By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ceres man says shop ripped him off $30,000
• Modesto’s GT Motorsports under investigation
Sam Trio car.jpg
Sam Trio of Ceres pulled his 1966 Tempest out of GT Motorsports shop last month after four months of little work and the loss of a $30,000 deposit.

Ceres retiree Sam Trio believed that a Modesto shop would give new life to his 1966 Tempest. While the motto on the company’s website reads “Where Dreams and Craftsmanship Meet,” Trio’s dealings with GT Motor Sports at 651 Galaxy Way in Modesto led to a nightmare. He claims the shop took his $30,000 and did little work.

“I took my car in there driving and took it out of there in a hundred pieces,” said Trio.

Trio, former owner of Lone Tree Printing in Ceres, gave the shop a $5,000 deposit to rebuild his engine on Nov. 7. A week later shop owner Tom Cope called Trio with suggestions for a different engine “as a way to get more money so I gave him another $10,000 deposit,” said Trio.

Another week went by, said Trio, when Cope called with a suggestion that the suspension and brakes needed to be done on his classic car.

“He took the frame off the car, which I didn’t know that’s what he was going to do,” noted Trio, who then wrote another check for $15,000.

“Time goes by and nothing’s happening so I start pressing him for invoices and see where the motor is,” said Trio. “In January I knew that’s when I knew I was in trouble. He just played me.”

After he was told the engine hadn’t been ordered, on Feb. 21 Trio went down to get his disassembled car. Retrieving the car called for a flatbed tow truck and two pickup trucks for the parts.

When Trio pressed for a refund of the money he paid, Cope told Trio that the IRS seized his money. 

“He was just playing me. This guy is a crook and I know I’m not going to get money back but this is crushing people. I’m a senior citizen. He’s been doing this since 2014.”

On Monday the Courier spoke to Cope by phone. He provided a brief statement before hanging up.

“He gave me an unreasonable amount of time to do the car and he pulled it out of here,” said Cope, who added it was “four months to do a complete build.”

Cope complained that Trio has “already turned me into everybody under the sun. He’s trying to ruin me is what he’s trying to do, put me out of business and he’s pretty well succeeded.”

Saying that he “did some work on the car,” Cope admitted that he didn’t return the balance of the money Trio had paid. When asked if it was true that Cope told Trio that money paid to GT Motorsports had been seized by the IRS Cope said: “I really am not going to continue this conversation but yes there was some truth in that.” He then hung up the phone.

Trio believes he will never get his money back and is having an Oakdale shop do the work Cope should have done. An attorney has discouraged Trio from suing GT Motorsports because court and legal fees would be high and since Cope apparently doesn’t own assets other than his shop equipment. Trio said he’s filed complaints with the district attorney’s office, the Attorney General’s office in Sacramento, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau. Brian Young, an investigator with the California’s Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR) said he’s looking into the shop but could not comment on the case. He did verify that Cope is running his shop without the necessary license from BAR.

Trio said that while the shop –in business for 12 years – has done some work for some other customers’ cars on time, he learned that others have reported losing money in transactions with Cope.

When Ceres resident Sam Trio went to GT Motorsports last month to pick up his car after little restoration work was done, it was in pieces. These are parts of the disassembled car in the back of a pickup.

The Better Business Bureau website includes two similar complaints against the shop. In 2016 a former customer complained that Cope took his 1966 Mustang to GT Automotive on Dec. 31, 2015 for repair and custom work. The shop promised the work to be done a month later. The customer initially paid a deposit of $3,500 for parts and labor but on Jan. 21 an additional $1,000 was requested, and in good faith the customer paid $2,000 in hopes of expediting the work. Four months later the work wasn’t done with the explanation typically being “the parts are in order but nothing yet.” On May 11, 2016 the car was removed and a refund requested. Cope allegedly told the customer that he was having difficulties with the IRS and didn’t return the $5,500 paid in good faith.

Another customer identified as Donald S. posted a similar complaint on Feb. 9, 2018: “GT Motorsports have been unscrupulous, and underhanded, and should be investigated thoroughly. Tom Cope swindled close to $20,000 from me and when confronted his only response was ‘Go ahead, stand in line to sue. I’ll just file bankruptcy.’ I am pursuing this matter further for certain. In the meantime avoid this garage. It will bring you nothing but anger, and heartbreak.”