Whip It Good

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


License and registration," the officer tells Capone as he pulls him over on Cinco de Mayo. "Do you know why I stopped you?"

"Yeah, the windows are too dark," Capone says to the two Denver Police Department gang-unit officers and the ATF agent gathered around the car. "If you guys want, I'll tear this tint off of it right now."

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.

"Well, you may just have to do that," the officer responds, then notes that Marcus Camby — whose name is indeed on the registration — should have updated his New York license plates in Colorado.

When Capone explains that Camby sends his cars back and forth from Denver to New York, the officer says he can't take Capone's word for that. Instead, if he wants to, he can take the car and give Capone a $1,000 fine for driving it.

The officer takes Capone's driver's license back to the squad car to run his name. It comes back clean except for a few arrests (including a couple of assaults that Capone was never charged with) and a handful of traffic violations — including driving under restraint, operating an unsafe vehicle (hydros) and disturbing the peace (booming car stereos). The officer returns to the driver's-side window, while another officer approaches from the passenger side.

"Step on out of the vehicle for me," he tells Capone, who does so reluctantly. "My computer tells me you were warned about this tint in a different car."

"What?" Capone asks.

"A '64 Lincoln," he says.

The first cop turns Capone around and pats him down.

"The reason this tint was outlawed is because we got sick of police officers walking up to the car and not being able to see inside and getting shot at," he tells Capone. "Do you have anything that could hurt me?"

"No," Capone replies.

"Is that a knife in your pocket?"

"No."

"Stop with the attitude," the cop says. "We saw the car shaking back and forth."

"Shaking back and forth?"

"Yeah, did I stutter?" the officer responds, then asks to search the car.

Capone is reluctant to agree to the search — partly because he hates the harassment, partly because the car isn't even his, so granting permission borders on violating his customer's privacy. But he has nothing to hide, and if he does consent, he knows that he'll probably be let off without a ticket for the tint or the New York plates.

"Go ahead," Capone says with a wave of the hand.

"Respect me," the officer says. "I'm not disrespecting you."

Capone rolls his eyes as they search the car. The officers find nothing.

"Give me respect," the officer repeats. "I treat you with respect, I told you everything that I'm doing. I didn't rip you out of the car and throw you on the ground, did I?" He gives Capone his license, along with a warning that he'll probably get pulled over again before he makes it back to the shop.

"I usually get pulled over two or three times a week," Capone says.

But while cops always give Capone a hard time about the tint, most of the ballers are waved off.

"You've got some cops who understand," says Reggie Evans, another Denver Nugget who's a customer of Capone. "We try to look out for other people's safety, also."

Motorists often get too excited to drive when they see a baller, he explains. They'll pull out their cameras or ask for autographs when they're supposed to focus on driving. That's why Capone will be blacking out the windows of Evans's red '76 Impala and his green '73 Caprice. The Caprice is a priority, because Evans wants it in time to celebrate the off-season in Florida, where they call '71-'75 Chevy Impalas and Caprices "donks."

"One thing about Florida is that you got to have a donk," Evans says. "A donk is the biggest thing."

Evans already had his Impala customized in Florida, where he stays in the off-season, but he's decided to give Capone a crack at the donk.

"I want to redo it again just to try something different," he says. "Different paint job. Bring another, different flavor to Florida. I've been looking at other people's cars in magazines, and I just want to do something different instead of something basic. When he's done with the green one, I'll hold it down. I think it'll be real, real great, like Tony the Tiger great. One thing I like about Capone, he's got a lot of love for what he does. Like with playing basketball: You gotta love the game. My passion for basketball is like his passion for cars. He's got a lot of passion."

"He'll go the extra mile to make a customer happy at the end of the day," Evans continues. "He did some work for free for people who have money and some work for free for people who don't have money. He just likes that smile on people's faces when the results are all done." Capone and his crew are working hard to inspire that smile. One cloudy afternoon, they start stripping down Evans's Caprice while continuing work on J.R. Smith's 2008 Ford F-150, which will have about $70,000 worth of upgrades before they're done — half of which Smith will pay for. The four-door pickup has been sitting in the shop for six months, stripped of its paint, and it should have been done four months ago — but making the rear doors of the four-door model "suicide," so that they open in opposite directions, proved to be more work than Capone had expected. To make up for the delay, he's surprising Smith with some realistic flames that he's adding to the truck's paint job — a gig he says should bill at $10,000. But like the rims, it's going to be free on this truck, which is destined for a magazine cover.

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