If you couldn't afford a $200,000 Bentley, you used to be able to pay Matthew McEntegart, owner of Fugazzi Cars in St. Petersburg, Fla., for a car kit to make your Chrysler or Ford car look like one. In fact, the Internet is brimming with websites showing you how to transform a run-of-the-mill sedan into a luxury vehicle with molds made of materials like fiberglass and sometimes featuring fancy car logos.
But a judge has ruled that McEntegart and another Florida business owner must shutter its doors, noting that "Bentley car kits" infringed on Bentley's trademark and patent designs.
British luxury car maker Bentley Motors Limited sued McEntegart and Robert Frary III, owner of Keeping It Real Auto Customizing Inc., last year in U.S. District Court in Tampa, saying the two were counterfeiting and diluting Bentley's trademark and cars, including the Continental GTC Vehicle. Days later, Bentley and its subsidiary in the U.S., Bentley Motor, filed a preliminary injunction to block McEntegart and Frary from making, advertising or selling their kits.
In Photos: Chrysler, Ford, Other Cars Transformed with Bentley "Car Kits"
John McGuire, an attorney for Robert Frary, said his client only painted the cars that had car kits already on them. He said Frary stopped painting them after he received notice of the lawsuit. McGuire said he was only paid to paint three cars with these kits, getting paid around $9,000 but making a profit of about $1,500 after supplies.
But now that the judge has ruled in favor of Bentley, the car company is asking for tens of thousands of dollars in damages, McGuire said.
Volkswagen Group of America, which owns Bentley, said they do "not comment on ongoing legal matters."
A hearing to help determine the amount of damages is scheduled for December.
"He's a small business owner supporting a family and has not done anything with Bentley Motors since learning they were not authorized," McGuire said.
McEntegart, who said he never took molds of actual Bentley cars, said he had disclaimers that they were not Bentley molds. He denies infringing on Bentley's trademark in his advertisements. He said he filed for bankruptcy because of the lawsuit and has been put out of business.
"Unfortunately, it boiled down to not having enough money to fight it," McEntegart said of the lawsuit. "You could keep a court battle going on for ten years if you wanted to. I was just a one-man shop, so it was easier to tuck your tail between your legs than fight it."
But McEntegart said he hopes to stay in the car kit business with his own body designs. He plans to release a new model next month, similar to a G35 Infiniti.
"It's nothing that looks like that, but it's using that as a donor for the chassis," he said.