Quality Coachworks is in the business of building secure transport vehicles so both cash and weed can get around safely.
Back when a dime bag could last a week, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong cooked up a creative way to transport marijuana with a Chevy P10 step van in the 1978 stoner classic Up in Smoke. Forty-three years after the movie’s release, cannabis is still being transported with vans. But these days, the weed is legal, carried much less conspicuously, and the vehicles used to transport it have become an industry in and of themselves.
As our states legalize cannabis faster than Elon Musk drops promisesand some foreign governments are opening the doors to medicinal and recreational use, the marketplace for secure transport is growing rapidly. One such company, Quality Coachworksis using its many years of experience in building limousines and armored personal cars to get in on the business. Just like people, weed and cash also need to get from Point A to Point B safely.
Federal vs. State Hurdles
Here in the United States, the federal government seems to be living in the world of Reefer Madness since marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. That classification creates big hurdles for both growers and dispensaries through banking restrictions on companies doing any business in the cannabis world. Basically, any FDIC-insured institution is unable to provide financial services to those in the pot biz. And since most credit card payment processors also are wary of doing business in quasi-legal industries, marijuana is a massive cash business. Handling that cash is nearly as problematic as the cannabis itself.
With the potential tax windfall, the state of California wisely considered helping herb businesses prosper in a safe and secure manner when Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of cannabis, passed in 2016. While the banking issue was being tackled on the legislative side, Cali leadership set to work on the logistics end. So, in addition to working with the growers on farming and production, the state’s Department of Agriculture decided to address the issue of secure transport of both cannabis and cash by creating a set of basic requirements for transport vehicles: onboard video, GPS tracking, climate control, and double locks to limit access, even if the door was left open.
Now for outsourcing the labor. In 2015, the current State Board of Equalization agricultural liaison and former monster truck builder Seth Doulton approached Quality Coachworks owner, Dominick Vitelli, to develop the prototype vehicle.
Vitelli is no stranger to bespoke vehicle-building. He began working in the custom coach business as a young man in 1983, moving from his home in Brooklyn, New York, to Southern California to join his uncle Vini Bergeman—whom we once called “The Limo King of Los Angeles”—the innovative showman behind Ultra Limousine Corporation. Vitelli found himself thrown into the deep end as the super-stretch limo business was exploding, becoming the poster child for ‘80s excess. Over the next two decades, Vitelli was on the front lines as the industry changed from super stretched cars to more conservative vans and SUVs. In 2008, Dom and his wife Brenda set out on their own and opened Quality Coachworks in Ontario, California, with five employees.
Timing could not have been worse for the new company, as the stock market crash brought the custom limo industry to a screeching halt. Fortunately, Vitelli had the fortitude to carry on and expanded into other areas, including corporate SUVs and armored private vehiclestwo market categories that are thriving today.
The clientele for armored cars is growing and diverse, ranging from wealthy paranoid suburbanites to security-obsessed CEOs and media-hounded celebrities. Quality Coachworks will armor almost any vehicle with options including electrified door handles, smoke screen and pepper spray emitters, heavy-duty run-flat tires, and of course, bullet-proof glass. One client requested the full treatment, including a sound cannon, on her Mercedes-AMG GT-R Coupe.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Roger Garbrow on The Drive
Published: March 08, 2022