For example, in April 2001, according to a detailed Internet posting, one eager buyer sent his Dodge Viper GTS, with a check for $122,500, to Hennessey Motorsports in Houston. The check was for converting his stock Viper into a Hennessey Venom 800 Twin Turbo, and it was supposed to be delivered in 12 weeks. Later, the buyer sent an additional $20,000 to pay for a further horsepower boost to 1000. But the owner didn't get the car back in 12 weeks. In fact, some 10 months later, in February 2002, no work had been done on the car-and worse, according to the buyer, several parts had been removed from his stock Viper and sold off!
This owner has since filed a lawsuit against Hennessey seeking the return of his car, his $142,500, and the usual "punitive damages."
Another customer with a long-overdue Venom says he went armed with a video camera to confront John Hennessey at his Houston shop. Hennessey reportedly had the customer arrested for making "terroristic threats."
There is, of course, no place in the world where talk is cheaper than on an Internet message board, and a few lurid posts hardly constitute proof of wrongdoing. So I went to the Web site of the Houston Better Business Bureau (www.bbbhou.org
) and searched for Hennessey Motorsports. The BBB reported 12 complaints filed against Hennessey in the past 36 months, of which seven were in the past year. Of the 12 complaints, only one was listed as resolved.
To put this performance in context, I ran checks with the local BBBs of every participant in our Supercar Challenge. Just one other complaint turned up, against AutoThority, and it was described as "resolved."
Then I went to Dun & Bradstreet, the financial research firm, where for $117 I purchased a comprehensive report on Hennessey Motorsports. For comparison, I also purchased a report on the well-known Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. The report indicated that LPE was financially sound, with no liens, lawsuits, or judgments pending against it. In contrast, the Hennessey report revealed that courts have four times ruled against the company and that there are 10 lawsuits currently in various stages and three liens
. The D&B report also provided a "Financial Stress National Percentile" rating, measured on a 1-to-100 scale, with 100 being the best possible score. Hennessey's company had a rating of one.
(LPE had a 79.)