WSOC-TV reports Caldwell County sheriff's investigators said the car model matches the car belonging to retired Air Force member Amos Shook who was reported missing on Feb. 19, 1972. Detectives believe the remains are Shook's but the remains will be transferred to the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for an autopsy and identification.
Deputies said there were no signs of foul play so far.
Investigators and a dive team used advanced sonar to find the car in 30 feet of water.
Lake Rhodhiss, where the car and remains were found, is approximately 75 miles northwest of Charlotte.
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The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday that the search for Shook was resumed after his daughter approached Sheriff Alan Jones and investigators last month with a newspaper article about her missing father and asked them to search again.
Barlowe wouldn't say what led investigators to the lake.
Shook, who was 44 when he disappeared, had retired from the U.S. Air Force and lived in the town of Sawmills, according to Barlowe, who said his surviving family members live throughout Tennessee.
"Unless the medical examiner says the autopsy shows some type of foul play, we may never know what happened," Caldwell County Sheriff's Capt. B.J. Fore said. "We don't know his state of mind, and most of his family members are probably in their 80s now. But we're glad to have brought the family some closure."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.