Dunedin police say they have busted an alleged "chop shop" near Mosgiel, used by thieves to dismantle stolen vehicles for the illegal sale of parts.
Sergeant Chris McLellan led a dozen officers in the search of a yard yesterday.
He said the property was a "chop shop" linked to a spate of vehicle thefts in and around Dunedin.
Three men were wanted in relation to the alleged offending and it was likely others would be implicated in the ongoing investigation, Mr McLellan said.
"A group of people was stealing cars to order, chopping them down and selling parts to the highest bidder then selling the unidentifiable shells to an auto dismantler. It appears to be a reasonably sized operation."
"We are looking for people involved in stealing as well as those involved in on-selling or receiving stolen parts."
The remains of two commercial trucks and six "performance" vehicles were located at the property yesterday.
Mr McLellan said all had been identified as stolen and were collectively worth more than $70,000.
"We found chassis numbers, log books and owner/operator manuals on site," he said.
Among the performance vehicles was a Toyota Starlet and Nissan Skyline.
Reillys Towage and Salvage trucks removed vehicles from the property on police orders.
A "significant amount" of equipment used to dismantle vehicles was also found at the yard, including bolt cutters, gas cutters and grinders, Mr McLellan said.
"As a result we are now following positive lines of inquiry. We have linked the sale of stolen motors through to an auto dismantler in the city (Dunedin) and are completing further inquiries in regards to that."
The three male suspects identified by police would be "well aware" officers were looking for them, he said.
In the last month Dunedin police had noticed a spate of vehicles reported as missing, and not found.
Mr McLellan said car thieves "typically" took stolen vehicles for joy rides before dumping them, so it was "highly unusual" for missing vehicles not to be located.
Social media provided police with a "breakthrough" in the investigation, he said.
"The use of social media and people commenting about things meant staff were able to work on some assumptions and use it (social media) as a form of investigation."
He said some of the legitimate owners of stolen vehicles had been contacted and were happy to learn their property had been recovered, although only one car was intact.
"Unfortunately the rest have been chopped up," Mr McLellan said.