This is a strange story. Fundamentally, it’s the story of two Dallas-area enthusiast car shops: one, a dealer in used performance cars, and the other, a tuner shop. What happened between the two companies started out as a normal enough exchange, but got weird, fast, with one side claiming it was an attempted scam, and the other claiming it was just a joke. I’ll let you decide what seems right.
It starts with a C6 Corvette Grand Sport that Driven Autoplex, the dealer of performance cars, was selling. Advanced Modern Performance (AMP), the tuner shop, was interested in the car, and so sent two of their employees out to check out the car.
Updated: Friday August 10, 4:00 p.m. Sam Miller, the owner of Advanced Modern Performance clarified that AMP did not intend to buy the C6 Corvette in question, rather an employee was interested and visited Driven Autoplex after hours. “Amp would never have condoned that sort of behavior and is very disappointed that it happened,” Miller told Jalopnik.
The AMP employees wanted to take the car back to their shop to inspect it, but Kevin Lindsey, owner of Driven Autoplex, asked them to just check out the car on location, and offered the use of their workbay and lift to do so. AMP’s employees agreed, and the ‘Vette was placed on the lift so the AMP employees could inspect the car.
Here’s where it gets weird. One of the AMP employees asked Kevin to come out to look at the car AMP brought for a potential trade-in, and while Kevin was out with the employee and looking at the trade-in, the other employee, named Sergey, was inspecting the Corvette.
There are cameras in the work area, and this is what they caught:
I know it’s a little confusing, but here’s what’s happening there: Sergey removes the car’s oil filter, takes it to the trash can, cuts it in half (the cranking-arm motion), then looks around, reaches into his pocket, removes a bag of something, does something over the trash can with his back turned, then takes the half-filter by the car, and then takes the rolling oil tank over to the workbench area, where he talks with Kevin and others.
So, what happened here—and these facts are not disputed by either side—is that Sergey cut the oil filter in half, took a bag of metal shavings out of his pocket, and then filled the oil filter with metal shavings, which would make it seem as though the ‘Vette’s engine was in very bad shape indeed.
Here’s what the filter looked like post-filling with metal shavings:
Now, again, neither AMP nor Driven Autoplex dispute what happened: AMP’s employees came to look at the car, then secretly cut the oil filter in half and filled the filter full of metal shavings, to give the impression that the Corvette’s engine was in very bad shape. The motives as to why differ dramatically.
Kevin believes this was done in an attempt to scam him and his company. When Sergey showed the metal shaving-filled oil filter to Kevin and one of his employees, Chris Fanning, this is how the exchange went, according to Fanning:
“I was there.. I’m in the video.. I’m the one that recorded this video going around.. there were plenty of times for him to say “just kidding, I put those shavings in the filter” but he didn’t..
He showed it to us and made the comment “you sure you know what you’re looking for when it comes to this?” then proceeded to show us the filter full of shavings then Kevin even said to Sergey “if there was that much metal in the filter how is the car not making any noise” in which Sergey responded “sometimes they wont make any noise until they are completely done” Kevin was like “well if the motor’s trashed then I’m going to tell Jake to come get his car because it wasn’t paid off yet.” When that happened Sergey immediately was like “oh no don’t do that we still want the car its a clean and straight body, we can easily drop the motor and replace the rings and bearings in a day on the car. we even have spare motors just laying around if anything”
Then he asked us how much we had bought the car for and we told him. then he was like “well we’ll give you $500 on top of that so you at least make a little bit of cash and all we have to do is put a motor in the car”
...that’s when we walked back inside and looked at the cameras to discover this fraud.”
This account of the exchange is important, because it contradicts AMP’s explanation of what happened, which is that, somehow, all this was a big, hilarious joke.
According to Sam Miller, owner of AMP, this is what really happened, as relayed on a Facebook thread:
“... this is the true story. Serge and another employee of AMP went to Driven to look at the Corvette after work last night. Serge knowing Kevin (the owner of Driven) for many years decided to play a joke on Kevin about the metal in the filter...Kevin was made aware of the joke approximately 5 minutes after the metal was dumped into the filter. Because Kevin was embarrassed that he was tricked in front of his employees, today he decided to tell the story without these facts in an attempt to harm AMP and Serge.”
Huh. I’ll admit, I’m just not familiar with the old “cut open the oil filter and dump in metal shavings gag,” but it sounds like a real riot.
Kevin reached out to Sam to talk about the incident, and Sam insisted it was all a joke, and suggested that the problem was Sam couldn’t take a joke, in messages between the two over Facebook and texts:
After Sam insists it was a joke and that Kevin was “mad that a joke was played on you and your employees were laughing too,” Kevin notes to Sam that
“...I’ll just post the 5 mins we spent negotiating the price with a blown motor an trying to help Conner figure out where to get a loan. That part of the joke was my personal favorite.”
In a text exchange, Sergey doubles down on the joke explanation and offers some personal insults to Sam just to keep things interesting:
“...I called you about it right after I left and told you there is nothing wrong with that car and that it’s a joke... you’re calling me a thief? What would that make me every time I joked about you being gay? Damn you’re a soft mother fucker that can’t take a joke”
I guess the answer to “what would that make me every time I joked about you being gay,” would be “an asshole?” Just spitballing.
I spoke with Kevin, the dealership owner, and asked if there was any sort of friendship or history between him and Sam that would suggest that this sort of “joke” would be something that could plausibly happen. Kevin insisted that they while they were closer years ago, they have not been friends for some time, and that their relationship has been actually antagonistic.
When Kevin called Sam to discuss things, Kevin told me that the conversation quickly devolved into Sam threatening Kevin physically, calling Kevin a “little bitch” and threatening to drag him around the shop by his ankles.
I reached out to Sam several times, but was unable to contact him, with emails sent to the AMP contact address bouncing back, and calls going unanswered.
While I can’t say for absolutely certain what the motives were behind these strange events, I can say that the idea of removing an oil filter, cutting it open, filling it full of metal shavings to deceive someone into thinking the engine is screwed, then offering to buy the car, cheaply, sure doesn’t seem like a joke to me. It seems like what one would do if one wanted to scam a car dealer into selling a car for much less than its worth.
But that’s just me. Maybe I don’t get hilarious japes like these.