is the last time I see my car.”
Michaud said he reported it to the RCMP, who told him the “chances” of finding it were slim.
But about a month later, with the help of hundreds of car enthusiasts on social media, the Prelude was found after citizens tracked the car across three provinces.
Michaud is a self-described “gars de char”, or car enthusiast, and said he has spent years working on his blue Prelude.
“When the car came out in 1992, I was 11 years old and I remember thinking to myself, ‘One day, I’ll have one of these cars,'” he said. “I just loved the lines, I loved the aggressive look and the rounded edges.”
When one turned up on Kijiji in 2006 – in the right shade of blue – Michaud bought it.
He has been working on it ever since, making some repairs himself and with the help of a local mechanic. The Prelude would hit the road in the summer and remain in storage in the winter.
He said, “I was never going to sell that car, I was going to keep it forever. That was the plan and I’m very lucky to have it again.”
Michaud said he thinks the thief was likely knowledgeable about cars and somehow knew about the battery kill switch in the engine bay, which was supposed to prevent theft.
He said the man probably broke the windshield, hot wired the car, turned off the switch and drove away.
After notifying police, Michaud shared on Facebook that his car had been stolen. That’s when people from around the Maritimes came forward.
Xavier Roy-Lanquet, a young auto enthusiast, spread the word in online groups for people interested in cars.
He didn’t know Michaud, but he had seen the blue Prelude around Moncton in the past.
“It’s a unique car, in a unique color. We haven’t seen much like it in the province,” he said.
The day after Roy-Lanket shared photos of the stolen vehicle online, someone in Charlottetown reported seeing it. It was also seen in Halifax.
Then, while attending a car show in Salisbury, two friends from Nova Scotia said they saw it at the Big Stop in Aulak, NB, without knowing it was stolen.
Located in Nova Scotia
Roy-Lanquet proceeded with his investigation. He contacted the gas station to ask if there was security camera footage.
“We were able to find his face, we were able to find his Facebook. Then there were a number of people who knew who the guy was and what car it was,” he said.
“Wherever he went, he had his picture taken.”
The blue Prelude was eventually found by municipal police, lying on the side of the road in Amherst, N.S.
Michaud thinks the thief succumbed to the “heat of social media.”
Roy-Lanquet, who currently drives a 1989 Honda Accord, said that when he saw that Michaud’s “pride and joy” had been stolen, he just wanted to do what he could to help.
“When the entire community comes together, it proves what great things we can accomplish,” he said.
“If it happened to me, I’d love it if someone did it for me.”
The thief is still absconding. New Brunswick RCMP confirmed to Radio-Canada on Sunday that it is investigating.
thousands were lost
Michaud said he is incredibly grateful to have the car back, but it needs about $4,000 to $5,000 in repairs.
And parts are hard to find for a 31-year-old car, he said. The door handles are destroyed, the ignition is in pieces and the plastic is missing around the steering wheel of the vehicle. The car is currently being appraised by Michaud’s insurance company.
Michaud recently drove the car for the first time since the theft to move it from the garage, where he had pulled it into winter storage. He will not leave it in his path again.
“I almost cried during that drive because I was so happy to be reunited with my car.”