Event brings glitz, glamour of tricked out rides
HOUSTON (AP) - If you've already bought a $660,000 Lamborghini SV, you might as well spend $15,000 more for a custom-made set of copper-finish wheels.
And why settle for a fancy Ford pickup when you can get it tricked out and dressed up in total black, with a cow-catcher-type "bull bar" on the front grille?
"It's the baddest truck I've ever seen," college student London Muse said while admiring the Tuscany Black Ops edition, a Ford F-150 customized by a Fort Worth company to give the truck a total sticker price of $68,542.
Such delights of the multibillion-dollar market for automotive products designed to improve appearance, performance, comfort, convenience and technology were on display at the Houston Auto Show.
The aftermarket expo - all 100,000-plus square feet of it - is designed to appeal to car and truck owners who feel a need to stand out, including the 80 percent of truck owners who add at least a little custom flourish after leaving the dealership.
"The thing is to be different from the next guy," said Mike Clark, manager of the local truck rebuilder and accessorizer Allout Offroad, one of the scores of vendors at the aftermarket expo.
Sales figures show that interest is growing everywhere. The aftermarket business was up 4 percent industrywide, to $31 billion, in 2012, the latest year for which the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade group had figures available.
Among the head-turners is Allout Offroad's customized 2012 Ford Super Duty F-250. It has a three-tone finish - Hawaiian blue, pumpkin orange and pearl - and is buoyed by an 18-inch suspension lift.
Many of the accessories and services don't come cheap.
"It's not like the old days when you could do it yourself under a shade tree - it's high-tech computers and very precision work," said Matt Schulte, co-owner of Fierce Endeavors, the group that markets and promotes the aftermarket expo for the Houston Auto Show.
The Houston expo, not surprisingly, has plenty of options for truck owners. Gullo Ford in Conroe had several tricked-out trucks at the expo. All were designed by Tuscany. Paul Boyter, a Gullo manager, said the dealership sells 40 to 50 Tuscany edition trucks each year. When people buy one, he said, it isn't for hunting.
The Tuscany FTX edition is decked out in chrome. But the Tuscany Black Ops got the most admirers Thursday.
Muse, a Butte College student in town on break, wasn't the only one in his family to fall for it. "That's the truck for me," said his father, Ben Muse, a U.S. Postal Service employee.
About 80 percent of all truck owners add some kind of accessory, even if it's just a brush guard or window tint, said Buddy Cabaniss, a senior account executive at Compton, Calif.-based Dealer Services International, a builder of custom vehicles.
One of the higher-end aftermarket expo vendors is Progressive Autosports of Houston, a company that specializes in tricking out exotic cars.
Progressive Autosports has nine cars on display valued at a combined $4 million, said company president Taza Zohar.
One of the cars, the $660,000 Lamborghini SV, features an additional $25,000 or so of Zohar's custom work, he said. Zohar also designed the concave copper wheels that cost $15,000.
Some of the biggest trends among customized exotic cars are matte exterior finishes, red leather interiors and wheels with either carbon fiber, brushed or copper finishes, he said.
Schulte, of Fierce Endeavors, said vehicle wrapping is another growing specialty. That's done by applying large sheets of vinyl to a vehicle's exterior. The removable wraps can be used as advertising decals or to completely cover a car like a new paint job.
Houston-based Vinyl Werkz gave vehicle wrapping demonstrations at the expo. The company charges $1,500 to $2,500 to wrap a car, Vinyl Werkz co-owner Hector Saldivar said. He and his business partner, Gabe Garcia, have graphic artists on staff who design logos for wrapping. They do custom work for both individuals and commercial entities.
For more information, visit www.houstonchronicle.com.