Classic car owners devastated after garage removes parts and refuses to return their beloved vehicles

Some classic car enthusiasts in Nova Scotia who have paid thousands of dollars to have their vehicles repaired or restored by a specialist body shop and mechanic are wondering if they will ever see their money or their cars again.

They say they tried on several occasions to negotiate with Curtis Customs Radical Garage in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, and its 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 collected them in pieces.

Curtis Customs has been in business since 2005 and over the years has received various accolades including being a finalist for the 2014 East Hants Business Excellence Award. MacLean has also worked several times with famous automaker and bodywork news columnist Rich Evans.

Recently, however, a growing number of clients have expressed dissatisfaction with the work being done at the workshop, located in an industrial park about 40 kilometers north of Halifax, and some have successfully sued MacLean in court. small claims.

MacLean told CBC News in an email that due to an ongoing litigation he was unable to give a formal interview regarding the complaints against him.

A sign indicating that Curtis Customs Radical Garage is endorsed by famous American customizer and car maker Gene Winfield. (Robert Guertin / CBC)

Marc Dooley first went to Curtis Customs in 2015, hoping to find expertise in vehicle refurbishment. This turned out, he said, to be a “big mistake” that led to years of headaches from back and forth conflicts with MacLean.

Dooley said he wanted 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, which was just fixing the holes and fixing them, or a $ 30,000 solution, which was basically giving me a better-than-new car,” Dooley said.

Dooley said he and MacLean had agreed to a price of $ 30,000, with Dooley paying half up front and the rest when the job was done. Dooley said an acquaintance of MacLean told him that MacLean was a bit slow to finish the job, but the job done would be good.

“I honestly trusted this guy. I thought he was going to be a great mechanic.”

The interior of a Camaro owned by Pommerville while in the Curtis Customs Radical garage. Pommerville said he had been stripped of his parts. (Submitted by Maurice Pommerville)

Dooley’s vehicle has been with Curtis Customs for almost six years now, and he’s been trying to get it back for two years.

Dooley said MacLean refuses to return the vehicle and has asked for more money. Dooley contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) ​​and the RCMP. The BBB informed him, he said, that there was nothing he could do. He said the RCMP told him they could offer to help mediate the situation, but nothing more.

An RCMP spokesperson told CBC News in an email that the force responded to complaints filed at a company in Elmsdale Industrial Park, where Curtis Customs is located.

“During these complaints, our members were there to keep the peace between all parties involved. These cases involve civil matters between private parties, ”said Cpl. Chris Marshall wrote.

“It’s my coffin at this point”

Lincoln from Dooley is staying at the store and he said he has no idea where to go from here: “I feel like it’s my coffin at this point.”

He is not the only one. Dooley was recently able to come into contact 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 down payment of $ 18,000 towards the refurbishment of Hart’s 1939 Nash Ambassadour. Hart said parts went missing from the Nash Ambassadour while he was at Curtis Customs and he got out of hand.

Nicholas Trenholm said in an interview that his 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo was devoid of parts. Kevin Schreiner, another customer, said his 1979 Ford pickup truck had parts taken and MacLean wanted to charge him more money.

Jim Downey said that after five years of back-and-forth 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” while in the garage and the Camaro was stripped of. its parts.

Kevin Schreiner said his 1979 Ford pickup truck, shown here after his return, had parts removed while at Curtis Customs. (Submitted by Kevin Schreiner)

Trenholm and Schreiner ended up taking MacLean to small claims court 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 the two cars he left in MacLean’s care, but said it was a long and stressful process.

Pommerville had initially agreed to loan his Chevelle to MacLean until the restoration work on his Camaro was complete, then when done he would give the Chevelle to MacLean.

The contract was “very clear,” Pommerville said. While he owned the Camaro, MacLean didn’t have to make any modifications to the Chevelle and only had to keep it street-worthy. But one day, Pommerville said he went to the store and to his disbelief discovered the hood of the destroyed Chevelle: “He had cut the whole hood off.

Pommerville was upset, but said he gave MacLean another chance. However, after nearly four years of back and forth, Pommerville said he went to the store to check his cars. He was shocked to see that the Camaro had been stripped of its parts and left in disrepair. He said he was then turned away by MacLean and told him not to return to the store.


He ended up filing a lawsuit against MacLean and won. MacLean appealed, but was unsuccessful.

MacLean was ordered to return the vehicles and their parts as well as to pay Pommerville $ 426 to cover various costs related to the lawsuit.

Pommerville was able to retrieve the two vehicles from the workshop parking lot, but still could not retrieve the parts. He said his next step is to file a collection order, which will allow a sheriff to seize the missing parts. Garnishment of MacLean’s wages is also possible. The Chevelle was so damaged he had to sell it for parts, he said.

“The carnage that remains is just phenomenal,” Pommerville said. “People, according to the rumors, have lost a good part of their savings; they were saving to make their dream project – gone. In some cases the cars are gone, so it’s just a shame. I really don’t want this to happen to anyone else. “

Former accountant

Rob (RJ) McConnell, a former store employee and accountant, provided Pommerville with a list of nine names he said were people who owed money because their parts were sold or paid for. for a job that had never been finished. He alleges that the sum of the list totals over $ 150,000.

McConnell said in an interview that he also owed around $ 130,000 in connection with a business deal he made with MacLean while he was working there, involving the purchase of parts and the payment of rent.

McConnell created a Facebook group for people who have had a bad customer service experience in the store. He said he didn’t like what he saw while working there, and was a witness in Pommerville’s small claims case against MacLean.

“I saw him take auto parts from people and sell them,” McConnell said.

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