A classic car enthusiast has been awarded £94,000 in damages after a court ruled the vintage Bentley she paid £425,000 was a FAKE.
Mercedes Brewer, 67, bought the 1930 Bentley Speed Six from a specialist dealer but later discovered the only original feature of the car was a small part of the chassis.
She only discovered the truth when she came to sell the car and it was valued at just £300,000.
Mrs Brewer, an American lawyer who lives in Oakham, Leics., sued car dealer Stanley Mann Racing Ltd and a high court judge has now ruled in her favour.
Judge Anthony Thornton QC said the car had been so heavily modified it was ”no longer capable of being accurately described as a 1930 Bentley Speed Six car”.
Mrs Brewer said: ”When I was told the car didn’t have a Speed Six engine I couldn’t believe it, I was disgusted.
”When you buy a car from someone who regards themselves as the world’s leading vintage Bentley specialist you don’t suspect anything untoward.”
Mrs Brewer bought the Bentley in June 2007 under the impression it was one of only 177 Speed Six models to roll off the company’s production line in 1930.
Her husband Peter, a car dealer in the 1960s and 70s who is now a business consultant, owns several Bentleys.
But in July 2008 she decided to sell the car as she was struggling to make repayments on her hire purchase agreement.
She instructed Sholto Gilbertson, a personal friend who worked for renowned auctioneers Bonhams, to value the Bentley – and was in for a shock.
Mr Gilbertson valued it at just £300,000 – significantly less than the £550,000 she was expecting to hear.
Launched in the late 1920s, the legendary Speed Six was built during the company’s heyday and is regarded as the finest vintage model Bentley has ever produced
Fitted with a six-and-a-half litre engine developing 180 horespower, the classic British sports vehicle was Bentley’s most successful racing car winning twice at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930.
However, Mrs Brewer’s Bentley had the lesser powered six-and-a-half litre standard engine reconstructed to give the appearance of a Speed Six.
She said: ”My husband Peter has owned and raced Bentleys all his life – and he got me into the marque when we married in 2002.
”When I decided to buy one I asked Peter which model he’d recommend and he immediately said a Speed Six but it didn’t turn out very well.
”The sad part is that Mr Mann constructed the car for himself so knew everything about it but the only original Speed Six part of the car was the front of the chassis.”
Shocked by the news, Mrs Brewer asked her finance company Fortis to suspend her payment plan while she negotiated her claim with Mr Mann.
However, because of her outstanding payments Fortis terminated the contract and repossessed the car.
The finance company then sold the Bentley back to Stanley Mann Racing Limited for £425,000 – the price Fortis and Mrs Brewer had paid for it two years earlier.
She claimed Mr Mann was in breach of warranty in describing the engine as being ”a Speed Six engine” and SMRL and Fortis were in breach of their respective obligations to provide a ”1930 Bentley Speed Six Car”.
As a result, the business and litigation lawyer launched a lawsuit against Mr Mann, SMRL and Fortis.
Mr Mann, who has sold and raced vintage Bentleys for over 25 years has defended his actions, claiming to have acted in good faith.
Speaking in February before the start of the court case, he said: ”I built the car for myself in the late 1970s and I love that car and for 18 months she had nothing but fun with it.
”Then she decided to sell it and the valuation she got didn’t reach the price she wanted.
”She then comes flying back to me so I offered her her money back but she wants more and she wants interest.”
The judge that Stanley Mann Racing Limited and Fortis Lease UK Limited were wrong to describe the car as a 1930 Bentley Speed Six.
Judge Thornton said: ”Mrs Brewer’s claims succeed against each defendant, Fortis’s counterclaim fails and Mrs Brewer is entitled to damages, interest and costs against each defendant and an indemnity from the first and third defendants.”
In addition to the £94,000 damages, Mr Mann will also have to pay court costs of about £300,000.
On Judge Thornton’s verdict, Mr Mann added: ”I was extremely disappointed with the judgement and I will be appealing it.
”It’s the first time I’ve been in court and I still don’t know why.”