Texas sports car tuner Ray Hofman sent a twin-turbo Ford GT to California tuner Bill Knobloch for some upgrades. Knobloch says he was taking the "gal" for a test drive when it went airborne. And that's only the beginning.
Ray Hofman tunes GTs and other exotics; one of his projects holds the record for a standing-mile. Last month, he sent a 2007 twin-turbo GT in Gulf colors for some minor tuning to Knobloch's Discovery Automotive in California, known on several chat boards as "Shadowman."
Knobloch touted the arrival of Hofman's car on his own web site with a picture of the GT, saying: "Well this gal comes to us as a stunning example of one of the few new Heritage model Ford GT's still waiting to be exercised and in this case the comment exercised could not be more appropriate."
Hofman says on Sept. 11, Knobloch sent an email saying "your gal and I are about to embark on our 'get to know each other' adventure" with a "methodical cruise" while adjusting a boost controller. He also had asked Hofman for a copy of his insurance card - a step that Hofman now says should have been a warning.
Late that night, Knobloch sent another email, telling Hofman there'd been an incident with the car while he had been "driving like a little old lady." Knobloch also said he was more worried about the damage the GT might suffer from being towed away than anything that happened in the crash.
And here's where the stories start to separate. First, Knobloch's version:
With everything looking fine I closed her up and proceeded back on the highway cruising in the slow lane between 60-65 mph and then approximately 3 miles later I am tossed off the highway and proceeded to (as described by the witness) to fly backwards through several tree tops as the drop off the highway was 60 plus feet and then she finally landed on all fours without the air bag deploying...
...When I completed my crawl up to the highway I was asked by the witness; "what happened; did a tire blow" to which I said that I had no idea and then I was told that I commented/questioned several times how does one tell a friend that you just got in an accident with their gal. I simply could not believe that which had happened.
Hofman has a different take, aided by a tow truck driver who pulled the GT:
Bill had told me he was in the "slow" lane or inside lane and that was backed up by the multiple sets of skid marks on the pavement...Now I cannot say that these marks were in fact left by my car as Shadowman says that he was not speeding and was simply going in and out of boost in 3rd at 65 mph, driving like a "little old lady."
Shortly there after, 150 ft or so was the marks on the pavement which were in the same lane and DEFINITELY left by my car as the back end came around and went sideways off the road through the gravel. It looked like it then hit a tree in the drivers door of about 18-24 inches in diameter and broke it off which appeared to have spun the car around so that when it left the road it was facing straight backwards.
It looked like it then flew through the air as the embankment dropped sharply and broke off another tree about 20 - 30FT off the ground, that was 60-70FT from the edge of the road...It looked like he had truly flown the car backwards through the air about 30 feet off the ground before impact a second tree hitting it directly dead center in the back of the car, exploding the transaxle, driving the engine forward into the firewall.
Hofman says Knobloch, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, declined to take responsibility for the totaled GT, adding he had no money for a replacement, but would be glad to do future work at a discount for Hofman. Knobloch also did not have a "garage keepers" insurance policy that would have provided some coverage, an explanation that Hofman said stunned him:
I explained that there is an unwritten code between exotic car owners that if you ever step behind the wheel of someone else's car, that you would be responsible for the car if something happened. That is the reason I don't drive someone elses car. Furthermore, when you send it to a BUSINESS specializing in tuning any high end cars, it is with the understanding that if something happens to it while under their care it would be taken care of no questions asked.
Knobloch sees it differently:
I know that my reputation would never be affected by an act such as this because it was an accident and not a malicious act and yet I am beyond deeply saddened by this incident. We see accidents all the time never expecting it to us and even more so us when driving a friends gal.
The back-and-forth posting has consumed several enthusiast web sites. Several owners have complained about Knobloch's work before, while a few have stepped in to defend "Shadowman's" work. And more have wondered whether other tuners may be pulling some unauthorized hoonage on the cars in their care.
Hofman says his insurance eventually worked out the gory details, but that the accident has changed his ways of doing business: "When sending your car to anyone, no matter what their reputation, business setup or whatever to make sure you are properly covered in case of a bad situation."
Discovery Automotive's website has been taken down. Messages to both shops have not been returned.