It may seem like everyone involved in the Defender and G Wagon trades do it out of the love for these iconic vehicles. Unfortunately, there are far more opportunists and scam artists out there willing to help separate you from your hard earned dollars. Not only that, they will leave you feeling betrayed and crushed – sometimes literally.
We’ve seen everything from the Nigerian type financial to simple misrepresentation scams. Our recent encounter with TerrainTech Parts in the UK on selling us some junk motor packages proved that a hustle is a hustle – no matter the motive. The end result is always a terrible experience for the person on the other end who has saved their money and spent the time trying to acquire their dream Defender. We’re going to try to cover as many of these potential pitfalls as possible, highlighting some examples that have plagued the Defender importing business.
- Importing a Defender yourself can save you money, but at what cost?
- Trust who you’re doing business with and verify.
Scammers Will Find The Opportunity
The inspiration to publish this guide came from a recent incident with Pol Classics out of Poland. We will preface this all as an alleged claim, as we are not personally involved, but the myriad evidence points to guilty.
Pol Classics’ scams, run by Adam Glowinski, have been brought to light by a group of customers coming forward to detail the troubles they’ve had with Mr. Glowinski. They set up an instagram account (@polclassics.scammer) where they can share their stories and warn off others from the unsavory behavior by the company. They highlight several issues that have shown up with Defender importing, so it serves as a good example for us to all follow.
The pattern is very obvious sometimes:
- Establish a legitimate looking company.
- Do a few projects that look good.
- Decide that quality isn’t important.
- Realize that once the money has been transferred, few people have the ability or resources to chase it down.
- Repeat until they have to change their name
Scammers Will Find The Opportunity
Most of the scammers in the Defender importing/building industry are well known to those of us who have spent a lot of time seeing their crimes unfold. Unfortunately, they find a new group of people coming into the market each and every day. They make a pretty compelling case to help someone save money on buying or importing their Defender. We know one particular shop in the UK that has changed names at least 3 times in the past 3 years to escape the negative reputation they develop.
Ask yourself: does it seem too good to be true? If so, it is.
eBay Defender Scams
There are a couple scams we see show up on eBay from time to time. They generally fall into two categories:
- Defenders that don’t exist or don’t belong to the seller
- Defenders that have been tarted up to look nice for photos, but are rubbish beneath
These scams and misrepresentations are not limited to eBay, of course. We see the same folks on AutoTrader, Facebook Marketplace, and a variety of the other localized trade magazines. It’s also not exclusive to the UK – we’ve seen these operations form in nearly every market – including in the US.
If you see a listing on eBay, but the seller wants to communicate on channels exclusively off of eBay, that’s probably a warning sign. Sometimes it’s completely legitimate, but what the seller is doing is avoiding any sort of digital footprint.
Quality Scams – Direct and Indirect
Some outfits have gotten so sophisticated at the scam that they don’t seem to care if they get bused or their reputation is ruined. They find old Defenders that have failed MOT inspection, have them cheaply and quickly painted up, put some stickers on them to distract you from the poor quality, have some nice photos taken, and then offer them for a somewhat reasonable price. And to be fair, they’re probably priced right for the quality – just not priced right for the quality you think you’re getting. What’s worse is that you’re more than likely going to need to spend quite a bit of money to reverse their terrible tart up jobs.
Here are some reviews/comments about one of the operations we run into all the time.
There are quite a few folks that see the opportunity to import a Defender and make a few bucks. Their intentions might be really noble at first, but they get stuck with a dud from time to time and in an effort to get out of their bad purchase they are less than honest with their assessment of their vehicle. Worse yet is that they might not even know.
We’ve seen a couple instances recently (two cases right here in Minneapolis where we are) where people imported a few Defender for profit only to find out they were really crappy quality. Rather than spend the money to get them fixed, they simply added accessories to make the vehicle look more desirable.
In another case the Doctor (a legit doctor) tried to use us to make his Defender look better, only to ignore the fact that the motor was nearly blown and there were literally zero brake pads on either the front or the rear. He didn’t want to spend the money to get them fixed, but was hyper focused on getting the LED light bar working (which nearly caught fire due to how it was installed behind the dash). We cut the wires and put on new calipers, lines, and rake pads – even though he refused to pay for them.
The ironic thing is that in one of the cases here locally, the guy bought his fleet of Defenders as a package deal from the scammers noted above. When we bailed him out of a deal he promised he was done importing Defenders – yet he continues to buy them from the same operation above and continues to offer to import them. I’m not sure which of them is more morally repugnant.
One of the projects we’re going to feature soon is a rescue mission from someone who bought a misrepresented Defender off an operation that sells them via Instagram. We’re pretty sure the guy who sold it had good intentions, but simply had zero mechanical ability.
If you do decide to buy a Defender from someone, ask them these questions:
- What work have you personally done to the Defender?
- Can you prove it?
- What does your toolbox look like?
The last one might be a bit of a joke, but perhaps a question that will help you out a lot. If the person selling you a Defender doesn’t have tools or the ability to work on the vehicle, there are big red flags waving in our mind.
This is the hardest category because the intent is so obvious that you think everyone would be able to spot it. Alas, there are still some who fall victim to these cases. These scams include the following:
- Taking your money and not delivering.
- Selling you something, but shipping you something else.
- Invalid documentation or none at all.
- VIN Swaps or Bad Chassis
- Engine Swaps or Non-Conforming Vehicles.
Bishop+Rook Rescue Services
We try to do whatever we can to make sure people don’t get hurt during their search for the perfect Defender. While the option always exists to buy from us, that’s not always in the cards for some folks. For those of you with that fierce independence streak, we offer a few solutions:
- Paid Consultation Services
- Concierge Land Rover Sourcing and Importing Services
- Restoration Rescue Services