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Community and custom cars drive Ground Zero club members; toy drive Dec. 4

Ground Zero custom car club

Selene Veloz (left), Jaime Veloz, Juan Martinez, Heriberto Lopez Lugo, and the customized vehicles they plan to display at the Ground Zero Fill the Boat Car Show from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at Quarry Park in Granite Shoals. Admission and entry fees are one new, unwrapped toy for the Granite Shoals Police Officers Association's Christmas toy drive. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell

For the past four years, Selene Veloz has worked on choosing just the right colors of paint, matching interior upholstery, and a new bed for her 1972 Chevy C10 truck, which currently lies in pieces in her garage. When finished, it will become a gleaming showpiece that husband Jaime Veloz said will rack up trophies in some of the nation’s biggest car shows. 

He especially has his sights set on one in Houston that chooses the top 100 vehicles out of 2,000 entries. 

“That would be an accomplishment,” he said. “That’s what I want to do with her vehicle. What would we get out of it? Bragging rights.”

The Granite Shoals couple customizes vehicles both old and new as a hobby. Jaime recently bought a 2020 Chevy Silverado and took it to a custom shop in Houston, where it was torn apart, repainted, and put back together.

The suspension was cut out and replaced with air ride suspension that brings the vehicle lower to the ground than factory standards. Now, it’s qualified to ride with similar trucks as part of Ground Zero, a national custom car club named to represent the vehicles’ close proximity to the pavement.

Jaime and about a dozen other Highland Lakes residents are members of the Austin-area chapter. They show off their custom rides, mostly trucks, at shows in Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Oklahoma. 

For the second year in a row, the local group plans its own show from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at Quarry Park in Granite Shoals. Entry fees and admission are toys. Bring a new unwrapped toy or $20 to fill the Granite Shoals police and fire department boats for the holidays. The project is a collaboration between Ground Zero and the Granite Shoals Police Officers Association brought about by Jaime and his good friend Officer John Ortis.

“The Granite Shoals Police Officers Association is always doing something to benefit the city of Granite Shoals where we live,” Selene said. “We got together and said, ‘Let’s do something to benefit the kids.’”

“We see that boat out there, and sometimes they put toys and stuff in it, so we thought a car show would be a good way to fill the boat,” Jaime said. “Bring an unwrapped new toy or twenty bucks to help buy toys for Christmas.” 

Ground Zero and the officers association are also planning family-friendly activities and tours of first responder vehicles. 

While the payoff might be toys for kids and a good time for families and car enthusiasts, for Jaime and Ground Zero, it’s also the cars. He has two customized vehicles to show, his 2020 Silverado and a 1984 Chevy C10, along with one he and his 16-year-old son, Aiden, built.

“I was trying to get him a fairly new car, but he said, no, he wanted a custom one,” Jaime said. “So, I got him a 1997 Chevy. It was pretty rugged looking, but it’s better than brand new now.” 

That kind of outcome drives the Veloz family’s passion for customizing their vehicles. Although both Selene and Jaime have regular everyday wheels for work, the pride is in the custom ride.

“They are our Saturday and Sunday trucks,” Jaime said. “I have a work truck for my drywall business, and Selene drives a Chevy Tahoe.”

“He wants to put wheels on it, but I said, no way,” Selene laughed.

Four of their six “his-mine-and-our” kids still live at home. Food and dirty shoes are not allowed in the custom rides.

Selene’s sights are on her first custom truck, the ’72 C10, a project she has been working on for the past four years. While some of the work is done in speciality shops, friends and family get together to do a lot of the customization on the weekends. 

“There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and beers in that car,” Jaime said. 

Unlike some of the vehicles they buy and remake, this one didn’t have an engine.  

“The thrill is being able to bring it back to life,” Selene said. “You’re looking at a vehicle that otherwise you can’t afford. You can’t find a 1972 with brand new paint and interior like that. But this car, everything is custom built just to my liking.”

She has helped with some of the labor, but mostly, Jaime said, Selene is the brains, picking and ordering the parts while he does the work. Unlike Jaime, she has not always been so passionate about custom cars. Her father had them, but she never paid much attention. She met Jaime through her dad. Their first date was to a car show in Austin. 

Now married for more than 10 years, the bug bit when Jaime showed her the C10. 

“She said her dad used to have one like it, so we bought it,” Jaime said. “You know, you see someone do it, and it’s like a chain reaction. You want to do one, too.” 

Come out to the Ground Zero Fill the Boat event Dec. 4 and start your own chain reaction. You never know what you’ll be driving this time next year.  

suzanne@thepicayune.com