To all of my fellow Cougar enthusiasts; I would like to share a nightmare of an experience that I recently had to endure. I have been in the process of completing a concours correct, full rotisserie restoration on a 1969 R code. One day out of the blue in February of 2015, I received a solicitation call from a guy named Darren that claimed to own a company called Critter Creek Cougar Restoration up in Canada. He claimed that he performs the highest quality restoration work on Cougars and Cougar parts. He told me that he was in the process of restoring a 1969 Cougar front grille assembly for a customer, and the customer had just found out that he was terminally ill and he needed to cancel the order. Darren described the work that he was performing on the grille as being fully restored and concours correct, re-chromed with a triple platting process, all black areas properly repainted, and that the left and right grille sections would be plug-and-play. He claimed that he was already half way done with it and that he could deliver it in 90 days. He was asking for $3,600 in Canadian funds, which was equivalent to approximately $2,880 in US funds. I explained to him that my car only had 33,000 original miles, so I was just going to take the grille completely apart, soda blast everything, properly re-paint all of the black areas, and reassemble it. He continued to state how great his work is and that the grille would be a great finishing piece to the car that I was restoring
After thinking about it for a few days, I decided to buy it. Darren also told me that if I were to send him a good center grille section, he would restore that as well for another $200 and that it would include an NOS emblem decal. While we were talking, I had mentioned that that I was also looking for set of restored tail light bezels, and a set of NOS hood hinges. He offered me a complete set of fully restored, plug-and-play tail light assemblies with Ford NOS lenses and seals for $800 in Canadian funds, which was equivalent to approximately $640. Now, all I really needed were the bezels since I had already restored my lenses and housings, but for $140 more than the $500 cost of the reproduction bezels, I figured it would be worth it to have nice fresh NOS lenses and seals. In addition, Darren offered me a set of Ford NOS hood hinges for $200 in Canadian funds. The total was now $4,600 not including the $200 to restore the center grille if and when I sent one up there. I asked him if would take $4,500 since I was buying all this stuff and he agreed to knock a $100 off. I sent him $3,500 of the money and the other $1,000 was to be due when the grille was ready to ship.
I searched the country over and found a complete grille assembly for sale at Cascade Classics in Washington State. The owner of the company was gracious enough to split the grille up and sell me the center grille section for $325, which was in Grade A condition. There were no breaks or damage anywhere and it had very little pitting. It was probably one of the cleanest that I had seen in a long time. On March 10<sup>th</sup> of 2015, I sent the center grille section to Darren. Darren received the grille and confirmed its condition, along with the $200 agreed price to restore it.
After a few months I received the hood hinges, but they were used and then restored, not NOS hinges as he stated that they would be. I called him in regards to this and he lied and stated that they were NOS hinges, but that he just freshened them up a little due to shelf-wear. It was obvious that they had been used as they had bolt and wear marks in various areas.
After the 90 day promise date for the grille assembly came and went, I contacted Darren to see how things were progressing with the grille sections and he claimed that it was almost done. A few more months went by, and in July of 2015 I contacted Darren and he stated that he had some issues with the chrome and he needed to redo it. I thought that this was odd because in the beginning he had claimed that the chroming had been completed and that the pieces were already half way done. He stated that he would give me a $500 store credit for my inconvenience and for being so patient, which I never received.
I contacted Darren again in September of 2015 and he gave me more excuses, and now he was claiming that the center grill that I sent him was in such poor condition, and that he was going to have to charge me $400 instead of the agreed $200. He claimed that it had a lot of previous salt exposure, which was not true. At this time, he also stated that the tail light assemblies were almost done and ready to ship and he needed to $1,000 balance before they would ship them, which was to be paid when the grille pieces were ready to ship, not the tail lights, but he stated that it was the only way that they would ship them, so I paid it.
Toward the end of October of 2015 I received a package with the center grille piece, but no tail lights, and still more excuses in regards to the left and right grille pieces. I opened up the package with the center grille piece and the it looked nice, but it did not have an NOS emblem decal as promised, and I noticed that one of the mounting arms had been broken off and then repaired, which the one I sent him did not have any damage or previous repairs. This piece had obviously been switched out, as it was not the piece that I had purchased from Cascade Classics and sent to Critter Creek Cougar Restoration. I confirmed this with the original photos that I had received from Cascade Classics, as well as the ones that I had taken before I shipped it to Darren.
In the beginning of December, 2015 I finally received the tail lights that he said were almost done and ready to ship back in October. When I opened the packages, I noticed that one of them had a large blister in the chrome. I also found that the lenses and seals were not NOS Ford pieces. The lenses were actually just used lenses and they weren’t even polished. The seals were the same reproduction ones that I used on mine. I called Darren to discuss it and he claimed that I was being too picky. He then got all mad and hung up on me like a child. A few days later I called him again, and explained to him that he was the one that claimed that he was a perfectionist, and that his work is the best around. He finally agreed to have me send it back to him and he agreed to reimburse me for the shipping costs, which I never received. On December 18, 2015 I shipped it back at a cost of $72.50.
I then contacted Darren several times during the month of January, 2016 to find out what was taking so long on the grille pieces, but just got one excuse after another. I reminded him that we agreed on a 90 day delivery time frame. I explained that I understand that delays do take place on occasion, but we were now approaching a full year.
In February of 2016, which was now the one year mark, I contacted Darren and told him that I needed to have the grille pieces in hand by May 13th, which was another 90-day extension to the full year that had already past, or I would be canceling the order, and I would want a full refund in the amount that I paid for the left and right grille pieces, which he agreed to. I spoke with him again in the beginning of May, and he stated that it was almost done. I called him when the due date was upon us and he stated that he just needed a few more weeks, so stupidly I extended it out again to June. I then tried to reach him several times, to no avail.
Finally, I reached him the first week of July and canceled the order. Well, if I thought that this whole thing was a nightmare to this point, I was in for a rude awakening. What this guy was about to put me through was unbelievable. Not only had I endured all of his bull crap, lies, and false promises for 17 months, now he was going to make me fight to get my money back. He stated that his girlfriend would call me and work out the refund with me, but I never heard from her. I was forced to call him numerous times and leave him messages, since he didn’t have the guts to talk to me.
On August 29th, 2016 I received an e-mail from Darren’s girlfriend. They were now trying to devalue the left and right grille sections and inflate the purchase price of the other items; so that I would get less money back. Dallis, which is Darren’s girlfriend, and whom states that she is the owner of Critter Creek Cougar Restoration, not Darren, was now claiming that I received this huge package deal and that I would only get $2,650 in Canadian funds back for the left and right grille sections that were never delivered. She also stated that they have a no return policy and that I am lucky that she is willing to do this for me, even though it was Darren and Critter Creek Cougar Restoration that failed to fulfill their end of the agreement, even after they were given 6 times longer than agreed upon. Now if that isn’t a kick in the shorts, I don’t know what is!
The center grille section that I purchased and sent to them was now being priced at $1,250 for the restoration instead of the original agreed amount of $200, or even the $400 that Darren scammed me for, the tail light set was now $1,500 instead of the $800 that he offered them to me for, which I still hadn’t received the one back that was returned, the hood hinges that were supposed to be NOS, which were not, were now $400 instead of the $200 that he sold them to me for, and the shipping and handling charges were jacked up to $455. Dallis stated that the only way that I would get my $3,600 back was if I sent them everything back since it was a package deal. Now I don’t know what planet Dallis is from, but the only deal that Darren cut me was a messily discount of a $100. There was never any mention of any other pricing, package deal, etc.
After arguing back and forth with Dallis for a month and a half and my promise to filling charges against them for theft and fraud, I agreed to send everything back with the exception of the hood hinges; since I had already been using them, and we settled on a price of $200 for the pair. Dallis told me that I would have to pay for all of the return shipping costs; she was not going to reimburse me for the original return shipping cost on the defective tail light as Darren had promised, and she was not going to honor the $500 store credit that Darren had promised me. In addition, the refund would be at the current exchange rate, which was now approximately 10% less than it was 20 months earlier when I gave them the money. All and all after 20 months of hell, I finally received most of my money back. I lost over $600 in rate exchange differences and shipping costs, not to mention 20 months of my time and now having to scramble to get a grille and tail light bezels.
My reason for sharing this nightmare with all of you is in hope of saving my fellow Cougar enthusiasts the heartache, cost, and stress that I had to endure. I have done business with several companies out there including Cascade Classics and West Coast Classic Cougar without any problems. As a matter of fact, I have even sent Don Rush, the owner of WCCC, blank checks on two occasions for large orders and I never gave it a second thought. These are companies that have always delivered, and if there is a problem, they take care of it. There have been occasions where I received the wrong item or something that wasn’t up to par, and if it is their mistake, they will even send a call tag for the return. There are some people out there that you can still trust, but unfortunately there are those that you cannot. Just about everything that Darren at Critter Creek Cougar Restoration told me was a lie including that he is the owner of the company, how perfect his work is, what parts would be Ford NOS pieces, what he would delivered and when, the reimbursement of shipping costs for defective workmanship, and the $500 store credit. I would never do any kind of business with these people again. Based on my experience, as well as others out there, I would strongly suggest that if you elect to do business with them that you protect yourself and make sure that you get all of the agreed terms in writing and in advance. In addition, I would also strongly suggest that you never give them money up front. Maybe COD would be the way to go, and I would suggest opening the package(s) before you pay for the delivery, and then refuse the delivery if there is any damage, or poor workmanship. This is about the only way you can protect yourself from someone scamming you to get your money up front and then never delivering all of the goods to you. Darren, Dallis, and Critter Creek Cougar Restoration had the pleasure of using my money for 20 months interest free and all I got was a nightmare!
Please feel free to share this with all that you can!