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Rim Job

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Can you do it? Donnel wants to know. Kenny tosses a spent Marlboro butt to the floor. Hell yeah, he says, we can make anything. "I'll build you a building if you want."

Karim explains the simple appeal of radical custom work: "Anything you can't buy, we make."

Bobbie Jo's own pickup is customized with an airbrushed paint job and a tricked-out interior, into which she's sunk nearly $23,000. After Kenny got out of the trucking business — he was in charge of a fleet of semis and 19 drivers — he and Bobbie Jo opened the shop eight years ago.

"We started out as a lowrider shop," Bobbie Jo says. Called Drop Zone, the company started strong but then endured perilously lean years as the lowrider movement in South Florida waned. Becoming more popular were blinged-out African-American convertibles and coupes, with the requisite big-ass rims. So Kenny and Bobbie Jo rolled with the punches.

Bobbie Jo laughs when she's asked if Brianna and Cody will one day run the business that bears their initials. "Maybe when they're 18 and 21," she says. "But we'd like to get where this isn't so much work. We'd like to work on newer, South Beach-type cars. Maybe sell accessories. A showroom. Instead of correcting other people's mistakes or [compensating for] their lack of imagination."

Just as the lowrider bubble has burst and spinners have spun out, it's a matter of time before the big-rim craze dissipates too. At some point, B+C is aware, the hassle of putting wheels designed for a Hummer on a two-door car will outweigh the benefits.

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news," Kenny quips, "but the golden era of hydraulic suspension has come and gone." Tracking trends, he calculates that the next big thing will be rims, even bigger rims.

Wheels as big as 26 and 28 inches in diameter, outrageously expensive and rare a few years ago, are now standard fare on the most outlandish rides. "Thirties we haven't had yet," Kenny remarks, "but I'm sure we will."

Within a week, the Galaxie 500 is sitting on four massive wheels that look like caricatures of Popeye's dumbbells. The tires are taller than the car's body is high. With a black convertible top and chrome polished to a blinding shine, it looks knife-sharp. The customer, a man in Georgia, should be pleased with the way his 41-year-old antique has been transformed into a beautiful, if bastardized, beast.

Back over on the Toyota pickup — which now looks as if four completely different science projects have been crammed into its innards — Karim puffs a cigar and tries to figure out the best way to run lines, fittings, and valves so that each corner of the vehicle can move up and down independently. "I'm putting shit where it's really not supposed to go," he explains.

Kenny just watches, wipes sweat from his forehead, and advises, "Just do what you gotta do to make it work."

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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