SANTA ANA — A bizarre legal battle over a long-lost, $4-million race car took yet another strange twist Tuesday when a lawyer for Phil Spector said that the pop music legend still owns the rare 1964 Cobra Daytona coupe.
"Mr. Spector is the owner of the Cobra," Peter C. Sheridan, an attorney for Spector, said Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court. "He never gave it or sold it to anyone."
Sheridan declined further comment outside the court, referring questions to Spector attorney Robert Shapiro. Shapiro said in a telephone interview that he planned to file court papers arguing that Spector thought the car had been placed in storage on his behalf nearly 30 years ago, and was unaware that it had been sold.
Spector's claim came during what was to have been a routine court appearance in a civil lawsuit over the sale of the car. The key issue revolves around who owned the car after the suicide last year of Donna O'Hara, who had kept the legendary Cobra in storage for nearly 30 years.
Longtime family friend Kurt Goss of Anaheim said that O'Hara, who lived in La Habra, gave him the car a few days before she committed suicide Oct. 22 on a Fullerton horse trail.
But O'Hara's mother, Dorothy Brand of San Diego, argued that there is no proof O'Hara gave the car to Goss. O'Hara died without a will, and Brand argued that as her daughter's closest living relative, the car is hers.
So Brand sold it for $3 million in January to a Montecito rare car dealer, who resold it days later to a Philadelphia collector for about $4 million.
How O'Hara came to have the car remains murky.
The car, known as the CSX2287, was built in 1964 by racing legend Carroll Shelby. It set land speed records and was part of a fleet of six race cars that helped the Shelby American racing team become the first Americans to win a world racing title.
The CSX2287 was retired after the 1965 racing season and sold. That initial buyer sold it less than a year later to Spector.
Those involved in the case said that O'Hara's father, George Brand, was Spector's former bodyguard and that he bought the car for $1,000 around 1970, when the reclusive music producer planned to scrap it rather than pay for expensive repairs.
Shapiro said Brand actually was Spector's house manager. He said Spector "neither sold nor gave" the car to Brand, but turned it over to him to place in storage.
Asked how someone could not realize one of his cars was missing for nearly three decades, Shapiro said that the CSX2287 was an investment and that Spector assumed his financial managers were taking care of such details as insurance and storage.
"Isn't that the definition of an heirloom?" Shapiro said. "This isn't a man who gets in his car every morning and checks his oil pressure and drives it to work. He is the most prolific producer in the history of music and he's extremely focused on his work. He delegates most of these things to other people."
Spector helped shape the sounds of of pop singers and groups dating back to the late 1950s. His so-called "wall of sound" helped revolutionize pop music in the 1960s.
Shapiro said Spector hoped to have the court order either the car or the proceeds of its sale--about $4 million--be turned over to him.
Brand was in court Tuesday but declined to comment, other than to say she was surprised by Spector's claim. "It just gets thicker and thicker," she said.