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Whip It Good

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

As the doctors worked on Capone — ultimately installing sixteen steel pins in his legs, both of which were broken — the tale of him crashing the Corvette raced through town. People said he was showing off, people said he was racing, people said he was abusing his connections. One of his competitors came to see the damage for himself, talking shit to Capone in the hospital. "You'll never get another ballplayer's car again," he said, laughing.

Another visitor was Reverend Leon Kelly, the anti-gang activist whose Capone-customized 1978 Cadillac Eldorado was about to be featured in Lowrider magazine.

"I flatlined, Rev," Capone told him. "I was dead, and you know what? There's no light at the end of the tunnel."

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.

"That's because you're heading the wrong way," Kelly said.

People kept on Capone's case when he got out of the hospital, telling him that he was living too fast, that he had to slow down and re-evaluate things. He had plenty of time to do so: Doctors said he might never walk again, and for four months he was stuck in bed. Depressed, he closed the shop in Aurora and started giving away his tools.

But Mariney stayed with him. So finally Capone picked up his paint gun and laid it to the Mitsubishi Eclipse that he owned but couldn't drive because he was confined to a wheelchair. He did the car in a chameleon style that looks like five different colors, depending on how the light hits it. Painting made Capone feel so much better than any therapy that he soon started walking on crutches — just five months after he'd been sentenced to the chair for good. After three months on crutches, he was walking with a "pimp-ass cane." He dropped that after just a few weeks.

Although Capone had been issued a ticket for reckless driving, that case was dropped, too, after tape from a surveillance camera at a grocery store on the corner showed that he wasn't at fault, he says. Plus, the Corvette's black box indicated he'd only been going 24 miles per hour.

Mariney wasn't the only one standing by Capone. Lenard brought him about ten more cars before he was traded and then retired in the middle of the '05-'06 season. And although other ballers had taken their cars elsewhere while Capone was laid up, they eventually came back to him.

By the end of summer 2005, Capone was ready to get a new start at a new shop, which he opened at 1240 Harlan Street, just outside the Denver city limits in Lakewood. New business followed, but Capone knows that he's more of an artist than a businessman. Once he starts working on a car, he doesn't like to let price get in the way of his vision. And when he's working on a baller's car, price sometimes doesn't enter the picture at all. Paint jobs that he values at anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 are often given away. The ballers know they're in demand as customers, even non-paying customers, and they know that if Capone doesn't "hook it up," someone else will. And for every baller's car that he pimps out and puts on the streets, Capone estimates that four more customers come in.

"Everybody thinks that I got millions because I'm messin' with these million-dollar cars, these million-dollar ballers," Capone explains. But the ballers aren't where all of his money comes from — even though they're the ones who can afford to splurge on fancy paint jobs and shiny rims, on shaving off door handles and customizing speaker boxes, on tinting windows, laying suede interiors and installing multiple TVs. Capone can even get ballers hooked up with suppliers, companies willing to give expensive chrome wheels away to athletes if their cars are going to appear in magazines, as many of Capone's do. Sometimes he can even get them great deals on grilles that typically cost upwards of $10,000.

Grilles like the one he put on the 2006 Range Rover owned by former MTV VJ La La Vasquez, Carmelo Anthony's girlfriend and the mother of his baby. Capone painted the car a custom color called "La La pink," styled out the interior with microphone designs and added 24-inch Dub chrome rims with a slight pink tinge — $60,000 worth of upgrades that only cost the couple about $12,000, he says.

These connections can work in Capone's favor as well. Carmelo was so impressed by the work Capone did on his rides that he decided to lend his name to the business.

"Capone's great at what he does," Carmelo says. "Anyone who can be creative like that and do all that by himself — he can paint, do stereos, rims, tint and interiors. Usually that takes ten people for one car, and it's just amazing that he can do all that right there."

"What you put into a car is something you've really thought a lot about, it's all about how you feel," he adds. "Whatever you put in there is what you want to feel, whatever kind of mood you want to be in when you get in that car."

And when he gets in his Chevelle, Carmelo says, "it feels like heaven."

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