Horse of a Different Color

This story has shades of my last post. Another cautionary tale of why you need to research and choose your mechanic wisely. This story involves a 1961 Cadillac, which was minding it’s own business when a couple of my customers spotted it in the driveway of a home they went to a yard sale at. These 2 brothers thought they were very crafty when they offered the woman a pittance to haul it away for her so they could rebuild it and sell it.

At the time, these guys hadn’t met us yet and they searched online for someone who worked on classic cars. The brought it to a shop and were given an estimate and a request for $5,000 to start the job. In the 20+ years I’ve been in this business I have never, ever asked anyone for that amount of money to start a job but it did need body work as well as mechanical work, so I might be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. That is, until the shop called 2 weeks later and asked for another $5,000. Each time my customers went to the shop to hand over another check they could barely see any progress but figured the mechanic knew what he was doing. This same process went on 2 more times in which these guys handed over $18,000. Finally, the call came that the vehicle was finished and they owed a final payment of $7,000K. I’m assuming you, the reader, are as flabbergasted as I was on hearing this story. I had a million questions ; “why did you just keep handing it over?”, “did they show you where the money was being spent?”, “did you haggle over the prices at all?”. They really didn’t have a good answer, they just kept looking at each other and hung their heads.

Upon arrival that final day, they see the finished product. The body work was partially done, the engine and transmission rebuilt, a job that we could have easily done for $10,000. They weren’t thrilled with handing over another $7,000 and got into an argument. Ultimately they did though, in the form of a check which the shop owner did not want to accept, because they were just over it and wanted it to be done. They drove out, went a few blocks and the car broke down. They were beyond annoyed at this point and instead of going back to the shop they drove to an outdoor parking garage in another
part of town and left it there. They stopped payment on the check and pondered their next move.
About a week later they want back to the parking garage and the car was gone. When they questioned the lot personnel they were informed that the tow truck came to take it back to the shop. They were stupefied, this is New York City, how could the shop have known where they parked it. To this day they still don’t have an answer for that question but the shop came and took it because they had cancelled the last check. In the end the shop owner got the car running and they negotiated a smaller cash settlement.

Ultimately the car still never ran very well and it didn’t look that great either. They used it
a little to try to get some bang for their buck, but basically they wasted a huge amount
of money. Of course I had to berate them a little and they admitted they broke all my rules
for finding the right mechanic, staying on top of the situation and not using their instincts and now they’re very embarrassed by it. They brought the car to us recently to see if we knew anyone who might want to buy it. I had them post it online and I called around to see if anyone wanted it. In the end they did finally sell it…….for $6,000.
Even I couldn’t pick on them after that.


About dontgetwrenched

Elayne Kling, was the owner of a downtown Manhattan auto repair shop for 25 years and recently in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Elayne knows the particular ins and outs of the auto repair world and keeps up her blog because people will always need help navigating the potential pitfalls of that world. Due to the crazy NYC real estate market she has since closed down her shop and started a new business called Projects Unlimited Inc., helping other small businesses.
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