Auction raises pennies on the dollar for creditors of Myrtle Beach area classic car restorer

An auction of automobile parts and repair equipment raised more money than expected for creditors in the bankruptcy case of classic car restorer Kenneth Key, but the payout still will amount to pennies on the dollar for those who say they were ripped off by the Kenny’s Kustoms restoration shop in Longs.

The May 31 auction raised $23,722.50, according to court documents filed Monday by trustee Michelle Vieira. Court officials had expected the auction to raise about $10,000. Once the auctioneer’s fees and marketing costs are paid, the trustee will have $16,198.01 to pay toward Key’s debts, which total $613,081.

A separate sale on May 31 of a cab and chassis for a 1949 Chevy panel truck raised an additional $255 for the bankruptcy estate.

With no other non-exempt assets identified in the Chapter 7 liquidation case, Key’s creditors stand to get less than three cents for every dollar they are owed. Key has agreed not to seek a discharge of his debts, which means creditors who already have obtained judgments against him can continue to make collection efforts after the bankruptcy case is closed.

The auction included all of the tools — including lifts, compressors, paint guns and hand tools — as well as automobile parts, a trailer, automobile frames and other items located at Key’s shop at 1985 S.C. 9 West.

Key previously told The Sun News that those items belong to mechanics who had worked for him in the past. Key also tried to sell the tools and equipment through Craigslist advertisements after he had filed for bankruptcy protection in November.

Key’s finances came under heavy scrutiny once Vieira learned of the Craigslist ads and after she received letters from former customers who recounted their experiences with Kenny’s Kustoms.

Most of the 378 items auctioned during the May 31 event sold for less than $100 apiece, and some brought a final price of much less. For example, a boat with no title sold for $5 while a group of fan belts fetched $2. Some of the higher-priced items included three welders that sold for a combined $1,675, a storage trailer that went for $725 and a Chevy engine and transmission that brought $650.

Bobby Ward, an Andrews resident, told The Sun News he doubts he will ever recover the $16,000 he gave to Key to restore a 1939 Ford pickup truck. A year after taking the truck to Key, Ward said he learned no work had been done and Key refused to refund his money. When Ward finally retrieved the truck, he learned that its chassis had been cut and then welded back together in a way that made it unsafe to ever drive again.

Among the largest civil judgments filed against Key is a $275,950 award to Virginia resident William Elliott, who told The Sun News that Key took money to restore a pair of automobiles – a 1955 Ford Thunderbird and a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible – but never did any work. Elliott said both cars were ruined while sitting untouched at Kenny’s Kustoms.

Key’s bankruptcy documents show Kenny’s Kustoms took in $165,555 in 2011 and $103,029 the following year. Key reported that he paid himself a $1,000 monthly salary. It’s not clear where the rest of the money from Kenny’s Kustoms has gone. On bankruptcy documents, Key and his wife say they own no real property and their vehicles – a 2003 Chevy Silverado and a 2004 Chevy Suburban – are worth less than $10,000 combined. Their other reported assets total about $4,000 – mostly clothing and household items.