Son’s tribute to father turns to disaster after body shop fails to deliver

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City man says a friend he trusted turned a tribute to his father into a disaster. He also says he's out about $10,000.

John Bell brought his 1966 Ford Mustang to Sweet Dreams Body Shop on Southwest Boulevard in 2004. What was supposed to start off as just a paint job developed into a larger project to turn the classic car into a showroom quality, restored beauty.

"I figured I would do it in honor of him because he liked Mustangs," Bell said. "He had one when he was younger."

Bell says he's sunk about $10,000 into the project, money he paid to shop owner Chris Cole over the last ten years.

Bell suffers from Sickle Cell Anemia, spending lots of time in the hospital, and he understood car restorations can take time, which is why he thought the length of time in the shop was justified. However, he says every time he called Cole to check on the car, he was offered a lie or an excuse.

"I trusted this guy. I tried to be a friend to this guy," Bell said. "I never know what tomorrow's going to bring, so I'm not able to come babysit somebody that I've already paid and trusted."

Bell learned Thursday when he stopped by the shop that the owner had packed up and deserted the building, leaving the Mustang in the middle of the floor, damaged and in bad shape.

Bell said he spoke with Cole on Thursday and that Cole promised to come help Bell remove his car from the shop. When Bell called Friday morning, there was no answer. The building management company told us another man, Mike Strickling, had taken over the shop a few months ago. FOX 4 called him and also received no response.

"I believe he's got the capability to fix my car or give me my money, or both," Bell said. "We're going to seek litigation behind this. It's not going to be over just this easy."

The building management company said Cole was a tenant for about a year. The inside of the shop was completely gutted and trashed. We were also told the tenants stole water tanks and heaters.

Several people who did business with Cole came and went from the shop while FOX 4 was there on Friday. One man told us Cole moved all of his equipment and parts to another shop where he is "doing well."

Beacon Tow transported Bell's Mustang to their location off 350 Highway and Nowland Road and has offered to help him.

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