Whip It Good

Vett Capone has steered his custom-car business from lowriders to a new high.

By the summer of 2002, the dynamic duo was back on a roll, cruising down Federal and through LoDo at Let Out, turning heads with their custom rides. Capone's designs were also winning trophies at car shows.

But business was bad that winter, and Capone decided to move to Miami, where he could pick up new tricks of the trade from some of the industry's best. Capone took off the twenty-inch wheels, slapped his "baby" Daytons — thirteen-inch wheels with a hundred gold spokes each — back on the Monte, and rolled all the way to Florida, even though Mariney and the rest of the crew had warned that it couldn't be done.

Capone called them, triumphant, from Florida — just as his engine blew.

Vett Capone is sitting pretty in Marcus Camby's '64 Lincoln Continental.
Anthony Camera
Vett Capone is sitting pretty in Marcus Camby's '64 Lincoln Continental.
Stacy Mariney (above) learned the custom-car business from Vett Capone, whose clients include Denver Nugget J.R. Smith.
photos by Anthony Camera
Stacy Mariney (above) learned the custom-car business from Vett Capone, whose clients include Denver Nugget J.R. Smith.

It wasn't easy breaking into Miami's well-established car scene. At times Capone had to work for free just to learn new techniques. He also traded painting and hydraulic tips for pointers on upholstery and stereos.

Finally, after more than a year in Miami, Capone caught a lucky break — back in Colorado. One of his friends, a tattoo artist, was inking Denver Nugget Chris Andersen, aka "Birdman," who was looking for someone to hook up his new yellow Hummer with tint, new wheels, a sound system and maybe a little paint.

In the custom-car business, working with celebrities can make all the difference. Capone flew back to Denver for the job, and even let Mariney convince him to do it in a new shop they opened in Aurora. Although Andersen wasn't originally looking for a complete paint job, Capone persuaded him to get rid of all things yellow.

"I was like, sure, why not, so I gave him a check to paint it and see what he had, and we painted it a candy blue with bowling-ball swirls and blue flakes," Andersen remembers. "It was his first time painting a Hummer, the whole thing. I was kind of rushing him a bit, as well, but we didn't know at the time that when we put the original pieces back on it, the chemicals from all the plastic pieces messed up some of the paint. The paint actually had to sit for three weeks, but we didn't let it sit that long. We just put it all back together."

But Capone knows how to take care of his customers. And so when he noticed that Andersen's birthday was coming up, he added a Gucci interior free of charge to the Hummer's $35,000 in upgrades and custom work. Andersen was so grateful that he gave Capone a tip: a Mustang that runs a ten-second quarter-mile, which is way too fast for the streets. That car, complete with Birdman's autograph, still sits in Capone's shop.

Capone started showing the Hummer at car shows around town, collecting more trophies. In the process, the Hummer earned several nicknames: Aqua Fina, Blue Bonnet, Blueberry, Iceberg and Papa Smurf.

Capone was back in business.

One day Andersen came into Capone's shop with what seemed like the entire Nuggets squad. They were all impressed with Papa Smurf and wanted to hook up rides of their own.

Voshon Lenard became a regular customer after Capone added Lamborghini doors to his brand-new Corvette. He came back for a stereo system, custom interior, paint, 21-inch rims, a new convertible top, tinted windows and smoked-out lights. Then he came back again for 22-inch wheels. All in all, Lenard dropped about $44,000 on that car's upgrade, Capone says.

Next, Lenard dropped off a new GMC Denali, ordered new rims and paint and asked Capone to remove the back seats and install eight eighteen-inch subwoofers. He also wanted Capone to hook up a 1964 Lincoln Continental and a new BMW.

Capone was doing some stereo work and interior repairs for Marcus Camby, too. And Carmelo Anthony's people had started bringing in his cars for repairs.

On January 2, 2005, Capone was driving Lenard's Corvette to another shop to use a machine that stretches tires over the big wheels. He was cruising down Colfax when he caught a stoplight at Chambers. Some teenagers were playing the stop-and-go game in front of him, he remembers, blocking each other out of lanes. So when the light turned green, Capone went to change lanes. As he looked back over his shoulder, the car in front of him changed lanes, too. Capone tried to move to a third lane, but he over-steered and crashed into a tree by the side of the road. He could feel that one of his legs was broken. A branch that had ripped through the window was now crammed between Capone's mangled body and the steering wheel.

As he heard the police sirens drawing closer, Capone sat in the Corvette, laughing hysterically. Once this story got out, he knew his car-customizing career would be over.

"Don't move — hands in the air," Capone remembers hearing the police say. They thought he'd stolen the car and seemed afraid that Capone was reaching for a gun, not just trying to free his pinned body. Capone was thinking the cop might as well shoot him when — bang!

The airbag popped out of the steering wheel and broke Capone's shoulder.

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