Walking around The Auto Firm, Alex Vega’s shop in the heart of Kendall, is like strolling through a toy store for adults.
There are ultra-modern vehicles like a Polaris Slingshot and classics like a 1969 Oldsmobile and one of the Volkswagen vans so loved by hippies in the 1970s.
They each have something special, the special touch of this Miami car guru who has his own show on Discovery, The Auto Firm with Alex Vega, and has a long client list that includes Marc Anthony, Luis Fonsi, Gente de Zona and Nicky Jam, as well as a long list of sports stars.
A fan of TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider since he was a child, Vega always dreamed of designing cars for the movies. Today, the 44-year-old, born in Miami of Cuban parents, can say that he has fulfilled his dreams by owning one of the leading businesses that specialize in customizing vehicles.
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His first famous client was Alfonso Soriano, a Dominican then playing for the New York Yankees. The success of that vehicle brought him a shower of other jobs.
“Just think, they are parking in the same lot, 40 or 50 athletes who can have the same car, but Soriano’s car looked different,” Vega said.
The Auto Firm has customized more than 400 vehicles since 2010 for sports and music stars looking for luxury, creativity and excellence. Among them are boxing champ Floyd Mayweather and three-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, whose car was upholstered in the colors of the Jamaican flag: green, black and yellow.
“That car you see there is for the girlfriend of (Miami Heat center) Hassan Whiteside, who asked for a special blue color,” said Vega.
Vega created his own brand, Avorza, a combination of his initials and the word forza for the power of his creations. Every vehicle he customizes bears the Avorza brand.
Fonsi is one of the lucky owners of an Avorza edition of a Polaris Slingshot.
Vega met the singer before the success of his hit song Despacito, and Fonsi is one of the famous clients who have recorded videos for his YouTube channel.
“I don’t plan to go despacito in this car,” Fonsi joked in his video, adding that designing his own car was a lot of fun.
His clients come looking to customize vehicles that are already expensive, and in many cases wind up as friends of Vega, who feels proud of having built a family business where his wife and two sons also work.
“Marc Anthony started out as a client. He wanted to build a limousine and today he’s a friend, a brother, a part of the family,” Vega said.
The story of the day when Anthony was visiting the shop and got a call from actor Vin Diesel shows how the word on Vega’s designs spread quickly among the famous.
“Marc told him, ‘Come over to see what we’re doing.’ They love to come to find ideas,” Vega said. Diesel arrived later that day, along with reggaeton musician Nicky Jam.
“Vin Diesel saw one of the vans I was making for Marc, and right there bought one of the personalized limousines we build,” Vega said. Nicky Jam also ordered one of the limousines.
“It’s a pleasure that someone I see in a movie or in a concert would look at me in the same way that I look at them when they are working and say, ‘For me, this guy’s an artist,’” Vega added.
Among the many extraordinary vehicles in the shop, there’s one that always locks down any visitor’s eyeballs.
Black and white, with blue details, ultramodern and with a styling that shows it can go really fast really quickly, it’s not the Batmobile but it’s still worthy of a superhero.
The Polaris Slingshot, which is in fact a three-wheeled motorcycle, sells for $20,000 but will be worth $70,000 by the time Vega and his team finish customizing it.
It has special paint, hand-made dashboard and upholstery, a TV set and a suspension that can lower it and turn it into the king of any garage.
The vehicle belongs to the Miami Police Department, which plans to use it as an attraction for the community to admire and at the same time learn more about the work of officers.
Vega donated the extra equipment and labor, valued at $47,000.
It’s his way of giving back to the community for its support of his business, far more than what he was hoping for when he decided to open his shop.
“Owning a business is a dream for many people,” Vega said. “But to fulfill my childhood dream, and to be able to own a place that has brought me a television program, that’s a blessing.”
Follow Sarah Moreno on Twitter: @SarahMorenoENH