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Rim Job

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With an impressive grasp of hydraulic engineering and electrical systems, Karim builds and installs devices that allow drivers to raise and lower individual parts of their automobiles via control units on the dash. Specially positioned airbags can be deployed for "popping," when one axle or tire is made to bounce. He knows how to weld trailing arms so they look good and work right, and he factors gravity into each equation while tinkering with hydraulic lift diagrams.

"You gotta know some physics," the self-taught mechanic says, biting his cigar as he tightens up an air tank he welded to the bed of a Toyota pickup truck. "Otherwise, you're gonna fuck somebody up."

With mad-scientist glee, Karim's like a shop-class freak who never grew up, actually getting paid to tinker with what he'd probably be doing in his spare time anyway. He puts together compressors, valves, lines, and fittings like a kid playing with Legos.

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.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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