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Will Castro cracks the whip on hit auto show

June 25, 2006|by JASON STEIN/Wheelbase Communications

My man is all in white. And I like that!"

The sharp voice cracks over the air as the TV camera pans to a white Cadillac that has just pulled into the garage of Will Castro, Speed channel's newest and hippest host of the 24-hour auto channel's newest and hippest show, "Unique Whips."

"White suit. White shoes. White glasses even," Castro says. "I love it."

And who is behind the wheel? Who is the latest celebrity to lend his name to the Whips' set and have his personal car turned into a rolling work of art?

Why, it's only Tom Wolfe, one of the best-selling novelists of the 20th century, rolling up in a white Cadillac DeVille DTS.

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Wolfe on Whips?

Talk about white-hot.

"I want to improve my street credibility," the 75-year-old Wolfe tells Castro on camera.

Get in line with the others, Tom.

In two quick years, what Castro has done to the entertainment industry (and automotive makeovers) is right in line with other hits such as MTV's "Pimp My Ride."

Castro is cool. His temper is hot . . . and so is his show. And the executives at Speed have just renewed it for yet another season.

A-list celebrities are lining up to pay Castro for vehicle makeovers. Amazing automobiles are pulling into his driveway. And Wednesday nights have never been bigger on Speed.

"Everybody has really stepped it up tremendously for season No. 2 of 'Unique Whips,'" said Robert Ecker, Speed's vice president of programming. "The jobs are bigger, Will's roster of celebrity clients is better and the overall entertainment value of the series far surpasses the first cycle of shows."

In his own indelible way, Castro continues to define what it means to have a truly unique automotive lifestyle. His team at Unique Autosports in Holbrook, N.Y., has taken the nation by storm. But TV didn't make Castro famous; it just took things to another level.

Before Speed came along, Castro was already a household name in some of the most famous houses on the East coast. He was already the "customizer to the stars" in New York and New Jersey.

Castro's A-list clientele included entertainers Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Busta Rhymes, Wyclef, Fat Joe and rapper G-Unit. There were NFL standouts Curtis Martin, Santana Moss and Lavar Arrington as well as NBA stars Jermaine O'Neal, Carmelo Anthony, Yao Ming, Steve Francis and Latrell Sprewell.

So, less than two years ago, Speed saw an opportunity. It sold the show as a 60-minute unscripted series that would "give the viewers an inside look at the Unique Autosports world of celebrity car customizing."

Speed knew Castro's reach was already enormous. The formula was a good one.

"Bringing Will Castro to Speed is a real coup for the network," Ecker said at the time. "In a television universe recently cluttered with automotive-themed programs that are largely contrived, this is one of the few that can genuinely be called authentic. That is not to say the series will be dry, dull or in any way mundane; quite the contrary. 'Unique' is not just the name of Will's business, but an apt description of who he is. Like the man and all he does, this show will be, too."

Castro was even more blunt.

"'Unique Whips' was not going to be a show about turning a toaster into a go-kart.

"Sure, we do celebrity vehicle conversions, and that's great, but I wanted to showcase the good, the bad, and the ugly of this business. To do that honestly, we feel we have to show everything - how we handle rich and powerful clients who believe we should feel privileged to do their car. I'm going to show it all. I'm going to show the stuff that everyone else is afraid to put out there."

Castro's own story is equally as interesting.

Born in Puerto Rico, but raised in New York, he began with nothing and built, in his words, "the East Coast's premier shop."

Actually, his own automotive career began by parking cars.

Always hoping he would get into the business of customizing, Castro began detailing, then moved into his own shop 15 years ago. Everything clicked. Soon he had celebrities popping by to see what he could do. And the rest was history.

His main hobby: "Make lots of money," he said.

And it works.

"I didn't realize what kind of impact the show would have on the industry," said Castro.

This year the names get even bigger. There is songstress Patti Labelle, Wolfe, NASCAR superstar Kevin Harvick, Washington Nationals star pitcher Livan Hernandez and Carmine Gotti of "Growing Up Gotti."

"Now we're showing more of what we do and how we do it," he said. "We had a few new people come in and go right back out, because they couldn't make the cut. This new season of 'Unique Whips' will give everyone a bigger look at what Unique Autosports is all about."

Castro's goal now is to franchise out the Unique Autosports business, spreading it around the United States and taking the business to a higher level.

But, wait.

NASCAR champion Tony Stewart is on the phone. He wants his Lamborghini tricked out. And there's another car for Eminem ... and it goes on and on.

Just another unique day.

Jason Stein is a feature writer with Wheelbase Communications. He can be reached on the Web at: www.wheelbase.ws/mailbag.html.

Copyright 2006, Wheelbase Communications

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