Thieves have trashed and stripped the car of a Tangambalanga family struggling to make ends meet.
The 1995 EF Falcon, built with love from the ground up, was their only valuable possession.
It broke down on the Hume Freeway near the Bandiana Link on Friday night and after Stacey Peterson and Brett Collins tried to fix it on Saturday, they returned on Sunday to find it destroyed.
The bumper had been half ripped off, a window smashed, two tyres slashed and the exhaust removed.
Two holes suggested someone had tried to remove the uninsured car with a forklift.
The battery, battery pack, a stereo, a birth certificate and a $600 set of tools were missing.
A tearful Ms Peterson said the couple were broken to see the car.
“Brett cried — he’d built it up from scratch with his brother,” she said.
“They didn’t need to do that for a battery pack and a battery — all we had was that car.”
The couple use the car for daily trips to a Lavington chemist for a drug maintenance program and counselling.
Only a year ago, they moved to Tangambalanga so Ms Peterson could be reunited with her sons, Jesse and Jye Cooke, 15 and 14, after almost 10 years apart.
They were now trying to rebuild their lives.
A hire car and towing had cost the family, surviving on Centrelink payments, more than $500.
“The hire car goes back on Wednesday and what then?” Ms Peterson said.
“We have to still pay for rent and feed the kids.”
Detectives are investigating the damage and theft.