For nearly two decades, the Cadillac Escalade has been a symbol of success. It’s the vehicle of choice for Wall Street tycoons, celebrities, and sports athletes—then again you don’t need another reminder. But if you told a then-9-year-old Jose Crespo that one day he would be the proud owner of his own customized Escalade, he would have laughed and called you crazy.

Born in a poor neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Jose has always been fascinated by cars and trucks. His obsession with cars even turned into a small business in which he would wash cars on the streets of Puerto Rico.

As time passed, at 19 years old he took a leap of faith and boarded a plane with just two carry-on bags. He was headed to Wisconsin where his father lived and with absolutely nothing in his name he set out to make a name and a living for himself. After landing a job as a machine operator (a position he still retains at the same company) he was able to afford his very first car, a 1978 Toyota Corolla that even on its best days could barely make it down the road. But this didn’t stop him from dreaming big and powering through the daily grind.

Looking to increase his capital, Jose would buy and sell cars on the side to help him increase his cash reserve. It was during one of those transactions he befriended someone who had a stock 2004 Cadillac Escalade EXT. The owner wanted to sell the truck to buy a bike and Jose saw the perfect opportunity to own his dream truck, so he jumped on it.

Knowing this was a keeper, he was advised to leave it stock, but the advice fell upon deaf ears. The very first thing he did was add wheels and then brought it straight to Reyes Customs where they wrapped the seats in gray leather and blue suede. From there, PC Customizing came into the equation and added fiberglass door panels and custom front and rear bumpers.

Once the interior was complete, the Escalade was ready for one solid color. Jose picked out a House of Kolor Candy Cobalt Blue and the paint masters went to work. Of all his mods the one priority was his audio system, so he went ballistic. A total of 20 Pioneer speakers were lined throughout the entire cabin (and the bed) for what can best be described as a massively clear and inappropriately loud-ass system. The system is powered by six different Hi-Fonics amplifiers spread throughout the truck while a trio of Pioneer subwoofers is contained in a custom fiberglass enclosure in the bed of the truck.

From a young kid growing up on the streets of Puerto Rico, Jose not only realized his dreams but also brought his creative visions to fruition. And now that he’s living the dream, along with his wife, Vanessa, they’ve got plenty of lessons to teach their five children, and they’ve got the proof that hard work pays off.

2004 Cadillac Escalade EXT

Game Changer

Jose Crespo

Cudahy, WI

Xplizit Car Club

5.7L, Candy Cobalt Blue carbon-fiber paint

House of Kolor Candy Cobalt Blue, custom front and rear bumpers, bumpers extended, custom hood, grille, taillight covers, side steps, front and rear DT Moto lights, paint and body done by PC Customizing

Stock air suspension

Fiberglass door panels and trunk, blue suede and gray leather seats, chrome visors, LED inside lighting all done by Reyes Customs, fiberglass work by PC Customizing

20 8-inch Pioneer components, three Pioneer subwoofers in bed, six 2,000-watt amplifiers, two batteries, 14 Teknique TV monitors

28×10 and 30×10 DUB Big Homies custom painted, 275/25R28 and 275/25R30 Lexani tires

His wife, Vanessa, and their five children, Kahlani, Tuhany, Jose Jr., Clarissa, and Melanie. He’d also like to thank his close friends Pito, Johnny, Hiram, Miguel, Juan, Julio, Mauricio, and Geraldo for all their help and support.