Classic Car Enthusiasts Say Business Ripped Them Off
Restoring an old car takes both time and money. But, I bet you, most classic car collectors will tell you it's worth it. These cars mean a lot to them.
So imagine how customers felt when they took their prized cars to a Nashville business to be restored and say they were ripped off.
Consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus went looking for answers.
Folks who are into cold cars call them classics.
They are restored vintage vehicles that are treasured not only for how they look now, but for the memories they help preserve.
James Hill shares an old picture and pointing to the small boy standing in front of a car he says, "That's me when I was about four years old."
Hill grew up with the car, a 1967 Chevelle Malibu.
It used to be his grandmother's. Now, it's his.
But these days, he's got to push it just to get it in and out of his garage.
Hill's wife, Kari, tells NewsChannel 5, "I wanted to see my husband driving this car, the way his grandmother had originally drove it in '67, '68."
The Hills say a man by the name of Mike Nezer promised he'd restore their car.
When NewsChannel 5 went to see Nezer, he told Kraus, "Do not come on my property."
The Hills paid Nezer's company, Classic Muscle, more than sixteen thousand dollars. When they finally got the Chevelle back from Classic Muscle more than a year later, a lot of the work had not been done and many parts were either damaged or altogether missing.
As James Hill stands in front of the shell of his car, he says, "As you can see, I've got no windshield. I've got no rear windshield, no interior, no hood. It's terrible."
And the Hills aren't the only ones who say they were hung out to dry.
Vernon Winfrey, Oprah's father, tells NewsChannel 5, "I'm one of the dissatisfied customers."
Winfrey took his '73 Mustang to Classic Muscle to have the interior redone. He paid twenty-five hundred dollars. But when he picked up his car, he says he had to take it elsewhere to get the job finished.
Winfrey puts what happened to him rather bluntly, explaining, "I got screwed."
When Mike Nezer saw our camera when we went to see him, he yelled, "Don't make this into a big fiasco. Do not make this bad." Then he abruptly went inside and closed the door.
Nezer ran Classic Muscle in Nashville and told customers he had more than thirty years experience repairing and restoring old cars. Then, he was hauled off to jail in Florida for a probation violation. His business partner Tom Williams took over and soon after, Classic Muscle filed for bankruptcy.
Williams later testified in bankruptcy court that the company's books were in shambles and he believed Nezer had stolen money.
When NewsChannel 5 tried to ask Nezer about this, his response was, "If you've got so much negative and positive and dirt, then you need to run that, okay? But you need to stay off all my properties and get off my land."
NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered that this is not the first time Nezer has been accused of wrongdoing.
He's now facing federal fraud charges for another business he ran in Middle Tennessee called Stencilco.
He's also facing bad check charges in Kentucky.
In Florida, he'd been found guilty of theft, passing worthless checks, and running a gambling house.
While here in Nashville, he's been sued repeatedly by customers who say he failed to do the work they'd paid for.
James Hill says of Nezer, "He is not a man to be trusted."
The Hills say they couldn't believe it when Nezer moved to Robertson County and opened a new Classic Muscle in Greenbrier and then began insisting he'd had nothing to do with the original Classic Muscle in Nashville.
Kari Hill strongly disagrees. "It's an outright lie," she says.
And then there are Nezer's recent claims that he's restoring cars for soldiers while they fight in Iraq.
The Hills also are outraged by that. James Hill's a member of Fort Campbell's 5th Special Forces Group.
He tells NewsChannel 5, "I'm one of those guys that was going over there and waiting to come back to see my car restored. It didn't happen."
James Hill says he took his grandmother's car to Classic Muscle with a dream. But Mike Nezer, the Hills insist, turned the experience into a nightmare.
Kari Hill believes, "The state of Tennessee needs to go after him, to shut his business down. I don't want to see this happen to anyone else. "
An interesting side note to this story is that Tom Williams, the man who was Mike Nezer's partner in the Nashville business had actually been his probation officer here first.
We tried repeatedly to talk with Tom Williams, but he wasn't interested.
As for customers like the Hills, it looks like they lost their money.
The bankruptcy case is still in court and even when it's resolved, they'll never get back all they paid Classic Muscle.
The best advice is to thoroughly check out who you're doing business with when you're having work like this done and don't pay the entire amount up front.
Mike Nezer told us he was not interested in doing an on-camera interview with us until his court cases are resolved. He's scheduled to go on trial on federal fraud charges in January.