Larry H. Miller Liberty Toyota

For years, Michael Caldwell has been using accessories to build his dream cars. Now he’s doing the same for customers at Larry H. Miller Liberty Toyota.
by Dan Nied
Sept/Oct 2016
Larry H. Miller Liberty Toyota
When it comes to cars, Michael Caldwell is something of a Picasso.

“I look at cars like an artist looks at canvas,” says the accessories manager at Larry H. Miller Liberty Toyota in Colorado Springs, Colo. “I want to create something that stands out. I’m not a cookie-cutter kind of guy. I like unique things, things that nobody has done before. Things that people will break their necks to look at. That’s just me.”

And no, that doesn’t mean monster trucks with flames and murals streaking down the side. Caldwell’s style of customization is eye-catching but tasteful, giving customers the exact car they’ve always dreamed of.


Location, Location, Location
Caldwell is in the process of transforming the former Scion showroom into a show space for special builds and accessories.
Caldwell originally came to Liberty Toyota seven years ago to do internet sales. He didn’t begin his current job until November 2014, when General Manager Todd Hilleboe suggested he make the move to match his passion.

That sounded like a great idea to Caldwell, who has been tinkering with his toys since he was a child.

Junkyard Junkie
“Now, almost every living, waking moment I have is devoted to customization,” Caldwell says. “Outside of work, it’s about my personal vehicle and what I can possibly do differently that hasn’t been done before.”

Caldwell spends plenty of time in junkyards looking for the perfect additions for his car. It is the ideal place to earn an education in modification and accessories.

“I go to junkyards to see how things come apart, and they’re also a great place to pick up parts,” Caldwell says. “I’ll buy a $1,000 car from the 1980s, and I’ll go to the junkyard and get a glovebox cover or bumper. Anything to make it that much more perfect. My goal is to make it as nice a car as possible while spending the least amount of money.”

Kid in a Candy Store
At Larry H. Miller Liberty Toyota, Caldwell gets to use his customization craze to make customers swoon over their vehicles. After a customer purchases their vehicle, Caldwell’s first order of business is to schedule their first ToyotaCare appointment. Then the fun starts.

“I have two screens in my office: a computer and a big television,” Caldwell says. “I show customers all the accessories for their make and model, and I’ll go into some other things for protection or safety. I can chat with them for a few minutes and pull out what is important to them.”

Caldwell remembers a recent customer who wanted her 2012 Tacoma to look like a 2016 model. Challenge accepted. He compared the two models and made the grill the same color as the body, blacked out the badges and created a mirror image of the newer model.


Mod Squad
The accessories team at Larry H. Miller Liberty Toyota builds dream cars and trucks for their customers.

Up next? The team is putting the finishing touches on a modified and lifted RAV4 that’s rugged and read for whatever the earth can throw at it. 

“I’m like a kid in a candy store when the customer wants to add accessories,” he says. “I try to interpret their vision and give them what they want. I want to customize it so it is unique to them, but doesn’t look gaudy. It should be functional and look like it’s factory made. And above all, it has to drive well.

“People really do want to accessorize their vehicles,” Caldwell says. “Even if it’s simple like a window tint, remote start or leather seats. People want these things, but they need to see it. And when they do, it brings out their inner child, too.”
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