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Rim Job

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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."

"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.

"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.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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