Rim Job

The price, the perspiration, and the inspired impracticality of pimpin' a ride.

"White people like going down, and black people like going up," Brian says, explaining the difference between lowrider and towering suspension junkies. He's in the lowrider category and has put nearly $40,000 into a 2004 Mustang GT. "I can't leave it alone," he says. "I can't sleep if I'm not putting money into it." His newest addition is the ever-popular Lamborghini doors, which he did himself.

"You can't just slap shit in a car," he adds. "Some people take it so far, it's distasteful. Simple is always better."

Brian, who enters his car in competitions, is into scoring points with judges. When his Mustang's original modifications started causing him problems, he brought it down to Kenny to have it straightened out. What he saw at B+C convinced him to work there one day a week, helping out and learning whatever he can. He can work on his ride there. The rest of the time, he's a sous chef at a Boca Raton restaurant.

The real B+C
The real B+C
An ugly duckling is ready for the swan treatment.
An ugly duckling is ready for the swan treatment.

"And he likes getting his hands greasy," says Kenny, pointing at Brian's darkened palms.

Those willing to brave the brutal sun this Sunday afternoon at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines are treated to a procession of tricked-out cars that would easily put Pimp My Ride in the shade. When the heat from the sky and the pavement become too much to take, they stroll past the collection of lowrider bicycles and head under the pavilion roof, where hip-hop slams from speakers and rice, beans, and roast pig await.

Like a candy-flake-painted funeral procession, a line of colorful vehicles slowly snakes through the gates of the park. Traditional lowriders like early-'60s Impalas and Bel-Airs hug the pavement, while a Caprice Classic pops up and rides past gawkers on three wheels. A four-door Caddy bounces up and down like it's crossing a boulder field. Drivers, some with wife up front and kids in the back, pose for photos to the strains of Young Jeezy's "Soul Survivor." Elegance, an auto club from Miami-Dade, is hosting this picnic, but the cars seem to represent all three counties evenly.

There must be millions of dollars in rims alone, gleaming chrome centerpieces that command attention and dwarf the skinny tires that surround them. But spinners, the fad from three years ago, are nonexistent. "That trend is just about played out," Kenny says. In fact, the only approximation is a Mercedes with reverse-spinners, making the rims look stationary while the car's moving.

A sparkling, pink-purple jellybean on wheels rolls up. Actually, it's a 1996 Caprice that owner Mike Hollywood had uplifted at B+C. "I've gotten tickets for being too high," he admits, talking about the car. Muscling into a shady spot, Mike proudly displays a photo of his car in a recent issue of Lowrider magazine. Though he spent $30,000 to trick it out (including $8,000 on rims), he admits he'd be lucky to get $15,000 if he sold it.

Easily stealing Mike's thunder is the appearance of another B+C-built car, a heavily adulterated American coupe that's painted like a garish Green Bay Packers mascot and whose chassis sits a good five feet off the ground. A tangle of springs and struts supports 19-year-old Adrian and his three friends, who have to jump out of the car to the grass below. Last year, he paid B+C almost $9,000 to elevate his dream machine.

"That's the highest they've ever done," he crows.

Adrian estimates he's spent in excess of $40,000 on gear for his car, which bears a B+C decal and a sticker across the trunk reading "HOW HIGH ARE YOU?" But close inspection reveals where that money wasn't spent: The entire undercarriage, shocks and all, has been crudely spray-painted to match the green-yellow body, and the covered-up rust spots abound. It looks worse than a $500 Maaco job.

"Yeah, Adrian's a little weird," Kenny remarks later. When the shop finished with the car, the springs were brand-new and shiny red, which didn't work with Adrian's intended color scheme.

"It was a lot nicer," Kenny says. "But they're kids, and they basically destroyed it."

Adrian seeks shade. He and his friends are wearing the uniform that's seen on nearly every car enthusiast this afternoon: T-shirt, long baggy shorts, black socks, white slipper-shoes. Chicas come with tight tops, jean skirts, and flip-flops. The scent of locally grown hydroponic adds a heavy spice to the humid air. Even a baby in a stroller is clad in a "G-Unit" T-shirt.

Though the crowd is fairly evenly mixed, the lowrider movement grew out of the Latino culture of Southern California. From there, it spread and adapted to far-flung communities (Lowrider magazine's biggest circulation nowadays is in Japan). Today's picnic is really an amalgamation of different styles of car surgery, bound by one common denominator: always sacrifice functionality in favor of stylistic excess.

Despite the heat and the nonstop preening and one-upmanship, the event is completely chill, and despite the dubious legality of some of the rides, law enforcement is absent.

Florida statutes specifically outlaw "horns or other warning devices" that "emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound," but this afternoon, drivers delight in honking their train horns, startling passersby. The maximum bumper height permitted on an automobile is only 27 inches, and a significant percentage of tricked-out cars here easily surpasses that.

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