he’s amassed quite a following, building rides for some of the world’s top athletes and biggest celebrities.
“My celebrity clientele grew big because of all the baseball players that first started to come to me,” Vega recollects. “Baseball is a high paying sport and so everybody on a team can pretty much afford the same cars. Of course, these guys want the hottest car to be theirs and that’s where my designs come into play. I’d do their cars different from others in the parking lot and then other players would see this and ask about my work. It just spiraled from there.” His very first athlete clients were Andruw Jones and Alonzo Mourning, and now his extensive customer list features over 300 notable names, including repeat clients such as Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Boozer, Usain Bolt, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Pablo Sandoval and Marc Anthony, to name a few.
But it wasn’t until Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets drove to spring training in a different customized ride for six days straight – all customized by Vega – that The Auto Firm was thrown into the spotlight. It became a media frenzy around the shop, with every paper and magazine knocking at his door for an interview, including a sweet feature story in The New York Times on Super Bowl Sunday that February. That’s when all the production firms reached out to him, wanting to collaborate.
“These production companies were calling from everywhere, but I didn’t want to work with anyone that wanted to use scripts or make things up,” he describes. “I wanted it to be real and show my art and how much I love it...which was exactly what I delivered for the show. We just finished the first season and now it’s going to be made into a Spanish version. It was an amazing experience because it let me show what it’s like inside my business and my vision and passion for cars.”
Vega has come a long way from having worked, managed and partnered in other shops before opening The Auto Firm back in 2010, with his latest headquarters three times bigger than his last, a barber’s chair on the second floor for when he has no time to make it out and a large enough facility that fits his crew to work their magic on more than 20 cars at a time, allowing them to churn out 50 to 60 custom rides a month.
“My place is like a manufacturing plant,” Vega admits. “We pretty much do everything from scratch. You walk into my place and there’s a room just for interior design, then another for CNC work where you can get your logo or name on the dash or doors - anything you want, we can make it. Then there’s a fabrication room and so forth. So you’re walking through rooms and designing your own stuff along the way. We cater to each of our clients and are a custom shop in its purest form.”
The Auto Firm can literally handle anything you ask for, which is why their clients ship them vehicles from all corners of the world. Currently, Jeep Wranglers are the ride of choice customers are sending to the shop, with everybody asking for his notorious Avorza Jeeps - which are fitted with his personal brand of Avorza wheels (a play off of Vega’s initials and the word “forza” and have appeared in countless music videos from some of his clients, most notably Floyd Mayweather, Jr). “I first started with three or four wheel styles and now we’re at 52, including off-road options,” he says. “It’s known to be quality wheels that don’t bend or crack and can hold up to damage or when in accidents. People actually say I make the best wheels in the world.”
His career has come full circle, as he attributes hard work, determination and the support of his family and crew as factors as to why he’s been so successful. In fact, his business is a family affair with his wife running the front office and his sons learning the ropes from dad, which is all portrayed in the TV show (which you can watch on Velocity.com). As far as his current staff, Vega sought only the best in the area and admits that it took time to build the right team - one that even includes two females wrenching on the cars.
As a shop that does it and sees it all, Vega predicts that the next big thing in the customization scene will focus on interior. “A lot of cars are now being made with aggressive and sporty looks,” he details. “But what lacks the most is the interior. I think that’s going to be big soon.” As a one-stop shop stop that resembles a manufacturer’s plant, it’s only natural that Vega’s next big goal is to either build a production Avorza edition ride or work with a big manufacturer to create his own brand. “One day it’s going to happen and it’ll be big!”