News item

“Appalling” car conversion left Rugby man with a dangerous vehicle

Car Conversion, a company which tried to convert a Mercedes from right-hand to left-hand drive but instead left the car dangerous and unroadworthy was ordered to pay £1,155 in prosecution costs and £5,000 compensation after an investigation by Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service and Havering Trading Standards Service.

In Court, Magistrates said that the vehicle, (which was so badly damaged that it was ‘beyond economical repair’, with estimated repair costs to be £11,700 plus extras), posed a “very high risk of injury” and called the case “appalling”.

Among the many disastrous modifications were changes to the car’s internal wiring and fuse box creating a fire risk, alterations to the chassis which compromised its structural integrity and the removal of the brake and fuel lines from the bulk head clipping creating the potential for a brake failure and/or a fuel leak. The strength of the brake pedal had also been compromised and changes made to the steering idler and poor welding made the vehicle unroadworthy.

Rugby resident Mr Friel approached Car Conversion, located in the London Borough of Havering, in April 2011 to have his car converted from right hand drive to left hand drive for use in Spain where he had a holiday property.

Mr Friel received a quote of £3,500 to carry out the work and paid Mr Clifford Appiah, owner of Car Conversion £2,950 before taking the vehicle to Mr Appiah’s Noak Hill-based premises.

After numerous phone calls and attempts at contacting Mr Appiah, Mr Friel was finally told that his vehicle was ready for collection on Monday 7 January 2012, some nine months after initial contact.
On collection it quickly became apparent that the vehicle had significant damage. Mr Friel contacted Warwickshire Trading Standards who began an investigation with their Havering colleagues.

A vehicle expert examined the car and identified 14 faults that when combined made the vehicle dangerous to drive and ‘beyond economical repair’.

At Romford Magistrates Court on 6th September 2013, Car Conversion, owned by Clifford Appiah, (aged 49) of Bryant Row, Cummings Hall Lane, Noak Hill, Romford, was ordered to pay £1,155 in prosecution costs and £5,000 compensation. Mr Appiah was also given an 18-month conditional discharge.

Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, Cllr Les Caborn said:
“It is completely unacceptable for garages to place unroadworthy cars on the road, threatening the lives of drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike.”

“We will continue to take against rogue garages in support of motorists.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

Mr Friel is willing to give a statement to the press. Please contact Simon Cripwell, Warwickshire Trading Standards on 01926 414039 or 07771 975570 for more information.

Clifford Appiah, owner of Car Conversions - was prosecuted at Romford Magistrates’ Court on Friday 6 September 2013.

Mr Friel’s vehicle was examined by Robert T Lee and Associates Ltd, vehicle inspection consultants, on Monday 8 October 2012 on behalf of Havering Council. The following serious defects were found.

 

  • Misalignment of the steering wheel/column position
  • Misalignment of the dashboard, causing the driver’s foot to become trapped under the dashboard tray when applied to the pedal
  • Modification of the car’s internal wiring (in various locations) creating, a fire hazard
  • Assembly of the fuse box creating a risk of fire
  • Modification of a multi-plug connector creating a risk of fire
  • The incorrect positioning of the steering idler into the right hand chassis leg, including the beating with a hammer or other tool of the idler support housing to make space for the idler bracket, and poor patch welding. This modification made the vehicle ‘unroadworthy’.
  • Crushing of the right hand chassis leg support compromising the vehicle’s chassis structural integrity
  • Modification of the left hand chassis leg to make space for the steering box compromising the vehicles chassis structural integrity
  • Removal of the brake and fuel lines from the bulk head clipping, leading to the pipework rubbing on the gearbox housing, creating the potential for a brake failure and/or a fuel leak
  • Badly modified wiring left unprotected, connected badly with multiple connectors and left unsealed, unprotected and lying in water that had seeped into the vehicle’s foot well, leading it to be vulnerable to short circuiting. 
  • Cutting of the brake pedal and the insertion of a piece of steel into the pedal to extend it, compromising the strength of the brake pedal
  • Incorrect insertion of the pedal box into the bulkhead
  • Insertion of an old piece of household carpet into the right hand footwell, the carpet being saturated with water
  • The steering joint of the right hand steering arm catching the right hand chassis leg, resulting in the user of the vehicle not being able to obtain the correct steering lock when turning to the right, locking the steering. 
 
It was concluded that the vehicle was dangerous, and that it was ‘beyond economical repair’, with estimated repair costs to be £11,700 plus extras.
 
For more information please contact:
 
Simon Cripwell, Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Officer: (01926) 414039 or 07771 975570. 

 

DATE: 01 October 2013