Traditional automotive house owners are floored after the storage removes elements and refuses to return family members
Some Nova Scotia classic car enthusiasts, who have paid thousands of dollars to have their vehicles machined or restored by a body and mechanical workshop, wonder if they will ever see their money – or their cars – again.
They say they repeatedly tried to negotiate with Curtis Customs Radical Garage in Elmsdale, NS, and their owner Curtis MacLean, only to be ignored or sometimes billed more than their original contract. Some say they were told their vehicles would not be returned while others were given some of them back.
Curtis Customs has been in business since 2005 and has won a number of awards over the years including being a finalist for the 2014 East Hants Business Excellence Award. MacLean has also worked with famous automaker and news columnist Rich Evans on several occasions.
Recently, however, more and more customers are expressing their dissatisfaction with the work of the shop, which is located in an industrial park about 25 miles north of Halifax, and some have successfully sued MacLean in a small claims court.
MacLean emailed CBC News that due to ongoing legal disputes, he was unable to provide a formal interview on the complaints made against him.
A sign that says Curtis Customs Radical Garage has been approved by the famous American automaker Gene Winfield. (Robert Guertin / CBC)
Marc Dooley first went to Curtis Customs in 2015, hoping to find expertise in refurbishing vehicles. It turned out to be a “big mistake” that led to years of headache over back and forth arguments with MacLean.
Dooley said he wanted to fix rust and holes on his 2005 Lincoln pickup. He was from the Elmsdale area and said he noticed MacLean’s garage.
“He had a $ 6,000 solution that was just fixing and touching up the holes, or a $ 30,000 solution that was basically getting me a better car than a new one,” Dooley said .
Dooley said he and MacLean have agreed on a price of $ 30,000, with Dooley paying half upfront and the rest once the job is completed. Dooley said he was told by a MacLean acquaintance that MacLean was a bit slow completing jobs, but the job well done was good.
“I honestly trusted this guy. I thought he was going to be a great mechanic.”
The inside of a Camaro that belonged to Pommerville when it was in the Curtis Customs Radical Garage. Pommerville said it had been stripped of its parts. (Submitted by Maurice Pommerville)
It’s now been almost six years since Dooley’s vehicle was with Curtis Customs and he’s been trying to get it back for two years.
Dooley said MacLean refused to return the vehicle and asked for more money. Dooley has contacted both the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the RCMP. The BBB informed him he said there was nothing they could do. He said the RCMP had told him they could offer to help mediate the situation, but nothing more.
An RCMP spokesman emailed CBC News that the force had responded to complaints at a company in the Elmsdale industrial park, where Curtis Customs is located.
“During these complaints, our members have tried to keep the peace between all parties involved. These matters concern civil issues between private parties,” said Cpl. Chris Marshall wrote.
“It’s my coffin at this point”
Dooley’s Lincoln stays in the store and he says he has no idea where to go from here: “I feel like it’s my coffin right now.”
And he’s not the only one. Dooley recently shared with others who had similar experiences with Curtis Customs.
Danny Hart and Kersten Hanke told CBC News that they gave MacLean a Can-Am Spyder, a three-wheeled motorcycle, as a $ 18,000 deposit for the renovation of Hart’s 1939 Nash Ambassadour. Hart said parts of the Nash Ambassadour were lost during Curtis Customs and it was left impassable.
Nicholas Trenholm said in an interview that his 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo was stripped of parts. Kevin Schreiner, another customer, said his 1979 Ford pickup truck had taken parts and MacLean wanted to bill him more.
Jim Downey said after five years with MacLean, he lost nearly $ 25,000 and got his 1969 Mustang back in pieces.
Maurice Pommerville, who left two vehicles in MacLean’s care in 2016, a 1967 Chevelle and a 1967 Camaro, said his Chevelle was “destroyed” in the garage and the Camaro was stripped of its parts.
Kevin Schreiner said his 1979 Ford pickup truck, shown here after it was returned, had parts taken from Curtis Customs. (Submitted by Kevin Schreiner)
Both Trenholm and Schreiner eventually took MacLean to trial for small claims and won. Schreiner received $ 10,235 and Trenholm $ 12,500, but both said they never received the money from MacLean.
Pommerville also went through small claims court and ended up getting back both cars he left in MacLean’s care, but he said it was a long and stressful process.
Pommerville had initially agreed to lend MacLean his Chevelle until the restoration work on his Camaro was complete, and then, once it was done, he would give MacLean the Chevelle.
The contract was “very clear,” said Pommerville. While he had the Camaro, MacLean was supposed to make no modifications to the Chevelle and only keep it roadworthy. But one day Pommerville said he went into the store and, to his disbelief, discovered the broken hood of the Chevelle: “He had cut the hood all the way open.”
Pommerville was upset but said he was giving MacLean another chance. However, after nearly four years of back and forth, Pommerville said he went to the store to check on his cars. He was shocked to see that the Camaro had been stripped of its parts and left in a dilapidated state. He said he was then turned away by MacLean and said not to return to the store.
In the end, he filed a lawsuit against MacLean and won. MacLean appealed but was unsuccessful.
MacLean was ordered to return the vehicles and their parts, and to pay Pommerville $ 426 to cover various fees related to the trial.
Pommerville was able to collect both vehicles from the garage parking lot, but still couldn’t get the parts back. He said his next step would be to file a restoration warrant that would allow a sheriff to confiscate the missing parts. It is also possible to seize MacLean’s wages. The Chevelle was so damaged he had to sell it for parts, he said.
“The slaughter that is left behind is just phenomenal,” said Pommerville. “People have lost a good deal of their savings, it sounds like; they have saved to make their dream project come true – gone. In some cases the cars are gone, so it’s just a shame. I really don’t want anyone to be able to do this happen to others. “
Rob (RJ) McConnell, a former clerk and accountant for the store, provided Pommerville with a list of nine names that he said people owed money because their parts were sold or they were paid for work that was never completed. He claims the list totals more than $ 150,000.
McConnell said in an interview that he is also owed approximately $ 130,000 in connection with a business agreement he entered into with MacLean during his time with MacLean that includes parts purchases and rental payments.
McConnell started a Facebook group for people who had a bad experience with in-store customer service. He said he did not like what he saw while working there and he was a witness in Pommerville’s minor case against MacLean.
“I watched him take people’s auto parts and sell them,” said McConnell.