Supercar fan spent £70,000 converting his Vauxhall to look like Lotus died in crash, inquest hears


A sports car fan who spent £70,000 converting his Vauxhall to look like a top-of-the range Lotus supercar died when he crashed his car into a tree on a country road. 

Luke Richardson, 31, from Darlington, South Yorkshire, died instantly when his ‘pride and joy’ car smashed into a tree on a country road in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales.

The father had heavily modified his beloved Vauxhall VX220 to look like a supercar, with police even believing it was a Lotus Exige supercar after it burst into flames.

Mr Richardson had travelled more than 200 miles to Wales as part of a three-day driving trip with a group of ten car enthusiasts when he crashed in October 2019, a Pontypridd inquest heard.

Luke Richardson (pictured), 31, from Darlington, South Yorkshire, died instantly when his 'pride and joy' car smashed into a tree on a country road in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales

Luke Richardson (pictured), 31, from Darlington, South Yorkshire, died instantly when his ‘pride and joy’ car smashed into a tree on a country road in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales

The father had heavily modified his beloved Vauxhall VX220 (pictured) to look like a supercar, with even police believing it was a Lotus Exige supercar after it burst into flames

The father had heavily modified his beloved Vauxhall VX220 (pictured) to look like a supercar, with even police believing it was a Lotus Exige supercar after it burst into flames

He was leading the five-vehicle convoy when his car left the A483 and hit a tree, leaving Mr Richardson and passenger Joseph Flanagan trapped inside the vehicle.

The other members of the convoy rushed to free the two men from the burning car and attempted to put out the flames using a fire extinguisher and bottled water. 

Mr Flanagan suffered multiple fractures and severe burn injuries, but Mr Richardson was pronounced dead at the scene.

The passenger said he had limited recollection of the day of the incident, which he described as ‘a blur’, the inquest heard.

Mr Flanagan added that Mr Richardson was ‘the most meticulous person he had ever met’ who ‘looked after his car so well and made sure it was perfect’.

Mr Richardson’s partner Francesca Fowden, who he had a daughter, Lyle, with less than a year before his death, said he had spent around £70,000 modifying his car in the ten years he had owned it.

Mr Richardson (pictured) travelled more than 200 miles to Wales on a three-day driving trip with a group of car enthusiasts when he crashed in October 2019, a South Wales inquest heard

Mr Richardson (pictured) travelled more than 200 miles to Wales on a three-day driving trip with a group of car enthusiasts when he crashed in October 2019, a South Wales inquest heard

He was leading the five-vehicle convoy when his car left the A483 (pictured) and hit a tree, leaving Mr Richardson and passenger Joseph Flanagan trapped inside the vehicle

He was leading the five-vehicle convoy when his car left the A483 (pictured) and hit a tree, leaving Mr Richardson and passenger Joseph Flanagan trapped inside the vehicle

‘He knew every inch of the car and how it handled,’ Ms Fowden’s statement read. 

‘He was the best driver of the group that went to Wales, I trusted him 100%. He wouldn’t have wanted to do anything to jeopardise the car.’ 

Ms Fowden insisted that her partner was not a ‘boy racer’ and expressed her sadness that their infant daughter Lyle will grow up without her father.

She added: ‘Luke wasn’t a boy racer. He was a good human, he was loyal and he was a peacemaker. 

‘No-one had a bad word to say about him and people travelled from all over to pay their respects at the wake.

‘All the good die young is very fitting in Luke’s case and Lyle will be growing up without her dad. He was my best friend and partner and I will miss him deeply.’

Forensic Collision Investigator PC Garry Rees said no tyre marks were found before Mr Richardson’s car left the road, suggesting the crash occurred quickly with the driver having very little time to react.

Mr Richardson's partner Francesca Fowden said his car (pictured) was his 'pride and joy' and had spent around £70,000 modifying the car in the ten years he had owned it

Mr Richardson’s partner Francesca Fowden said his car (pictured) was his ‘pride and joy’ and had spent around £70,000 modifying the car in the ten years he had owned it

Assistant coroner for South Wales Central Thomas Atherton recorded a verdict of accidental death at the inquest in Pontypridd. Pictured: Mr Richardson

Assistant coroner for South Wales Central Thomas Atherton recorded a verdict of accidental death at the inquest in Pontypridd. Pictured: Mr Richardson

PC Rees also said that Mr Richardson had modified his car’s engine, suspension and bodywork to the extent that it no longer resembled a a Vauxhall VX220, instead looking like a Lotus S2 Exige.

But the cause of the crash remains a mystery, and it was impossible to judge how fast he was driving along the country road in October 2019, the inquest heard.

PC John said those travelling with Mr Richardson were ‘all united in telling me that he would never put his or anyone’s life in danger’ and described him as a ‘perfectionist’.

He said: ‘The only thing that I can suggest is a catastrophic mechanical defect or failure which caused the vehicle to lose control.’

Assistant coroner for South Wales Central Thomas Atherton recorded a verdict of accidental death at the inquest in Pontypridd.

‘The evidence suggests Luke was a very conscientious man,’ he said. 

‘The group drove in a competent manner and were not boy racers. It does appear that, for no apparent reason, his vehicle left the road in a straight line and collided with a tree.’



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