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   Inside Out - South West: Monday September 11, 2006

Car clocking

Car speedometer
It's car tainting by numbers - car clocking investigated

Inside Out exposes an illegal car clocking scam that costs motorists thousands and could put lives in danger.

We discovered a Plymouth electrician using his skills to help unscrupulous car sellers raise the value of their used motors.

The intriguing slogan, "You know what we do!" in a trade magazine caught our eye.

We had a good idea but called Mark Freeman of DASH Services to make sure.

We told him we wanted to sell a car and someone had suggested we phone him, though we didn’t know why.

He was quick to offer us "mileage correction" – fixing any "problems" we had with our odometer.

Miles slashed by half

Our Audi A4 had no problems at all, apart from the 116,000 miles on the clock.

Cars
How many drivers are at risk?

Almost ready for the scrapyard, it was unlikely to sell for more than £400 – until Mr Freeman stepped in.

We met at a Plymouth garage and Mr Freeman asked what mileage we wanted the digital odometer to display.

After removing the dashboard, he used a small handheld computer to quickly wipe almost 80,000 miles off the clock before pocketing £150 for a job well done.

Our Audi was now worth a tidy £1,500.

Analogue odometers are even easier to alter.

Clockers can just use a standard drill to turn back the numbers on the counter.

Widespread scam

There are dozens of crooks offering clocking services around the country, with the service typically described as "mileage correction".

They can get away with offering such a service because when an odometer has broken and is fitted with a second-hand replacement, the devices can be legally altered.

But it is extremely rare for this to happen.

Usually the second-hand odometer keeps its original mileage and the car log book is stamped so buyers are aware it is not the one that came with the car, and can check any discrepancy.

Illegal clocking, however, is commonplace, affecting an estimated one in 10 used cars and costing buyers an estimated £100 million a year.

Steering wheel
Check for that give-away shiny steering wheel

RAC man John Gregory says much more than their hard-earned cash is at stake.

He says, "It’s worn components and safety items which could affect somebody’s life.

"Ultimately, nobody should pay for their life. If I had my way, I would just lock them up and throw away the key."

When we confronted Mr Freeman, he reversed his car towards our crew, grabbed presenter Sam Smith, tried to stop us filming and refused to answer our questions, before disappearing into his business premises.

If you are buying a used car and are unsure about the mileage, here are the signs which indicate a well-travelled vehicle:

* A shiny steering wheel/gear lever.
* Worn pedal rubbers/driver’s seat/carpet.
* Lots of chips on the bonnet.

You can also get the car examined by a vehicle history-checking company.

With some basic information about the car they can tell you whether it has been clocked, stolen, written-off, or has outstanding finance.

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Guerilla gardens

Garden
How green is your garden? Transform a neglected space

Inside Out also goes under the cover of darkness with a group of guerrilla gardeners as they transform a neglected car park entrance into a floral wonderland.

Thirty-four-year-old Richard Reynolds keeps his spade one dig ahead of the law as he partakes in the "illicit cultivation of public space".

He is a leading light in the UK’s guerrilla gardening movement – activists who reclaim disused or sorry-looking public spaces and give them a new lease of life with plants or vegetables.

Richard, an advertising planner by day, has carried out almost twenty projects in London and elsewhere with an army of volunteers.

Guerilla gardeners
Time for action - the gardeners move in

Woeful planters, shrubberies and flower beds have blossomed from eyesores into botanical beauty spots thanks to their anarchic digging.

His mother asks for his help sprucing up an ugly patch of scrubland at the entrance to a car park in Stoke.

She rounds up a group of helpers and we join them to dig, weed and hoe the night away, with fantastic results.

Richard and his fellow guerrilla gardeners finance the projects with their own money and donations from supporters.

Become a guerilla gardener...


To find out more or get involved, visit...


www.guerillagardening.org.

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Copper crafts

Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson - copper king of the South West

Inside Out meets a craftsman who left the glittering lights of Hollywood to revive an old tradition and pursue a life-long passion for copper.

Michael Johnson returned to his Cornish roots to set up the Newlyn Copper Works, a new development in the region’s long association with mining for metal.

Mike has had a varied career.

He’s been a professional dancer and choreographer, and with his uncle, the prince of film armoury, Terry English, he’s made costume items and props for big-budget movies.

Some of his recent work includes the belts and buckles in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film.

But although working with stars such as Johnny Depp might be many people’s fantasy, Mike’s dream was somewhat closer to home.

He says, "My real passion is copper. That’s why I decided to dedicate myself full-time to the copper works and doing this every waking hour."

At his workshop in Newlyn he beats copper into all sorts of objects and sculptures which sell for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds.

He is in the right place as the building was once home to the Newlyn Industrial Class, birthplace of the original Newlyn Copper.

There are elements of the original craftsmen’s famous style in Mike’s work but he has no intention of copying it.

"That would be almost sacrilege," he says.

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