Celebrity Car: Will Castro - East Valley Tribune: Business

Celebrity Car: Will Castro

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Posted: Friday, October 5, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 7:41 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

For aftermarket-accessories aficionados, the showroom at Unique Autosports is worth the trek to Long Island for the shiny wheel collection alone. But the walls are also filled with photos of Unique Autosports owner Will Castro posing with his famous friends and clients. It’s an open-book history of the everyday business that goes down here. The real Castro is much like Castro the reality-TV personality on Unique Whips, broadcast on Speed TV. He’s the quintessential native New Yorker: boisterous; matter-of-fact; and endearingly charming.

For aftermarket-accessories aficionados, the showroom at Unique Autosports is worth the trek to Long Island for the shiny wheel collection alone.

But the walls are also filled with photos of Unique Autosports owner Will Castro posing with his famous friends and clients. It’s an open-book history of the everyday business that goes down here.

The real Castro is much like Castro the reality-TV personality on Unique Whips, broadcast on Speed TV. He’s the quintessential native New Yorker: boisterous; matter-of-fact; and endearingly charming.

Unique Whips is intimate glimpse into the world of exotic vehicles and the superstars who bring them in for various upgrades, from wheels and tires to extreme makeovers, such as a hearse for NASCAR racer Tony Stewart.

“I call myself a car designer, not a custom designer. That’s how I look at what I do,” Castro professes.

Growing up in Manhattan’s gritty Lower East Side, expensive cars were more of a novelty parked on the neighborhood’s streets, but that changed when Castro moved to Long Island and took a job that would eventually lead him to a more personalized relationship with vehicles . . . parking them at a restaurant.

“I was a bad bus boy,” Castro quips.

In those days, the Cadillac Eldorado held his eye, but he settled for a budget 1971 Pontiac LeMans. The Cadillacs would indeed come later with an XLR hardtop roadster (boasting 20-inch wheels and tires, grille insert and black suede seat inserts) and a Cadillac ESV, an extended-length Escalade fully tricked out with 24-inch wheels and a showpiece audio system.

The road in between is full of ups and downs.

“After working at the valet parking, I started washing some of the valet’s cars.”

Armed with polish, Castro gussied up the cars at his new business called Willy’s Shape and Shine.

After that he worked at a body shop.

“I did the detailing there as well. I learned how to sell cars and fix them. I started learning the body and paint business.”

The partnership between Castro and wife Honey Girl has always had ties with the automotive industry.

“My wife helped me detail cars. She comes from a real automotive background. Her grandfather was (a top salesman).”

Meanwhile, Castro was exploring the boundaries of modification. “I learned ragtops, body kits, and wheels,” he says.

Castro’s brother Pete, who manages Unique, went to high school with Erick Sermon, a hiphop icon, who approached Castro about some custom work. Afterward, with Sermon’s praises, others followed.

“We got so busy in that little shop,” Castro says, growing excited as he explains his ascent, almost incredulously when sports stars from the New York Jets football organization began walking in the door.

“It blew up so big, so we had to get a bigger shop . . . We opened up a shop in Uniondale, close to the Jets, called Unique Autosports in ’99. We still got that shop . . .

“Between 1990 and the 1998 period, things were up and down. It was crazy. I was just pumping money back in the company.”

There came a point when Castro was so burned out he had to take a step back from the business. “I took a break. I worked for a year and half at Pathmark [a grocery store] as a manager.”

But Castro couldn’t stay away from the car biz.

“We reemerged again. Erick [Sermon] said, ‘I’m going to have all the rappers come and see you.”

Castro opened a little shop with a one-car garage.

“I said, ‘This is my last hurrah. I’m going to name it Unique, because I’m Unique.”

But things rapidly changed for Castro when Sermon referred rapper Busta Rhymes, who called on a hot Sunday afternoon.

“We had $5,000 in the checking account, really like bare walls. He could have went to a lot of different shops.”

Castro’s diligence paid off with the flurry of celebrities that clamored through the door, following Busta’s accolades. As the talent poured in, the cars became fancier.

“I’ve got to be proud of the green-peppermint Lamborghini. We did a customized white interior with custom 20-inch rims. I’ve got to get excited about stuff like that because that car’s a $325,000 car already. They’re tearing apart Lamborghinis like they are a Hyundai.”

Castro’s personal collection is nothing to sneeze at, which at the time of Celebrity Car’s visit included a Mercedes-Benz S55 sedan, the Cadillac ESV and XLR, and a Mercedes-Benz CLS sedan.

“I have a passion for cars. I like to see what they are going to turn out to be when I’m done with it. I create my own dream every day. I get paid to do it and deal with the best clients in the world.”

Celebrity Car is produced by Wheelbase Communications in conjunction with quarterly publication Celebrity Car Magazine and the duPont Registry.

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