All Up In Your Grill

If your car's face is its grill, then what the guys at Strut are selling is like Crest Whitestrips for your ride. They'll have you drifting through corners with a face fulla diamonds, metaphorically—rollin' like your grill is 24-carat plated.

I say that like it's a good thing, and maybe it is. The world's gonna end in November anyway, when GWB whips out another squeaker of an election and suburban white folks in California start bending the Indians over again, so why not make the most of the time remaining and play dress-up with your car? The Indians will only be out $8 million or billion or so—and they were holding out on us anyway.

Corona-based Strut is too smart to endorse such a political platform; its plank is materialism plain and simple: "grills, vents, accessories—what we call jewelry for the car," according to co-founder Scott Struthers. "Car," as used here, is slang for Hummer H2, Cadillac Escalade, BMW 7-series, Range Rover, and the newish Chrysler 300. Chevrolet Cavaliers need not apply; Strut, Struthers says, is not targeting their business. "We've gotten the name out there," he said swiftly.

The name is a contraction of his own, badged oh-so-tastefully on the products, which are made from triple-chromed stainless steel—chromed three times and guaranteed to outlast the national debt—and hand-signed. And while this is still Strut's first year—and they're sitting on sales figures like mother hens—owners' names are starting to speak for themselves.

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These are names that often run by you on TV, pushing a ball: Denver Nugget Andre Miller, Portland Trailblazer Darius Miles, and L.A. Laker Kareem Rush, whose BMW got Strutified: sports stars, with a taste for the urban driving accessories like those spinner wheels that got a man killed in L.A. last year. The occasional, uber-trendy Hollywood type is mixed in for flavor, people like David Arquette, whose family manse was exploded on South Park.

"We are finding it's an urban crowd, a lot of the athletes," Struthers noted. This is a strong selling point on the wide, manicured, planned streets of Irvine and Mission Viejo, where imposed suburban order cries out for an injection of pre-packaged urban chaos.

"Many times that [urban] market is on the cutting edge," said Orange County Strut retailer Jan Green, of Coast General Performance in Costa Mesa, using rap music as the classic example. "If you look at rap music, it's created and marketed in the urban market—but many of their customers do not live in the urban market."

They live in Irvine, or Coto de Caza, and they want a big silver Superman-like "S" on the front of their SUV—even if it means paying upwards of $6,800 for a Strut-grill package, the company's signature product. At least what they're getting looks that expensive.

Their grills aren't welded in the back of a bumper shop by some bozo, from off-the-rack flat steel. No, they're handcrafted with the final shape in mind—swoopy, streamlined, a bit ostentatious—and with triple-chrome to achieve it. Strut products even come in their own trademark, black-lacquered box with the big "S." Inside, they're wrapped in suede cloths with that big "S" repeated.

"It's just like opening a Rolex box or a Tiffany's box," Strut V.P. Tommy Gaut said. Just as expensive, too—but if you make that kind of money, you're likely to spend that way.

"It is expensive but it is like a watch," Struthers said, leaning heavy on the analogy. "Sometimes people buy a $5,000 watch when they only make $60,000 a year."

Five thousand dollars! Who can afford that? The Indians can! Where's my absentee ballot?

Strut, LLC, is at 190-A Business Center Drive, Corona, (909) 371-9220; Products also available at Coast General Performance, 2855 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 540-5710.

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