By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
Limited only by imagination and the reach of his plasma cutter, Karim likes to think he can make the impossible happen. "Yeah, because to me it doesn't sound impossible," he offers. The only thing that frustrates him is dealing with customers who don't understand the first thing about automobiles. "They want the car factory height with 26-inch rims," he says. "They don't understand it can't be done."
As any dude with a customized ride will tell you, driving something that's largely the product of one's own imagination possesses a dirty downside. A car with hydraulic suspension will eventually spring a leak. Valves will stick. "It'll always be something," Karim cautions. "It's never finished." And when you want wheels twice the size of what the car was designed to roll on coupled with the problems finding parts for, say, a '72 Caprice you're constantly playing catch-up with a breakdown. "It's like a chess thing," Karim counsels. "You always have to think six moves ahead. But hey nobody's got a '72 Caprice with 28-inch rims."
Brian adds: "If you got a custom car, you got a problem. Automatically."
Custom cars have a way of attracting negative attention too just witness the daily interception of pimped-out coupes on the Sistrunk Corridor, drivers issued tickets for windows being too dark, stereos too loud, bumpers too high, or a simple combination of altogether too much. "Any alteration to a vehicle's original factory equipment may increase safety risks in the operation of that vehicle" is the Broward Sheriff's Office word on such matters. Though most tickets are issued for moving violations, not unsafe additions, Florida statutes indicate that some of the most popular modifications like dark-tinted windows and decibel-pumping stereo systems, are officially forbidden.
Thus, a lot of the work done at B+C is to limit a driver's tickets or to repair work that was done improperly to begin with.
"A lot of guys don't wanna pay to do it the right way," Karim gripes. "That's why they end up here. They'll buy 26-inch rims and think it comes with a kit that lets you put 'em in. They just want the rims on the car they don't care if it turns, rides, or moves."
He remembers one such handicapped Impala limping in with the rims installed in such a way that steering was impossible. "It took me 20 minutes just to pull it in here," he recalls.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent of those guys are in for a rude awakening when it comes to installation," Bobbie Jo adds.
Kenny still laments a navy-blue Chevy parked outside the shop. Perched high on massive chrome rims, the interior of the car has been stripped. The work Karim considers his art was destroyed within two years. "You get bummed, but there's nothing you can do about it," he says soberly.
The car, Kenny explains, is "owned by one big dope boy, and all his younger dope boys took it out joyriding and did this to it." Wires stick out from the dashboard, which itself is tattered. "I hate to be a dick," he says, pointing to the B+C Industries decal in the back window, "but it's a privilege for a car to have this on it. And he doesn't deserve it."
"That shit's ragged, dawg," Karim concurs.
But the customer is always right here. B+C continues installing customized gear that is prone to break down. Trends set the pace and the type of work at these kinds of shops, and each fad seems to come with its own host of problems.
Nowadays, the shop sees so many customers with gull-wing/DeLorean doors even on old Buicks a sign warning "DO NOT DRIVE WITH YOUR DOORS UP" is prominently posted.
Before closing at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, they have to move the plundered blue Chevy inside or it could get vandalized again. Karim pilots the oversized craft through the bay entrance with inches to spare on three sides. Looking like he's helping a hippo into a hamster cage, Kenny guides it in with hand gestures.
On Kenny's taut, thin neck is an inky-blue tattoo of his wife's name finished off with a star. Each arm is decorated with the names and birthdays of daughters Brianna and Cody, the shop's namesakes. His cocky, drill-sergeant bearing, though, makes him seem uncompromising.
The tough demeanor may well appeal to his clientele, who often tend to be young African-American men of means.
As he makes his final preparations to leave, he inserts a huge metal pipe into a hole in the concrete just behind the bay door. The door has been dented and nearly destroyed by vehicles ramming it, manhandled by thugs trying to get inside and steal cars. "That's what we deal with," Kenny complains. "If we had Harleys and old white men, we wouldn't have to even do this. But this is fun. It's a liability, but the fun outweighs the liability."
"Most of the time," Bobbie Jo chimes in.
"With cars and trends," Kenny continues, "blacks and whites are so totally different." He'll reluctantly admit, though, just like hip-hop, it's usually a black fad first. "Black people will start a trend and stick with it, whereas white people change trends more often."