UK Manís Classic Bristol Towed, Crushed, Despite Being Legally Parked

This Is London
Apr. 12, 2007

It was Mendoza Stewart's pride and joy. A 1972 hand-crafted Bristol 411 - one of only 287 ever made and worth £30,000.

But the vehicle's status as a classic car was apparently lost on parking officials at Lambeth Council in South London.

Despite it being legally parked, they towed it away and crushed it.

Mr Stewart, a 51-year-old music producer, is devastated by the loss of his rare car and has not yet received any compensation despite the council admitting it was in the wrong.

"It was a very special car that I bought in 1984 after a long search,' he said. 'I found it with a dealer in Wimbledon. It is unlikely I shall find another."

Mr Stewart, who lives in Kennington, South London, parked the car in a council-run car park near his son's flat in nearby Camberwell. But when he returned it was missing.

"I was horrified," he said. "I thought it had been stolen and went to the police. They were unable to find it but after investigating discovered that Lambeth had taken it away.

"Someone who spotted my car arriving at the pound said that within minutes they had used a mechanical grab to pick it up by the roof instead of carefully lifting it down.

"By then it was all over. It was utterly wrecked before I had a chance to retrieve it. I have not seen it since. They cannot explain why they took away what is obviously a special, rare car."

The aluminium-bodied vehicle, built by British manufacturer Bristol Cars, was in good condition and was exempt from road tax because of its status as a classic car.

Mr Stewart, who insists a special "nil payment" disc was clearly displayed in the windscreen, took legal action against the council after the incident in December 2004.

But more than two years on, despite the council admitting liability, he has still not received a penny - and he has been reduced to driving an ageing van instead of his treasured Bristol.

"I cannot believe it has taken so long," said Mr Stewart. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency confirmed Mr Stewart's Bristol would have been a classic car because of its age and not subject to road tax.

A Lambeth spokesman said: "Solicitors acting for Lambeth council have accepted breach of duty on behalf of their client. The council apologises to Mr Stewart.

"As the matter is currently being litigated, we cannot comment further at this time but we are working hard to resolve this case as soon as possible."

Bristol Cars has made hand-built luxury cars at Filton, Bristol, since 1945. The 411 was produced between 1968 and 1976 and only 287 were made. In 1972 its showroom price was just under £7,000.

Its Chrysler V8 engine made it the fastest four-seater car of its time, capable of accelerating from 0-60 in seven seconds and a top speed of 143mph.

The company, which has a showroom in Kensington, West London, deals direct with the public and has no distributors or dealerships. It boasts of being the last wholly British-owned luxury car builder.

Originally an aircraft manufacturer, Bristol began making cars after World War II when the company found it had a surplus of skilled workers with nothing to build.

The original designs were modified from those acquired from the BMW factory in Munich as part of war reparations paid to Britain by Germany.

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