Always be careful who you work with…
An entrepreneur in Iowa, Bill Oesterle who formerly was CEO of Angie’s List, just won a huge $7.2 million lawsuit against his former classic car mechanic. The allegations against Healey Werks Corp. and its owner, Craig Hillinger, reportedly include faking the authenticity of classic vehicles and overcharging for restoration work.
Learn why a classic car restorer was indicted on fraud charges here.
Somehow, these problems were allegedly spread over 10-plus years as Oesterle hired the shop for its services repeatedly. The first issue was when the entrepreneur purchased a 1967 Maserati Ghibli in 2010 for a mere $16,000. It sounds like the classic Italian car needed extensive restoration work, what with the shop quoting an estimate of at the most $200,000. That and the time frame to finish the job of only 2 years were both inaccurate as the project extended on for 4 years, cost over $1,000,000 and the restoration still wasn’t complete.
One would think that alone would’ve ended the relationship between Oesterle and the shop, but it apparently didn’t. The Iowa businessman alleged Healey Werks Corp. did complete restorations on classic cars when they were asked to do only small things on them or he told them to not go ahead with any work at all. As if that weren’t enough, Oesterle alleged the shop included in the final bills unnecessary parts for the job and incomplete labor.
Another dimension of the suit was Hillinger allegedly convincing Oesterle to buy an Austin-Healey 100M. Supposedly, the car was in pieces but the mechanic assured the businessman it was worth a hefty sum in fully restored condition. The restoration work took until last year and when Oesterle took possession of the classic British sports car, he discovered it wasn’t a factory 100M, the opposite of what he said was represented to him.
Most people have at least one car mechanic horror story they can share. And while there are plenty of exceptional mechanics out there, it would be naïve to state all are honest and hard-working. This is why we argue it literally pays to know about the cars you’re buying and having restored. Being ignorant to costs and details leaves you vulnerable to fraud. Also, if you’ve been burned by a mechanic or restoration shop, you might want to stop working with them immediately and find somewhere else to patronize.
Image via Wikimedia Commons