When the Chula Vista cop pulled Carlos Abram Reyes over, he thought maybe the 21-year old was driving a Nissan 350Z. He had some reason to think it: the rear diffuser surrounding the twin exhaust pipes was built to trick out a 350Z. So were the flares over the front wheels — except they were shorter than they should have been, and riveted in place. And the duck bill rising off the trunk belonged on a Lexus. And the flares wrapping over the rear wheels hailed from a Genesis. Only the side skirts, hovering a half-inch over the asphalt, told the truth: the officer had flagged down a highly customized 2008 Honda Accord coupe.
The first photo on Reyes’ Instagram account is of actor Noel Gugliemi at the Lemon Grove In-n-Out, captioned, “Just met Hector from Fast and Furious.” Hector is the guy who organized the first street race between stars Brian O’Conner and Domnic Toretto in that autophilic franchise — a great get for a young guy who loves “cutting cars up and giving them character.” “I get these ideas in my sleep, and I’ll wake up and try to bring them to life,” says Reyes. “Sometimes it will work, and sometimes it won’t. I just went on YouTube and learned, and got crazier and crazier. I don’t know what it is with me, going over the top; I guess I like getting attention with the stuff I do.”
The coupe gets attention. “Saw you driving 52 today, about three miles away,” reads a comment on his ‘gram. From that distance, you’re not noticing the lowered, superstiff coilover suspension that’s forced Reyes to “memorize every bump, every rock, and every pothole in San Diego,” or the negative camber on the rear wheels. You’re noticing the car’s green-on-black vinyl wrap, because you’ve never seen anything quite like it. Maybe also the Playboy bunny on the door with the Supreme logo beneath it, but mostly that green. “I call it Tiffany Green, because I keep forgetting the actual name of the color. Everybody knows the color for Tiffany, so I can just say that, and they’ll know what color it is.” Reyes likes what the brand associations do for his DIY ride; from where I stand, it’s the brands that get a bump. Such is the economy of cool.
Not everyone agrees. “On the freeway, I’ll see people; they won’t look directly at me, but they’ll just shake their heads. It’s funny.” When he posted pics of his first effort — a ’68 Beetle that got modded within an inch of its life again and again — the haters came swarming. “RIP Bug.” “Take that poor thing and put it out of its misery.” Maybe it was the homemade copper flares. Maybe it was the spoiler mounted at hang-glider height. Either way, the sticker in the window held true: “I C U Lookin.”
Eventually, he sold the VWGOZILLA, and last month, he sold the coupe as well. “But it’s not like I’m never going to see it again. People send me pictures on Instagram. I was just kind of over it. I just bought a 2016 Dodge Challenger. I already lowered it, put new wheels on, and wrapped the hood, trunk, and roof.”