A good few months ago it came to light that a local classic car garage I had been using wasn't all that it seemed. After trying to organise transportation to bring a car up the country, I had a frank conversation with the driver/owner of a car transporter. While he was unable to do the job, he stated that if he were, there would be no chance of him dropping the car of at this classic car garage. Furthering the conversation he claimed that after dropping off his '52 Chevy pickup (he didn't state which one, but for sure a goddamn rarity in the UK!) for engine work and fabrication, the vehicle came back to him requiring more work than it went in for. Tied to the fact the bill came to almost £3,000, and the new 'candy pearl blue' paintwork had been damaged immeasurably, the guy took the garage owner to court and won, to the tune of £6,000.
Soon after, a friend of mine started work at the garage as head spanner monkey, and all of the horror stories started to unfold.
It turns out the garage owner (for the purpose of this; called Tony) has had a long and chequered history around the area, running the same business under constantly changing names. While affable and friendly to your face, the man could not give two shits about his customers. The showroom is filled with beautifully restored classics, from Ferrari Dinos to MGA's. These are shown by agreement from the owners, who receive climate controlled storage for free. Not one of the display models has ever been worked on in this garage, although if you were ask Tony, every single one has been lovingly restored by him and his team. A sure fire hit as an advert for any potential new customers. His hook is to take in a classic for restoration, and charge a deposit to begin the job. Then on a month by month basis a constant amount is paid into his account upto the final agreed restoration price. In most cases the average deposit is £2,000 with 3-4 monthly payments of £1000 made afterwards. This is sold on the basis that the intial deposit pays for the majority of necessary parts, while the monthly payments act as a steady flow of cash to cover labour cost. The reality is that nothing happens on the cars within these months, and this is no exagerration. A red MGB GT put into shop 8 months ago has had £6,000 spent on it by it's owner, with no actual work happening on the vehicle until 4 weeks ago. The work was a rush job to make sure the customer had something to see after he announced he'd like to come and see the progress.
In total the business has changed name and premises 4 times in the last 9 years, accruing 16 court cases of which 9 have been settled against, with 7 still ongoing.
Two weeks ago the doors were shut, and my friend was fired on the spot along with his apprentice. A week previous the water had been cut off. The business in it's current form had folded, but curious activities followed. Purely by coincidence a customer turned up just days after the business shut its doors, to find not only that no one was around, but also that his car had gone. Only days before Tony had loaded the car, a close to pristine Jaguar E-Type V12, onto a trailer on the basis that he 'was returning it to the customer'. The police were involved immediately and the car was eventually found in a single car garage 10 miles away. As it cannot be proven that the car wasn't being stored before returning rather than being nicked, no charges have been brought. After this the leaseholder changed all of the locks on the building, and blocked off access to the rear yard with two Transit vans. Tony has not been seen since.
And so we come to todays escapades. The leaseholder got in touch with me earlier this week (we know each other, it's a small village!). After getting a big stinky whiff of wrongdoing, a visit from the police, and a distinct lack of 5 months rent, they asked if I had the facility to store some vehicles for safe keeping. But of course I do.
So today I am the proud keeper of 9 new (old) vehicles, in various states of disrepair, which I like to think have been rescued from the hands of a crooked shit who couldn't give a flying fuck about the cars he 'works' on never mind the people he rips off. We have had full access to the property today to recover parts and documentation for the vehicles, including customers names and addresses (most of which are incomplete). There are boxes of bits which have no clear labelling and will be a jigsaw puzzle of fun for us while we seek out respective owners and invariably inform them of what's happened. I'm not joking, but two of the cars have got 'Jerry, Holland' and 'Martin, Ireland' as their only representative documentation for the owners of said vehicles. Absolutely shocking. But the cars are safe at least, and we will slowly build a parts haul for each car so at least the owners can go back with a couple of extra bits, and a metric crap tonne of ammunition to bury the bastard in legal Foolscap.
Here's the six that got shelter in the shed. There's an old Jag XJ, SL500 and Volvo 240 that need putting away tomorrow, with some vehicles still left to pick up.