A West Coast man's attempt to legalise a stolen car was foiled simply because he had failed to don his seatbelt, Greymouth District Court has been told.

Dennis William Tunnicliffe, 19, was remanded on bail for sentencing in Christchurch after other charges are dealt with.

He admitted stealing a Nissan Subaru, valued at $9000, from a Christchurch address on April 28.

Soon after the theft, Tunnicliffe's girlfriend changed the ownership papers of a Toyota Hi-Ace van into her name, the court was told.

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The registration plates from the van were then transferred to the Subaru, which the couple drove to Greymouth.

When Tunnicliffe was pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt police realised that the plates on the car actually related to a van. Further checks showed that all identifying marks had been stripped from the vehicle, including the engine number.

The woman told police she had purchased the vehicle on Trade Me, but she could not provide any proof of the alleged deal.

- The Greymouth Star