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Frustrated Classic Car Buyer Awarded More Than £120,000

A motoring enthusiast whose dream of owning an extremely rare Bristol car became a nightmare of escalating costs and contractual wrangling has been awarded more than £120,000 in damages by the High Court.

The man had wanted a Bristol 405D drop head coupé ever since he first saw one at the age of 18. Only around 40 of the cars were ever built and he could hardly believe his luck when, in 2011, Bristol Cars Limited (BCL) said that it could convert a 1955 Bristol 405 four-door saloon that it had for sale into a 405D. The man 'felt that he had to have it'.

He agreed to pay a fixed price of £153,000 for the restored car through his family property company in July 2011. However, more than two years later, the estimated cost of restoring the car had ballooned to almost £250,000. He had initially hoped to take delivery of the car in March 2012; however, it was still standing on blocks by the time the case came to court and some months away from completion.

BCL had gone into administration whilst negotiations for the project were ongoing and the original business was subsequently taken over and re-formed as a 'phoenix' company, still bearing its original name. However, the man was reassured that this would cause no problems and that it was 'business as usual'.

The fixed price deal was agreed, but the Court heard that BCL never made a start on the works. When the planned delivery date came and went without any progress having been made, the man 'began to lose patience'. He was re-assured that the work would be contracted out to a company specialising in restoring classic cars and that this would have no impact on the provenance or value of the car.

It emerged that a number of BCL staff with specialist skills had been 'let go' by the administrators and that the company was having difficulty replacing them. The man lodged a formal complaint with BCL and a settlement agreement was reached in May 2012. However, the deadline for completion had since been pushed further and further into the future and the price of the job rose ever upwards.

Upholding the man's claim, the Court rejected BCL's arguments that his company had breached the settlement agreement by failing to use 'reasonable endeavours' to strike a deal directly with the car restoration company. BCL was found in repudiatory breach of contract and ordered to pay damages and interest totalling £124,173. That sum largely represented the difference between the fixed price originally agreed for the car and the projected cost of completing the project.

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