some History
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Thread: some History

  1. #1
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    I responded to someones question with this but wanted to share with all.


    Chapter 1 Lowrider History Book


    Chapter One

    The Roots of Lowriding.

    When the lights go up at today's huge lowrider shows, hundreds of cars gleaming with triple-dipped chrome and gold plating, elaborate candy and metalflake paint jobs, rolling on custom-spoked wire rims featuring the finest spinners money can buy, fans throughout Aztlan (Chicano slang for the American Southwest) and all America, to Japan and Europe, gasp with appreciation and envy. As lowriding has taken the world by storm, it has also taken the mainstream automotive industry by surprise--no one seems to know where the world's number one auto trend came from. Some automotive enthusiasts like to write the sport off as the new cruiser on the block, eyeing hoppers and their high performance hydraulics somewhat suspiciously.

    Other custom car historians dig a little deeper, tapping out a few lines about the late '70s, the television show Chico and the Man, and the first few issues of Low Rider Magazine evidence enough that lowriders have enjoyed at least a decade or two on the streets. But, lowriding's roots reach far deeper into history than that, the result of two very different traditions, California car culture and Mexican cultura coming together in Southern California. Lowriding has always had a distinct Mexican flavor, hotter than hot rods and lower than customs.

    Throughout many Mexican-American neighborhoods, called barrios, from East Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, cruisers have been dropping Chevrolets to a sidewalk-scraping stance since the late 1930s. It was part of the "zoot suit" fashion, a trend popular among teenagers from every culture. Mexican-American zooters, cool from slicked back hair to highly polished shoes, called themselves pachucos. They cruised beautifully restored, older Chevys, decked out in their oversized zoot suits for a night on the town. Often just the back of the Chevy was temporarily lowered, using sandbags hidden in the trunk beneath strategically placed planks of wood, or permanently dropped all around, the springs shortened by cutting the top few coils or heated until they collapsed to a proper cruising height. They cruised through the streets, honoring a custom that may have been practiced since the heyday of the Aztlan Empire.

    The paseo, still honored today in many small Mexican towns, is a tradition where young, unmarried villagers walking around the village's central plaza, young women in one direction, men in the other, blushing and making eye contact. According to legend, the cruise is merely an automotive extension of this ancient tradition, practiced in Southern California long before it was ever a part of the United States.

    After World War II, America's economy was booming. Southern California' the '30s its comparatively strong economy during the Great Depression had attracted immigrants from the dust bowls of the Central United States and Northern Mexico--was ready to roll. Prior to the war, most "customizers" were interested in speed, not looks, making inexpensive modifications under the hood while removing heavy, "useless" extras like the fenders and roof. Early custom and lowriding (although the word would not come into use until the 1960s) enthusiasts, however, in particular the pachucos, were more interested in looks, class and style.

    It was all on a Depression-era budget, but the seeds were being sown for modern custom trends. After World War II, the hard-driving economy fueled a new generation of automotive enthusiasts, these early styles began branching out, racers, now called hot rods, joined by lakesters, street rods, roadsters, customs, cruisers and finally, lowriders, each new style owing a debt to the cars that came before it.

    By the late 1950s and early '60s, what we would now consider lowriders were finally hitting Whittier Boulevard in great numbers. Such fine rides wouldn't appear overnight, however. California car culture and Mexican-American cultura would both develop and grow, each enriching the larger American culture with every passing decade.

    Pachucismo: Lowriding's Well-Dressed Roots California, along with Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, as well as parts of Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming, were part of Mexico until the 1830s, when Mexico ceded the huge territory to the U.S. Many Mexican-American and Spanish families remained on their ancestral lands, continuing to speak Spanish and retain a distinctly Mexican cultura. Later, from about 1910 to the mid '20s, a wave of new Mexican immigrants--approximately 10-percent of the Mexican population--fled the bloody Mexican Revolution and settled in many major urban centers of the Southwest, in particular, El Paso, Texas, and East Los Angeles. They came, like so many others to this nation of immigrants, seeking stability, peace, and a better life for their children. It was difficult, as it was for refugees from Eastern Europe or Ireland, but many managed to carve out a decent life for themselves in the land of opportunity.

    Professor Ruben Mendoza points out that one of their means of surviving in the U.S. might be the basis of modern day car clubs. "After the Revolution, Mexicans were brought over to the United States to work in the mines, railroads and farms; many of these new workers were exploited, and without any type of job security or insurance, an illness or other calamity could destroy their lives. Many of these immigrants formed 'mutual aid societies,' or social clubs, where they would meet and socialize on a regular basis. The purpose of the group, however, was survival.

    They would all contribute money, and if any of them got sick or in trouble, that could be used to help the ailing member out. That same type of organization. Within a single generation, the English-speaking children of these first immigrants were feeling more a part of American life. Part of the American dream of the '30s and '40s was owning a car, and when the family finally saved enough for that ride, it became almost a member of the family. Most of the cars cruising the barrios were second hand, and Chevrolets, less expensive and easier to repair, as well as more stylish compared to practical Fords, became the cars of choice.

    The desire to be different was no less apparent in Mexican-American communities than anywhere else in the country, and they, too, customized their cars to look unique. Rather than the fast looking "California rake," these young pachucos would drop the back of the car for a sleek, mean look that turned everyone's head. "They were family cars, but we used to fix them up," remembers former pachuco and United Farm Workers co-founder Cesar Chavez. "We fixed up several. The one that we had for the longest period of time was a '40 Chevy. In those days you went the opposite [of the hot rodders]--low in the back. We lowered the rear springs, had fender skirts, two side pipes. It was mostly cosmetic stuff in those days. You had to have two spotlights and two antennas, and a big red stop light in the back.

    Hubcaps, oh, they used to steal hubcaps. The ones that we had, had just one bar across, and big wide whitewalls. When we got out of the car, we had a screwdriver to take off the hubcaps and lock them in the trunk. When we got back we would put them back on." There were plenty of modifications for specific Chevys becoming popular in the barrios. The "alligator hood" looked great on models with hoods hinged down the center, like the '39 Chevy. Originally, the hood would open up like wings, but this was converted to open from the front, like an alligator's mouth.

    For pachucos still customizing Fords, the bumper soon became a problem. Original Ford bumpers had a dip in the center that scraped the ground after the coils were cut or, by those with tougher bottoms, removed. The owner would either flip the bumper, remove it entirely, or switch it. "The most popular to switch was the '37 DeSoto bumper with the five narrow ribs that matched the grille and chrome horn covers on the front fenders," reminisces lowrider historian David Holland. "The '37 DeSoto was a stupid looking car, but it sure had bad bumpers. Also, the '41 Ford bumpers were popular." still exists today in disenfranchised communities, as neighborhood groups, gangs and car clubs."

    Lowrider style has changed a great deal over the past 50 years--although you still have to take extra care of a car sporting a nice set of rims--but, as Cesar Chavez pointed out, Chicano cruisers have always customized their cars very differently from the speedier sets. "Lowriders do happen to alter a car in a way that makes it almost the precise opposite of a style long favored by Anglo car customizers," noted Calvin Trillin in the New Yorker. "The California rake, which has a jacked up rear instead of a lowered one, outlandishly wide tires instead of tires that seem much too small for the car, and a souped up motor instead of one that has been filely ignored." The "East L.A. rake" was part of a new style that was developing.

    These cars not only looked clean, but they were also a way of showing defiance against the mainstream culture. The young pachucos cruising these beauties on Whittier Boulevard, the main strip in East Los Angeles, or on Boulevards throughout the Southwest, had also developed their own style of clothing and hair, which was stirring things up a bit. The zoot suit craze had been spreading across the country throughout the late '30s, popularized by movie stars like Clark Gable. Blacks in Harlem, New York, popularized the look, an enormously oversized jacket over baggy pants with pegged legs. Young Mexican-Americans called them drapes, and often dropped the fancy fedora altogether. There was some concern on the part of the mainstream about the refusal of these young people to assimilate.

    Older, more conservative Mexican-Americans also worried about their children's new look. "I started wearing zoot suits when it became and issue," Cesar Chavez explained. "The Chicano community was divided about the dress. Some people just wouldn't wear them, because they thought everybody who did was no good. The girls also wore their trapos, even though people would say, 'you're no good.' You see, the people that wore them eran los mas pobres, guys like us who were migrant farm workers."

    Patricia Alcala, who allowed the PBS documentary Low and Slow cover her daughter's lowrider quincianera, had a similar experience. "Back in the '40s, we couldn't wear tight skirts, dangly earrings, or speak Spanish. If you did, you were labeled 'bad.' " But, like so many young cruisers of their generation, Chavez and Alcala continued to wear the pachuco fashion and speak Spanish, at least when their teachers weren't around. The car, the clothes and the language were all badges of pride for a generation caught between cultures, struggling to find their own identity.

    What frightened many Southern Californians, however, was not just the pachucos' rough and ready reputation. It was their ability to move through traditionally Anglo areas with ease. "Being strangers to an urban environment, the first generation tended to respect the boundaries of the Mexican communities," writes historian Carey McWilliams of the pachucos' first lows. "But, the second generation was lured far beyond these boundaries into the downtown shopping districts, to the beaches and, above all, to the glamour of Hollywood. It was this generation of Mexicans, the pachuco generation, that first came to the general notice and attention of the Anglo-American population."

    The attention that the pachucos got, with their cars, clothes and street slang, called calo, was notorious. "We went to the movies--we were just waiting outside--and the guy wouldn't let us in with a pass," said Cesar Chavez. "The cops came and then stood us against a wall and searched us. They ripped our pants--can you imagine? In those days the one that I had was a sharkskin suit and it cost me $45, a lot of money in those days--we're talking about 1942 or '43." Cesar wasn't the only one. "I was just hanging out [on the corner of 5th Avenue and Glendale Avenue] with my homeboys in a zoot suit, when a city of Glendale placa [police car] drove up and called me over," Noni Maldonado told "El Danny" in an article for Barrio Breakthrough Magazine. "Our zoot suits, to us, were firme trajes, to go to dances and hang out with the pleve. We weren't into gangs or pachuco fighting. We just automatically got stereotyped because of our clothes and our hair style, but that was us!"


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    Chapter 2 Lowrider History Book


    Chapter Two

    The Emerging Styles.

    World War II had devastated most of the world's major econo-mies--global powers in Asia and Europe were beginning the long and difficult process of recon-struction, a process that would take decades. It was up to the United States to help them rebuild, which meant everyone who wanted one had a good job for the first time since the stock market crashed back in '29, touching off the Great Depression. It was time to party, to cruise, and to build the best cars that the world had ever seen.

    Detroit kicked the trend into gear. In February of 1942, all automobile production had stopped, the assembly lines devoted entirely to the war effort. Because gas had also been rationed since '42, the few hot rods still on the streets were keeping their runs short and sweet. All that was about to change, however. Young men returning from Europe received an early version of the G.I. Bill, known as the 5:20 program, putting an extra $20 a week in their pockets. Even better, all of those beautiful old cars, Chevrolets for the pachucos and Fords for the rodders, were cheap and plentiful as the wealthy, eager for a brand new ride, dumped them on the market.

    The car of choice in East Los Angeles, California, at least among the younger set, was still the sleek Chevrolet. Prior to the war, choosing a Chevy over a Ford was an economic consideration; they were cheaper and more plentiful. But, even after with the G.I. Bill's subsidy, most Mexican-Americans continued to go with the "bowtie."

    Although other makes and models were fine, so long as they were kept clean, restored to mint condition and dropped in the weeds, the '39 Chevrolet remained the most coveted car of all. "The '39 Chevy makes the best lowrider," explains Sleepy Lagoon resident Fernando Ruelas, president of the oldest lowrider club in America, The Duke's. "It's more of a gangster look, an Al Capone car. Suicide doors, and the headlights and fenders--everything comes to a point as a 'V,' starting with the grille, head-light, taillights and bumper. It's a good design, the best design that they built. They had the '37, the '38, the '40, but the '39 was the one that took it all. And their suspension is really good, coils in the front."

    That was important, considering the major modifications preferred by these veteranos. They were exploring a new trend in automotive customization, one that didn't revolve around what was under the hood. Already stylish Chevys lent themselves to cosmetic cus-tomization, more so than the Fords favored by the upscale roadster set. The idea was to get your car looking as sleek as a hot rod, but with enough plush extras to encourage the opposite sex to go for a cruise; it was a hobby not only the pachucos, but automotive enthusiasts across the country found irresistible.

    The style had started in Sacramento back in 1938, a car built with a hot-rod's lines, but ignoring that need for speed. Customizer Harry Westerguard slammed his '35 Ford to the ground with a spindle kit, then chopped the roof. The effect was aerodynamic, fast looking, and Harry didn't stop there. With the help of a young, local piano player by the name of George Barris, who had taken to hanging around the garage, Harry went even further.

    "He took off everything, not only the accessories, but everything, including the factory chrome," writes lowrider historian David Holland. "Then, to further the smooth look, they would fill in the body seams with lead, or metal from melted coat hangers. Then, Harry created the 'pop' door, and the smooth hood sides were made." But, if you took a look inside, it was hardly the stripped down, light and uncomfortable interior favored by the hot rodders. Harry put a premium on comfort, perhaps a suggestion of his number one shotgun ride.

    Others across the country were also looking to the racers for inspiration, wanting to drop their rides for the look but, like Westerguard, keep their ride comfortable. Even with the plushest interior available, this could prove to be a problem. "I lowered my '41 Buick new," remembers Bill Hines, who would later work with custom king George Barris, becoming a master customizer in his own right and an automotive hydraulics pioneer. "I had the springs cut down, or lowered, for about two weeks, but it rode so rough that I had to take them out and put new ones in. I was probably the only one in Detroit doing it then."

    Cosmetic customization, which improved on the hot rod look without the expensive (and illegal) extras under the hood, was popping up across the country, but only on isolated rides. After World War II, however, such custom inno-vations became more widespread, dropped, chopped cruisers popping up from El Paso, Texas, to East Los Angeles. By 1948, clubs composed of what could be considered either early customs or lowriders were organizing throughout Southern California, while plenty of independents proudly put the finishing touches on their own sleek rides. Some of the era's finest rides were coming out of East L.A., the result of high quality handiwork on the part of old school cruisers.

    After spending that kind of time restoring a beautiful car, cruisers needed a place to show off their handiwork. By the late 1940s, Los Angeles lows had cultivated a few prime cruise spots just perfect for displaying those ever-improving rides. Olvera Street downtown, Old Chinatown and especially Lincoln Park, now the site of Plaza de la Raza, were some of the favorite destinations.

    "Lincoln Park used to have boat rides and a big carousel for kids of all ages," remembers David Holland. "Plus, it had carnival type rides, the Ferris wheel, the whip. It had taco stands, raspadas, popcorn stands. It had dancing al aire libre and also a dance hall. There was a lot of live music, mariachis and trios which the Raza came to hear. Guys were picking up on girls, girls were flirting with guys, people were just walking around and having fun."

    For cruisers who wanted to take a longer trip, there were places like Rancho Daniel and the rivers near Pico Rivera. Cabrillo Beach, Long Beach, Tin Can Beach and Seal Beach were also popular places to show off your ride. The cars were getting smoother, too. "In the '40s, there wasn't a lot of money in the Hispanic community," explains customizer Ron Aguirre. "They fixed up their cars, but they would never go to the major shows. Then, around 1950, everything blossomed and went really wild."

    Some of the favorites to customize were the newer models, although the '39 Chevy Deluxe retained its allure. The '48 Chevy convertible and '48 Fleetline, the '50 Chevy hardtop and, of course, the '49 and '50 Mercurys were all prized. One of the baddest looks in the barrio was to paint your rims Chinese red, with moon hubcaps and maybe outer rim caps, if you were lucky. Smaller tires were less expensive than the big skinnies that the racers would use, and they brought the car a few precious inches closer to the ground.

    Throughout the late 1940s, and especially after the end of the Korean conflict in 1953, Los Angeles' growing industrial base had become something of a Mecca for Mexican-Americans throughout the Southwest looking for better paying jobs. "Los Angeles was once the largest automobile-tire-glass manufacturing center in the United States, outside of Detroit," notes Brenda Bright. "Five of the seven automobile plants were located in the central manufac-turing zone just south of the downtown cities of South Gate, Vernon, Maywood, Commerce and Pico Rivera." This meant good paying jobs, perfect for veterans with plenty of hands-on mechanical experience or mechanically inclined young people just out of high school.

    Things were really changing, those immac-ulate Chevrolets attracting attention, envious looks rather than the fearful gazes the pachucos had inspired, from customizers of every stripe. And, several new schools of cool car customization were springing up, and sinking down, on both sides of the Los Angeles river. A break was taking place among the rodders, and it wasn't just about respectability. It was about what a car was really for.

    Going Custom How Low Can You Go?

    "In those early years, there was no such thing as rods or customs," explains Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, one of the all-time great car customizers. "They were all labeled hot rods, even the lead sleds. As '47 and '48 came along, you would see more guys taking the later fat-fendered Fords and Chevys and filling in the nose and the deck emblems with lead and lowering the back ends. Then, choppin' the tops so the terms lead sled or 'sleds' became popular. Sleds weren't fast, they just looked cool. They were more for cruisers out scouting for babes."

    Lead sleds, those 1949 and '50 Mercurys that just looked so good chopped, dropped and nosed, had inspired a new generation of automotive enthusiasts to look at cars in a whole other light. Pioneered by guys like Roth, Bill Hines, and especially "kustom" king George Barris, customizers hardly even looked under the hood as they transformed the silhouettes designed by Detroit's finest into mobile works of art. Cutting and welding, chopping and dropping, not to mention the leadwork and body filler involved, were the currencies of the custom world.

    "Hot rods were built for go; customs were built for show," explains Pat Ganahl, editor of The Rodder's Journal. "Many rodders couldn't understand why someone would waste so much money on lush paint, plush upholstery, and all of the bodywork done in lead, which made these big barges that much heavier and slower. Though they were operating at a dif-ferent economic level, the customizers were actually doing the same thing as the rodders: taking a relatively expensive car and turning it into something more luxurious and exotic than factory top-of-the line models, while at the same time giving it a personalized, creative design different from any other car on the road." And, with the advent of nitromethane, street rodders were no longer building their cars to be the fastest; those who made a conscious decision to keep their cars street legal found themselves performing cosmetic modifications, although they still paid atten-tion to what was happening under the hood.

    George Barris was soon overwhelmed with interest in his rolling works of art, and needed to farm out work to others skilled in the transformation of fine automobiles. Gil and Al Ayala, brothers and Los Angeles customizers who had chopped and certainly dropped plenty of rides in their time, were tapped to help Barris pioneer a new Movement. Many of the rides featured in books and magazines about George and his equally talented brother, Sam, were actually built by the Ayalas, who later became legends in their own right.

    Al and Gil Ayala's Body Shop in East Los Angeles was one of the best places around to go when you wanted to get your Merc into ship shape, or any shape at all. Louis "Luigi" Bettancourt's '49 Mercury was one of their masterpieces, chopped a smooth 3 inches for that sleek bathtub look. Every harsh line was rounded off, the lights Frenched, emblems and handles shaved, the beauty dropped 6 inches by C-notching the frame and using lowering blocks. The Custom Movement brought numbers of enthusiasts from both sides of the river together for the first time.

    "My hero is James Dean, and he drove a '49 Merc," explains lowrider Steve Gonzalez. "He played it super cool." Young Mexican-Americans, like all Americans, saw James Dean, Elvis and American car culture as rebellious, sexy and exciting. The pachucos had been too cool for the hot rod set, but customs, which were dropped all around as barrio cars had been for decades, painted and comfortable for the boulevard, were more their speed.

    This was still the '50s, and lowriding was still in its formative stages. But cruisers growing up in East Los Angeles, watching their brothers throw bags of sand in the back of the family Chevrolet, heard the name Ayala discussed with reverence. Many custom tricks copied in national magazines were created at the Ayalas' shop, and the barrio cruisers knew it. This sense of pride turned them onto the Custom Movement more than any other automotive trend, inspiring them to use variations on custom shapes and themes on their own rides.

    Mexican-American and other Los Angeles youth, heirs to the pachucos' savvy saunter, had finally found a means of automotive expression that they could relate to. They didn't except the Custom Movement stock, however. They needed to transform even that, integrating their own custom traditions with this new trend, creating their own examples of automotive excellence not likely to be confused with anything on the West side of the Los Angeles river. This would be the foundation upon which all lowriding was built.


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    Chapter 3 Lowrider History Book


    Chapter Three

    Cruising into History under the Law's Nose.

    "X-Sonic" was sporting a new blue and platinum Larry Watson paint job with style, and owner Ron Aguirre was leading San Bernardino, California's Krankers Car Club on a caravan through Los Angeles. They were on their way to the The Renegade's 1959 Memorial Day Car Show at Veteran's Stadium in Long Beach. The custom-crazy crowds had no idea that they were cruising in on a crash course with history. Neither could police eager to enforce Vehicle Code #24008, the new law against lows, used by overzealous officers to discourage events just like this one.

    "There were probably 15 to 20 of us, driving down the San Bernardino freeway into Los Angeles. We saw some cops coming the other way," Ron remembers. "The motorcycle cop cut across the center divider and made a U-turn, pulling us all over. By the time he got to me, I had raised the car up to legal height. And it was really low; it had sidepipes and everything. He came over and looked at the car."

    "I could have sworn that this car was too low," said the officer, scratching his head. "It's just the style," Ron replied, without even breaking a sweat. "It just looks like it's really low." The officer, skeptical, crossed the divider to the other side of the freeway. Ron dumped the valves, dropping the car to a cool cruising height. The officer turned around, and had to believe what he saw--nobody outside Aguirre's immediate circle knew about the top secret hydraulics. As he walked back, Ron smoothly pumped the car back up to a street legal stance.

    "Boy, that thing sure looks different on the other side of the freeway," said the cop, shaking his head. "Go ahead, you guys." Ron smiled crookedly while the rest of the club tried not to laugh, and fired that Corvette up. The rest of the ride went smoothly, and the Krankers cruised into the auditorium just in time for move-in. "There was a concrete barrier around the track that had to be cleared," Ron remembers. "All of the car owners had to block their cars up to clear that barrier except me. I drove my car up to the barrier, pushed the button to raise the car and drove it over the concrete. Well, you wouldn't believe the cheers and commo-tion when I did that."

    "It dropped to the ground, then surprised everyone by silently raising the body," remembers Pharaohs member "Rocket" Reyes Rio, a spectator later inspired to open one of the first lowrider specialty shops in San Bernardino. "They just couldn't believe it," agrees legendary painter Larry Watson, also in the stands that fateful day. "There was no technology in those days, and he made a car go up and down; what was he, God or something? How did he do that? What was going on here?"

    That's what everyone was trying to figure out as Ron's friends and fans crowded around the car for a glimpse of the miracle machinery. But. it wasn't for any trophy that Ron and his father had installed the hydraulic Pesco pumps and Sidewinder valves salvaged from retired B-52 bombers on his lowered Corvette. Ron was too low for the law--custom cruisers were required to roll at a street scraping stance, something every automotive enthusiast of the era aspired to. But the law stated that "no part of the vehicle be lower than the lowest part of the rim." That changed every-thing for borderline legal cruisers like the X-Sonic.

    "Some jealous cop called up north to Sacramento and said, 'Hey, we've got a lot of lowered cars here and I think that they're illegal,' " explains Larry Watson, also a favorite target of local law enforcement. "In September 1959, the new law came out, 24008," he remembers with a grimace. "Anything below the base of the rim is illegal. And the Lakewood sheriffs had a pool running for me, a contest. One guy was smart. He just looked up my record, found out where I lived. I got pulled over five or six times before I got to my shop, because that law came out." Larry Watson would eventually have his California Driver's License permanently revoked for refusing to settle for stock suspension. But this was 1959, and his brand new Cadillac was still the ride to watch out for on the streets of Los Angeles. Law enforcement officers, like the steady stream of automotive publications pursuing him for cover stories, were keeping a close eye on the cantankerous customizer.

    The Clubs, the Shows and a Trip Down Whittier Boulevard As new wave customizers inspired a generation of customizers to invest in chrome and wheels for their stock bodied cars, the times were conspiring to take these young cruisers to the next level. While it was difficult for some of the hot rod clubs, like the Lone Wolves, to get away from the bad reputations that their early gang affiliation lent them, others, like the Krankers, were building bridges within their communities. The notorious Roadrunners were now acting as security at the racing strips in the high desert, while custom clubs like the Renegades and the Tridents, a club formed by students at Bell High School, located just south of Los Angeles had begun to throw large and lucrative shows throughout the Southland.

    Cruising had become increasingly diffi-cult as Sacramento's concerned politicians handed down more and more laws against custom cars. Altered suspension, loud pipes, street racing; any of these offenses would earn you a glove box full of tickets if you wanted to show off your pride and joy. It wasn't long before some of the car clubs, frustrated that they had no place to show off their work without legal hassles, decided to throw the first car shows. At first, the high schools provided a haven for the harried teens and their rides. Students at Bell High School soon realized, however, that the events were lucrative as well as fun, and a group of Bell students, who had formed the Tridents car club, decided to take it to the next level.

    "Throughout the early '60s, it was the Tridents Custom Car Show," remembers Rod Powell, famed Northern California custom car painter. "The absolute glory, the ultimate ego, was to get your car under a light scale, to be out on the center floor. Those lights would just make your paint 10 times of what it was. It was a real fight, a real struggle, to see who would get the glory." R.G Canning, another graduate of Bell High School, was also producing car shows worthy of the era's finest rides. Every club wanted the recognition that these shows, supported by an ever-increasing number of automotive publications, could offer.

    "It was still the Roadrunners, the Challengers, all those hot rod clubs," says Robert "Beto" Hernandez, who served as the president of both New Wave and later Klique Car Clubs. "But some of them started making their cars lowriders just by putting on that style of rims and tires, but it would still have a 350 or 440 motor in there. Then they started moving toward Whittier Boulevard." What the west end cruisers saw on Whittier was beginning to influence their own style, and an exchange of ideas was beginning to roll.

    There were plenty of places to cruise in Los Angeles--Tweedy Boulevard down in South Gate, Van Nuys Boulevard up north--but police were always forcing the long, colorful caravans into new areas. Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles had provided a place for car customizers to show off their rides since the pachuco era, but had never really been "the spot" for this new breed of car clubbers. As the area was developed by merchants eager to take advantage of Los Angeles' growing Mexican-American popula-tion, however, it began to show promise of becoming one of the ultimate outlets for cruisers eager to show off their custom rides.

    Whittier Boulevard had been targeted for retail development in the early 1950s, a reaction to the rapidly growing population in the area. The companies, both local and national, built their shops close to the road, flooding the area with light to attract after-work shoppers. Customs looked incredible cruising through the area, the city's glow reflecting through candy and metalflake to the beauty of the car beneath. It was the new cruise, the eastside edition, and provided a place for customizers of all races to come together and communicate their customizing ideas.

    Chicano cruisers didn't always get to see the Larry Watson paint jobs, Ron Aguirre's hydraulics, or the custom tricks of George Barris and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth up close and personal. This community was, as a whole, more blue collar than cruisers from the wealthier westside; most would have considered an afternoon at a car show a luxury, not something that they could easily afford. As a result, many of the most inventive customizers in East Los Angeles hadn't seen the seminal vehicles gracing the covers of the automotive publications first hand. Now, suddenly, there was a strip springing up right in their own front yard, a mobile car show free to the public with access to anyone able to roll.

    The customizers had borrowed the pachuco's low stance and turned it into a national trend. On Whittier Boulevard, the sons and daughters of the zoot suiters saw exactly how much had been added to the original suspension modifications, from bizarre body mods to pristine paint jobs, all enhancing the body lines that they themselves loved. The Chevrolet was no longer a high rider's castoff, it was the custom of choice. Chicanos, again realizing the worth of rides still rusting in the garage, began bringing out their parents' old custom cruisers, sinking to street level for a trip down Whittier Boulevard.

    "These early Chevys were really the roots of lowriding," writes Pat Ganahl, respected automotive journalist and editor of The Rodder's Journal. "Fastback Fleetlines were really special, but any body style was accept-able, including four-doors. Full lowering was a must, flipper wheel covers were standard, lakes pipes and spotlights were common, and no engine modifications were needed other than a split manifold and rapping dual pipes for the stovebolt six. Dechroming was still in vogue, many cars made it to Tijuana for inex-pensive white tuck and roll with contrasting piping, and paint usually came last, leaving primer spots in the meantime." And, as Whittier's custom cross pollination continued, summer evenings on the boulevard began to awakened some-thing more than love in the hearts of young Chicanos.

    A new style, a hybrid of the full customs and the original barrio cruisers was catching on, called "street rods" by some, for lack of a better term. Many eastside cruisers had been bitten by that same bug, though retaining the pachuco's reverence for original body lines enhanced with that street scraping stance, but things were changing, slowly. There were still differences; street rodders still tended toward bigger engines and better paint, as they usually had access to more funds. On the other side of the river, customization continued to improve. Chicanos challenged, perhaps, by the sight of full customs in their own neighborhood. Still, however, colored primer was in style, and other cost-cutting eastside innovations retained their popularity.

    In order to streamline the body of the car, most automotive enthusiasts in search of center stage at the shows, like the hot rodders before them, removed all of the extra goodies from fenders to chrome strips to emblems and hood ornaments. "But, when the lowriders started coming on really strong," remembers Rod Powell, "they started leaving everything on. It was just the style. I grew up taking everything off, but this was just developing. Some guys would take all of the emblems off, or take the door handles off and leave all the emblems on." These early "lowriders," however, refused to assimilate, insisting that the more factory original extras made their way onto the ride, the better.

    Car customizers were scandalized by these upstart cruisers' use of fender skirts and other original accessories, but they soon began emulating, even imitating, the look. These stock-bodied cruisers lent themselves to accessorizing far more than the customs. The body modifications that customizers loved had made it difficult to use easy bolt-on accessories. These new enthusiasts, however, were pursuing the new style with a passion and an eye for design.


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    Chapter 4 Lowrider History Book


    Chapter Four

    Cruising into the eye of the Revolution.

    The long-awaited Lowrider History Book is still in the works and we hope to have it published sometime this year. In the meantime, we are presenting a series of excerpts from the History Book that will hopefully answer a few questions regarding the history of the sport and give an indication of where we're heading as we cruise into the future.

    The far off land of Vietnam had become suddenly much more real as the decade of the 1960s cruised to a close. The draft had been enacted to fight in these far-off jungles, pulling lowriders off the boulevard in ever greater numbers. At home, the Chicano Movimiento was stirring things up on campuses across Aztlan; the Civil Rights Movement was making gains across the country.

    Like the word "lowrider," originally an insult aimed at cruisers too cool for stock suspension, Chicano had always been used as a racial and class slur. Thought to mean "poorest of the poor" in Nahuatl, the tongue of the Aztec empire, young Mexican-Americans embraced the term as a symbol of their defiance.

    These self-proclaimed warriors for the Movimiento proudly used the word at the first National Chicano Student Conference. "El Plan de Santa Barbara" became the mission statement for hundreds of fledgling Chicano, Latino, Hispanic and Mexican-American organizations scattered across Aztlan. The lines of communication were forced open by these young, idealistic militants, and a concerted effort to liberate the Chicano people, before an impossible dream, was finally realized.

    Some of these Chicano students, at the prestigious University of California, Los Angeles, unearthed an August 1967 report by economist Frederick Sturdivant entitled "Business and Mexican-American relations in East Los Angeles." The graph and data-heavy report proved what many East L.A. residents had sensed all along, that area merchants, especially those who lined Whittier Boulevard, were economically exploiting the local population. It also linked the heavy policing of the area, done by Los Angeles County Sheriffs rather than local officials, with the protection of these businesses.

    "Whittier Boulevard, because of its heavy commercial concentration, is heavily controlled. The exploiters' property must be protected at all costs!" La Raza Magazine, among the first publications of the Movimiento, did not mince words, translating the economist's findings into the language of the streets. "These same exploiters do not live in our community. They only come in to charge high interest rates, take our money, and invest it in their communities, thus resulting in a 'money and investment loss' for our community." The irony apparent to these students, many of whom hailed from East Los Angeles, was that these were the very businesses accusing cruisers of being "outsiders," evidence enough for Los Angeles Sheriffs to pull over and arrest the young lowriders.

    "It's a lie. It's an excuse. The real outsiders are the merchants," replied Chicano activist and part-time lowrider Carlos Montes. "I used to cruise in the mid-'60s. Most of the violence that I saw was police beating cruisers. It got so bad that in '68, we held a rally on Whittier Boulevard to protest the violence."

    On the evening of July 3, regular cruisers noticed many new faces on Whittier. They were Chicano, certainly, and some even drove serious lows that would have done any lowrider proud, but these were not the usual cruisers that car club members were used to. These hardcore lowriders couldn't help but notice the protest taking place, and many honked or scraped in support of la Causa. "The Boulevard belongs to Chicanos! Quit harassing us!" The young protesters shouted and paraded their signs, emboldened by the approving nods of local lowriders. But what was to follow made many of these more blue collar Chicanos feel used, betrayed by the Movimiento.

    As the night gave way to early morning Independence Day, hungry protesters made their way to one of the many taco stands serving cruisers carne asada. County Sheriffs decided that this was the time to move in on the out of place students, fingering their billy clubs eagerly as they surrounded the group. Some of the students resisted. A fight broke out. Within minutes, tensions already present among the different car clubs began to escalate, and the Boulevard erupted in violence.

    The wail of sirens was punctuated with the sound of shattered glass. A brick wall, torn down by the protesters, became ammunition for the otherwise unarmed students. The windshields of cop cars and cruisers alike were smashed, many fine lowriders damaged in the fracas. The window of Woolworths was taken out, followed by the storefronts of loan and insurance companies, department stores, markets and liquor stores, some, Chicano owned. And then, the boulevard began to go up in flames.

    The chaos that ensued was too much for even the street-hardened Sheriffs, and reinforcements were called in. Fresh from putting down the Isla Vista Chicano Demonstration at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Special Enforcement Bureau knew what to expect. The acrid stench of tear gas confused cruisers trapped in the legendary gridlock of the weekend Boulevard. Hundreds of young Mexican-Americans, protesters and lowriders alike, were taken into custody, several claiming to have been threatened, beaten and illegally held by overzealous officers.

    Many were thrown into the East Los Angeles Station, where six Chicanos had "hung themselves," under suspicious circumstances in previous months. This was far more serious than the equipment violations and altered suspension citations that cruisers were used to. For the next three nights, Raza rioted on Whittier, and blame was placed squarely on the shoulders of the car clubs.

    Already criticized as "gangs on wheels" and worse, this left a bad taste in the mouths of many lowriders. "We heard that they wanted to close Whittier because of the riots, people breaking windows and stealing whatever they could steal," recalls Roberto "Beto" Hernandez, then the president of New Wave Car Club. "It wasn't right because they were doing all the damage. We wanted to cruise Whittier and we weren't breaking the law. Sure, we backed the Chicano Movement, but not the violent stuff. We wanted no burning down of buildings, businesses, gas stations or things like that. But, that's the way they wanted to do things." New Wave members and other lowriders tried to find their own way to keep the Boulevard cruising.

    "Eventually, we still got together with about 80 cars and parked at the Sheriff's Station. We protested; we had signs that said, "Don't Close Our Boulevard!" "Don't Close Whittier!" They closed it anyway, so we went from Whittier to Atlantic, to Third Street and to Legg Lake Park." From 1968 until the middle of 1969, lowriders were kept clear of the Mecca known as Whittier, and cruisers couldn't help but blame la Causa.

    Empowering the Lowrider Movement

    Despite this first, difficult experience with the Chicano Movimiento, many lowriders soon began listening to what these students were saying. Lowriders, even those old enough to regard the word Chicano as the ultimate insult, began to accept or even use the term. Cruisers who had made it into college returned to Whittier armed with facts and a focus that impressed their hard working homeboys.

    They explained that lowriding was a right, protected by the Constitution of the United States of America. The Right to Peaceful Assembly, the Right to Free Movement and the Right to Free Speech were all part of the Bill of Rights, written by the nation's founding fathers to protect all of America's citizens, no matter what their last name, skin color or language. Moreover, these young community leaders pointed out that the taxes that a lowrider paid, taxes attached to every aftermarket item used to dress up their rides, every mouthful of food purchased from a sidewalk taco stand, every ticket they paid for equipment violations, were used to pay the salaries of the officers who harassed them and to maintain the streets they were not aloud to cruise.

    Perhaps most empowering of all, they brought to the streets the concept of Aztlan the idea embraced by Chicanos throughout the American Southwest that the land that they cruised was land they had a historic right to. "Aztlan is supposed to mean 'the land of the blue herons'... According to tradition, Aztlan is in the region where four states, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet,'" wrote Lowrider Magazine publisher and former New Breed Car Club member Sonny Madrid, who explained that the mythological homeland of the ancient Aztecs was more than just legend.

    "To believe in Aztlan was something heavy. If you flew the flag of Aztlan, you were proclaiming the independence of the Chicano. If you believed in Aztlan, there was no such thing as a wetback. "We are not a minority!" was a saying that captured the essence of Aztlan. To believe in Aztlan was to rebel, to tell the gavacho, "we are not culturally deprived or disadvantaged," somos Raza, puro Raza."

    Even the most stubborn cruisers, who couldn't care less what was going on off the boulevard, could not ignore the increasingly bloody war taking place in Vietnam. There were few lowriders lucky enough to know no one who had lost an arm, a leg or their lives in Southeast Asia. "From 1966 on, the Vietnam war was making its impact on Chicanos and many of us were drafted," remembers Duke's Car Club president Fernando Ruelas. "Some vatos came back and some didn't... I think that all of the car clubs were dwindling in the late '60s because of it."

    Although student groups and activists were preaching boycott and resistance, these were not the lessons lowriders were taking home. Many cruisers had noticed that students, by sticking together, were able to use their strength against politicians and police more effectively. The Whittier cruise had been closed down, and area lowriders knew that they had to come together if it was to ever open again. Using the methods of the Chicano Movimiento, they took the first step, their way.

    "The Federation of Lowriders came about out of necessity, because we knew that the larger this thing got, the more the cops would win out," says former Groupe president Ed Flores. Clubs and independent lowriders alike were beginning to realize that, like young people across the country burning draft cards and carrying signs, they did have the power to change things. They also understood that there was strength in numbers, something Groupe had always been aware of.

    "The Groupe had a couple of successful football games, picnics or some other activities with the Bachelors and other clubs, so we would bring them in. They would know another club, and they would bring them in. We just spread the word around. We said, 'let's get together at meetings,' and we took each other's phone numbers and would contact each other. We had guys from Orpheus, New Wave, Klique and others. It wasn't anything structured."

    But it was communication. "There never was a set peace talk, it just happened," remembers Klique president Luis Martinez. "I was involved when the [club] wars were on. The thing that we realized was that we weren't accomplishing anything." But, together, the clubs were able to accomplish what the East Los Angeles Sheriff's department couldn't do in a decade of busting heads. The bumperjacking stopped, and lowriders were able to again risk the cruise without fear of damaging that $1,000 paint job just because of their plaque. Not that the cruise was suddenly 100-percent safe. Nowhere in Los Angeles, not in Beverly Hills or on Van Nuys Boulevard, were people free from violence completely. But with communication, the clubs were finally able to use their energy to making the Boulevard a better place.

    "I was one of the leaders in the Federation of car clubs," remembers Beto Hernandez. "We tried to clean up, hose down the street, take graffiti off the walls, trying to maintain the Boulevard as much as possible, because we felt that this was our boulevard. We had all kinds of media coverage, us, New Wave, Orpheus, Sons of Soul, New Breed and everyone else; channels 2, 4, 5, 7--all of them showed what we were doing.

    "I had a lot of guys who were members who went to college and got very well educated in the Chicano Movement. Some of the other guys would complain, but I said, 'No, if they've got to leave, I've got to leave,' because what they were talking about was bottom-line true, from Zapata to Pancho Villa on up.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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    Chapter 5 Lowrider History Book


    Chapter Five

    Keeping the Movement Hopping.

    The long-awaited Lowrider History Book is still in the works and we hope to have it published sometime this year. In the meantime, we are presenting a series of excerpts from the History Book that will hopefully answer a few questions regarding the history of the sport and give an indication of where we're heading as we cruise into the future.

    If lowriding has a single defining feature, it would have to be those high-hopping hydraulics that move your ride front, back, side to side, and up on three wheels. This is not to say that every true lowrider has to have them; in fact, only 10-percent of Lowrider Magazine readers actually own those precious pumps and dumps. But what dreamer doesn't pore over those gold-plated setups on display at the shows or captured on film, wishing that one day his or her own low will rise to the occasion? In many ways, lowriding was born when Ron Aguirre's '57 Corvette, "X-Sonic," lifted itself into the Long Beach Arena, when the gasps of the crowd committed the concept of automotive hydraulics to history.

    By the mid 1960s, there were several innovative entrepreneurs installing hydraulics throughout the greater Los Angeles area. "Al's was where all of the Black guys were getting lifted," remembers hopping champion Ted Wells. "In the early days, you understand, some White guys used to come over there, but as time went on it was mostly all Black. Keep in mind, Al Sullivan would burn a hole in your framework. He didn't cut it with a torch, he just burnt a hole."

    Eventually, young men like Carl Watson, Terry Anderson and others who learned at Old Man Al's knee would go on to make their own reputations installing hydraulics, spreading the influence of lifts even further. Steve Lee, a resident Orange County, California, hydraulic wizard, used the same method as Al Sullivan, punching holes into the frame of Orange County cruiser David Woo's '57 Chevy.

    Although David was pleased with his lifts, cruising up and down--literally--the boulevard, he had a better idea, one that wouldn't leave such enormous scars on the frame of his classic cars. When he opened his own little shop on Redondo Beach Boulevard in Hawthorne, he decided to do it differently, actually drilling the holes for a cleaner look and a stronger frame. Soon, other Los Angeles County pioneers in hydraulic installation, like "Bear," who successfully adapted a power steering pump for hydraulic use, Don Lasar in the south county, Vince Bacardo in East Los Angeles and even Carl Watson in Compton, were adopting the new technique and building cleaner setups.

    Bill Hines was a long-time customizer who had caught wind of this new development in automotive engineering. One of the original customizers, he opened his first shop in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1940s. When he heard about the "kustom kraze" out west, he hopped into his dropped, chopped '51 Ford, "The Bat," and headed west to learn from the best. George Barris, who had witnessed the creation of California's first known lowrider when he worked for Harry Westerguard, eagerly took him on.

    "In addition to being credited as the pioneer of Frenched antennas in the '50s," wrote LRM technical editor Dick DeLoach, "Bill is also one of the first men design a hydraulic lift system, in 1964. 'I got the idea from Louie and Ron Aguirre in San Bernardino.' A good setup would run about $200, but installation time was about a week."

    Cal Nelson's, the first surplus store to become hip to the happenings of the early '60, actually came out with their own special automotive cylinder. "They were 2-inch cylinders," remembers Bill Hines. "That was a pretty good cylinder. I used a lot of them. I used the old 'dumb-dumbs' and long johns, and cut them off. I put another shaft in it--at that time I made my own--and had a double O-ring. It's hard to keep O-rings on a cylinder. They used to put a lot of dents in the cars, up against the A-frame, but I never had any trouble with mine."

    "We'd buy aircraft landing gear and make our gear parts cheap and modify them," says Bill. "We'd make our own pump units and tanks. I always did high-quality everything." Bill invested in Pesco pumps, "dumb-dumb" cylinders and Adel dumps, still coveted for their strength and speed.

    "The last Adel that I bought was $22.95," remembers Bill. "I sold my last ones for $500 apiece. Now they're making fake ones--they've got fake guns on the inside, but they look exactly the same." But, in the late '60s, Adel "candlestick" dumps were the most expensive piece of equipment necessary for a top-notch setup, and this new breed of hydraulics engineers often passed time complaining about their price. They didn't yet realize what an investment these indestructible Adels were.

    "The Adel square dump was everything. The new dumps can't compare to what the old dumps could do," gushes "Old Man Frank" Cordova. "It stops slow and gets to the valve and floats. They were accurate. It gave you more control at the switches, but you had to be a good handler. You had to be prompt or otherwise you would hit the ground and put a shock through the frame."

    In 1968, an incident involving faulty hydraulics convinced members of lowriding's oldest and most prestigious organization to swear off lifts forever. The Imperials Car Club-East Los Angeles was having a beach party one Saturday night, when member Alex Valenzuela and his date, Cynthia Hernandez, decided to cruise down to the store. "They were cruising about 50 mph, northbound on the Pacific Coast Highway," read the tragic Imperials newsletter.

    "The Riviera was cruising in the far left center lane, just then the left hydraulic lift gave out. The Riviera collided head on with a '64 Chevy Malibu. The members and their girls who were following Alex' Riviera were horrified to find out who the occupants of the southbound '64 Chevy were. The car that Alex' Riviera hit head on was none other than his own club member, Mike Molina, and his girl, Vivian Valdez." More than 200 cars, from several clubs, showed up at the funeral. "Myself, I wouldn't put hydraulics on my car," sighs Armando Valadez, president of the Imperials at the time. "It was hard. We took it hard."

    Despite news of this horrible accident, which sent shock waves from Whittier Boulevard through the rest of Los Angeles, the public's appetite for lift was hardly curbed. By the late '60s, cruisers were loading up on batteries in the hopes of moving around faster, "dancing." The #6 hoses, smaller than those used today, were put under even more stress, especially after cruisers discovered that by linking the batteries in series, they could raise the PSI even higher and give the ride a real pounding. It sometimes seemed like the surplus yard setups couldn't take it anymore.

    A safer source of hydraulic equipment was discovered by enterprising lowriders, the pumps used to operate the tailgates of large trucks. Called "screamers" in Texas because of their high-pitched whine, and "gates" in California, for obvious reasons, they had their advantages and disadvantages compared to the old Pesco standbys. "The advantage to gates was the built-in dump," explains Julio Ruelas, co-founder of the Duke's Car Club. "With that, you really didn't need the second dump, either. It was also easier to convert everything to electric, which I did in 1967."

    A new sport was lighting up the night, lowriders making a leap of logic into the scrape zone. It probably all started when someone's brand-new setup suddenly lost elevation, dropping to the hard concrete while the car was still in motion. Before the driver could cruise to a stop, he must have noticed the long rivers of sparks flowing from behind his low.

    Soon, the ominous grind of metal against pavement was echoing through Los Angeles alleyways, because that original scraper was back cruising the boulevard the minute that he'd cleaned up the oily mess in his trunk. At first, lowriders were willing to sacrifice their front crossmembers and rear bumpers to achieve the ultimate scrape, sometimes attaching rollerskate wheels on the back to cut down on wear and tear.

    "Then, some hip homeboy came up with the idea of welding small steel blocks (usually about 2x3x3 inches) under the front and back of the car, which could be replaced when they wore out," writes Dick DeLoach. "The 'scrape plates' or 'blocks,' as they were called, worked great and were a vast improvement over replacing worn car parts. Those pavement pioneers used carbon steel for their plates because it was cheap and plentiful. But carbon steel is relatively soft and the plates still had to be replaced after a few good scrapes. A harder metal was needed that wouldn't grind down so quickly."

    Industrious scrape fanatics got to work, testing different metals and alloys in an effort to pinpoint the perfect plate. This experimentation yielded a great deal of information--different metals had very different properties, some softer but yielding more sparks, others trailing a glow of white, reddish or even greenish embers into the Los Angeles night. As the '70s progressed, the two top choices for scraping action were magnesium and titanium, "chosen because of their hardness and for the flood of brilliant white sparks which they give off, even though both were more costly and harder to come by than carbon steel."

    While the homeboys perfected scrape plates, hydraulic systems were also coming up. Nobody knows who first got their front end off the ground, but it's safe to say that the event took place on Crenshaw sometime during the early '70s. Now, Whittier was still a no-man's land, ominous black and white police cruisers threatening enormous tickets to anyone who passed the same point more than twice in an evening. Worse, gangs disguised as car clubs let innocent cruisers know whose territory Whittier was, keeping the really nice cars off of the streets. To be sure, there were a few brave cruisers still willing to risk harassment and worse, but for the most part, Los Angeles lowriding was now a South Central game.

    This didn't keep cruisers outside the City of Angels off their own respective strips. Throughout California and beyond, cruisers with connections had heard of other new hydraulic sports, "car dancing" and "hopping tallboys." Car dancing came first, as innovative engineers figured out how to lift each corner of a car independently. This wasn't the high-flying action that we think of today--it was seldom that a move got one wheel off the ground, and no one remembers an entire car catching air. But, it was a unique modification in the history of the automobile.

    This increasing stress on hydraulics and automotive components forced lowriders to find stronger equipment, stabilize setups and even reinforce parts of the "short" with 1/4-inch thick plate steel. Number-six hoses were replaced with larger, higher PSI-rated lines. Pumps and dumps were bolted, sometimes welded onto the frame of the car. And, cylinder technology, always a weak point on any setup, was also being worked on by certain well-known hydraulic wizards.

    "In the early '70s, Hugh Stillman manufactured eight pairs of cylinders and sold them right off the back of his pick-up truck," says an early customer and former manager of Otto's Hydraulics, Ted Wells. Stillman had been a part of the lowriding scene for almost a decade, learning the tricks of the trade from customizers like Al Sullivan and Carl Watson.

    "The cylinders were skinny and the cap was welded on, a 'doughnut' made on a tool with a Teflon seal. He sold them for about $40 apiece. My partner Al and I bought the first pair, put them in a car and blew everybody's mind. He started making the steels, the coppers, the golds, the chromes, and I started buying them 15, 20 pairs at a time. I was the man in town because I had that connection."

    The idea of building and marketing hydraulic components for lowriders had been floating around for years, but no one was yet willing to invest that kind of time or money. To be sure, plenty of people were installing hydraulics, but that only supplemented a regular mechanic's income. Stillman had made the first step into an uncertain future, but his timing couldn't have been better.


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    Chapter 6 Lowrider History Book


    Chapter Six

    A New Beginning.

    The long-awaited Lowrider History Book is still in the works and we hope to have it published sometime this year. In the meantime, we are presenting a series of excerpts from the History Book that will hopefully answer a few questions regarding the history of the sport and give an indication of where we're heading as we cruise into the future.

    east Los Angeles' lowriding scene seemed stagnant on the surface, stifled by the Sheriffs and gangbanging of the early 1970s. But the Movement marched on. Lowriders too beautiful to be risked on Whittier would make their way to R.G. Canning and other large shows, making an impression on young people there.

    "When I was growing up I looked forward to shows," remembers "Big Ed" Madrigal, perhaps the greatest automotive metalflake painter in history. "My mom would take me to a hobby shop on weekends, buy me a model and I'd go stay at my grandma's... It all started with models." An enterprising young modeler could save money on the price of admission by showing his work in the show; that's how Big Ed often got in. Lowriders always attracted a lot of attention.

    The Imperials were one of the few older car clubs still cruising, they were making their name a long way from Whittier. Armando Valadez' older brother Jesse was causing quite a stir with his '63 Chevy Impala, "Gypsy Rose." The famous Walt Prey, who for years had worked with the equally regarded Bill Carter, had just set up Walt's Custom Studio in Van Nuys and was open for business.

    During the summer of '71, Jesse prepped the car for paint and then hauled it over to Van Nuys for the job. "I used to cruise San Fernando, and I started talking to some of the guys, the clubs that had custom paint jobs." Jesse wanted only for the best. "There was Carter and Walt Prey. I got my '63 painted kind of orange with swirls. Then I took it back and said I wanted something different. I wanted a few roses on the car.

    They decided on roses, "Mexican style" roses in the style that decorated a local Mexican restaurant. For six months, Walt labored over the '63, painstakingly adding some 40 roses to the hardtop, complemented by a paint scheme in rose-colored tones. The Impala swept local shows with its incredible paint, and was featured in the March 1972 Car Craft Magazine, a rare feat for even the finest lowriders.

    But, when Jesse tried to cruise his pride and joy, taking it out on Whittier to experience the time-honored East Los Angeles tradition, tragedy struck. Jealous cruisers took a few bricks to the '63, effectively destroying it as a show car. Jesse was heart-broken, but persevered. He had other ideas for fine rides, although his longing for another flowered Impala would never leave him.

    One of the most important lowrider clubs still cruising alongside the Imperials, with their commitment to quality cruisers and numbers that grew throughout the early '70s, was Groupe C.C. The Imperials had dropped to fewer than a dozen members during this time, while the Duke's, still restoring older rides at their shop just south of downtown Los Angeles--"Our specialty was installing lifts on older cars," emphasized Duke's president Fernando Ruelas--had dwindled to include mostly family members and close friends. Groupe, with their strength in numbers, and membership that transcended neighborhood and barrio borders, actually grew strong throughout the lull, keeping the spirit of cruising alive.

    Eddie Flores and Paul Varela had never stressed the importance of show-quality cars, although the club was almost always represented at major Los Angeles events. Cars simply had to be clean and lowered, members attending meetings regularly and staying out of the personal conflicts that plagued what was left of the cruise. Their numbers grew to epic proportions throughout the early part of the decade, inspiring other clubs to keep cruising. Then, in 1973, Groupe pulled a stunt that shook East Los Angeles' cruising culture at its foundation.

    "We earned an unofficial world record for having the longest continuous line of cruisers that belonged to the same club ever," remembers former Groupe president and UCLA Law School counselor Ed Flores. "In 1973, Groupe met at Selesian High School, and we had drivers cruising completely around the city block bumper to bumper, with another row double parked and even more members looking to get in line. Then, we began to cruise down Whittier Boulevard slowly, hundreds of cars, all members of Groupe. The line went from Brooklyn Avenue [now Cesar Chavez Avenue] all the way past Eastern Avenue and even further than that. Later on, people put the number of cars that participated that day in the hundreds... All I know for sure is, on that day, Groupe became part of the folklore of East Los Angeles."

    Many of the clubs that had dwindled to only a handful of active members began to communicate and grow. Former officers contacted homeboys who had returned from Vietnam, or who had wanted to get away from the violence that had plagued the Boulevard. They talked about Groupe's triumphant cruise, about 148 placas sparkling beneath the lights of Whittier Boulevard. Jesse Valadez of the Imperials started making plans for his new '64 Impala. Fernando Ruelas contacted upholsterer Frank Rodella about a new interior for his '39. Word on the street was that lowriding was back.

    "Membership dwindled to less than nine members during the late '60s and early '70s," Pharaohs C.C.-Wilmington club coordinator Angel Rodriguez explains. "Then, in 1974, the club became more active again and began to attract new members from cities just outside the Wilmington area, such as Paramount, Downey, Long Beach, Redondo Beach, San Pedro, Carson, Torrance and Lakewood. Instead of having chapters in each of these different cities, the club decided to change its name to Pharaohs-South Bay."

    Other clubs had to change their names entirely as they began to join into this new, more cosmopolitan resurgence of the traditional cruise. The East L.A. Sheriffs, as well as the larger Mexican-American community, labeled many of the clubs "gangs on wheels," accusations hard to shake because they had once been true. Many clubs that had fallen into that violent lifestyle disappeared altogether, like Gestapo, Sons of Soul and Orpheus, notorious for shutting down the Boulevard entirely--with no help from the Sheriffs--for several weekends.

    Some clubs simply wanted to breathe new life into their organizations, make a break from the past. New Breed Car Club members simply melted down their placas for new ones, new president Alex Vega flying New Trend C.C. colors by 1974. Others reorganized into entirely new clubs, like Brown Breed C.C., which started meeting every Sunday at the Union Gas Station at the corner of Atlantic and Olympic in East L.A.

    The Majestics Car Club, founded in 1973 by "The Godfather," president Little John, had a mission statement that really reflected this new attitude toward lowriding. "It's so people can see that not all lowriders are a bunch of kids. Many are homeowning, job holding, respectable citizens that have cars as a hobby and abide by certain by-laws set up by the members at large." The prestigious Majestics Car Club, which now has chapters throughout the United States, began with two affiliated clubs, the Majestics-East Los Angeles, sometimes known as the "Chicano" chapter, and the Majestics-Los Angeles, considered the "Black" chapter. Majestics chapters everywhere proudly boast the membership of many races.

    Whittier had always acted as a cultural crossroads for clubs throughout Southern California, and it was once again alive with fine rides. Veteran cruisers wanted to show off their own customized creations, but couldn't contact enough OG members to come together. So, two of lowriding's oldest, most prestigious clubs decided to fly under a single banner.

    New Wave Car Club had become entangled in many of the rivalries that had torn apart the lowriding community, and their plaque was too often associated by East Los Angeles Sheriffs with the violence that plagued the Boulevard. Klique had had its problems as well, but their main rivals, Orpheus and Sons of Soul, no longer existed.

    "In 1974, I decided that it was time for a change," former New Wave president Roberto "Beto" Hernandez recalls. "We didn't want to just break up the club, so I figured, well, we hung out with Klique and they were pretty good neighbors. We called a meeting, and I said, 'Look, guys, we're breaking up New Wave and we're going to merge together and become one powerful club.' That's when we re-started Klique, in February of 1974."

    Groupe Car Club, after its legendary 1973 cruise, had its own internal upheaval in the summer of '74. Reynaldo "Butch" Martinez was barely out of his teens, but his '66 Buick Riviera was already talk of the town. A natural leader, he put in his bid for the presidency. Groupe had more than 150 members, most of them loyal to Ed Flores, the OG president who had led that victorious caravan, and they re-elected their friend. But Butch still didn't like the way that the club was being run, so he took a dozen of his homeboys, along with some of the finest cars in the club, and started New Life C.C.

    The club ordered their plaque and drew up strict by-laws stressing car quality. They began working with police and the community, trying to create a better image for lowriding. Just as they began getting recognition and respect on the Boulevard, tragedy struck. At only 23, Butch, who suffered a rare respiratory disorder from birth, died. His friends chose to bury the club name with him.

    For several months, they looked into other car clubs, to see where their own rides would be wanted. Finally, in July of 1975, Tommy "Pooh Bear" started calling all the guys. They met over at the Quiet Cannon, a golf course in Montebello bordering East Los Angeles, and elected Tommy president of a new organization. "Let's get on the right track," he told them. "No car club fees, and let everybody know that it's a whole new club we're in."

    They changed their name to Lifestyle Car Club-Los Angeles, and began meeting regularly at the Quiet Cannon, except on rainy Sundays when they would cruise over to the American Legion Hall on Olympic Road. They attracted dozens of new members, all committed to building the best rides on the Boulevard. Six months later, Tommy's father passed away. He was forced to abdicate the presidency, and passed the scepter to a young cruiser with a clean, candied '73 Riviera called "Dressed to Kill," Joe Ray. "Joe Ray's first strategy, once he became president, was to keep the name and build on that," wrote Sal Casillas in a 1978 LRM article. "Lifestyle threw a successful dance that boosted club moral to the sky. Then, by using constructive criticism, he made the members fix up their cars to the bone."

    Suggestions of throwing a large lowrider show, something that would give R.G. Canning a run for his money, often met with resistance from older car club members. It might get too violent, it might lose us money, club treasurers would say. Those who gave it a try met with miles of red tape and a bureaucracy not too keen on cars with cut coils. R.G Canning and other major producers retained the monopoly on Southern California lowrider shows. But the lowriding was back, and there was no stopping it this time around.

    San Jose was one of America's fastest growing cities in the '70s, the number-one employer in Northern California. Its population had doubled in the past 20 years, thanks to the growth of the computer industry, and resident tech heads were suprised to learn that New West Magazine had ranked their town the second most desirable city to live in the western states.

    One of the reasons why San Jose cruisers loved their city so much was for Story and King streets, packed curb to curb with lowriders, newly lifted by one of the many shops that had sprung up throughout the decade. "Northern California was definitely the hydraulic capitol as far as shops go," explains First Impression president Steve Miller, owner of Low Rider Hydraulics. "There were 33 car clubs in San Jose alone in 1977."

    Chico and the Man had hit the small screen, and the new Gypsy Rose was bumping through living rooms across America. The show itself was criticized for its stereotypical portrayal of East Los Angeles Chicanos "as buffoons," but that didn't stop it from becoming one of the most popular programs in the barrio and beyond. And, as Jesse Valadez had predicted, the Gypsy Rose was opening America's eyes to lowriding, to the East L.A. community, and to the fine rides that the Imperials Car Club was known for.

    Low Rider Magazine was growing in popularity throughout California, and getting mixed reviews. "When I saw the first couple issues of Low Rider, it looked like a low grade school kind of thing," remembers hydraulics pioneer Hugh Stillman. "It was definitely put together on somebody's kitchen table. But, to us, it was like, wow, actual lowriders in a magazine!"


  8. #7
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    Chapter 7 Lowrider History Book


    Chapter Seven

    Too Low for Four Wheels

    Some people just can't wait for their driver's license to cruise; when the boulevard beckons, a true lowrider just has to answer. The term "lowrider" has never referred to full-size, four-wheeled rides alone; the person, the style and the cultura are all a part of the Lowrider Movement, and whatever you choose to cruise can be transformed into a true lowrider.

    Ever since the '20s, miniaturized versions of cars already on the road were being mass produced. These models could come correct, to stock specifications, or they could be customized into any dream ride. That's how "kustom" king George Barris got his start, dropping and chopping a model; by the early '60s, young lowriders had turned onto that same small way of bringing a dream to life. And they, like the big guys they looked up to, could manipulate the frame for custom tricks like no other modeler ever dreamed of.

    "I was in junior high," remembers modeler Armando "Mando" Flores, who discovered 1/25-scale hydraulics back in '76. "They had model car contests every month. Then, one time I saw this car hopping. I had never seen a model car hop like that." As Mando pressed forward for a better look at the leaping low, the young owner accidentally broke his hydraulics. "He took off the body, and I thought, 'Oh, that's how he did it.' " The lowriding community has always appreciated these tiny cruisers, respecting them as beautiful works of art like their larger cousins.

    Other would-be car customizers found even more original ways to drop a little closer to cruising height. Ted Rodriguez of Pacoima, California, started a new trend back in '81, when his first dove gray lowrider pedal car cruised across the pages of LRM. Now the proud owner of several candied, chromed and plushly stitched mini-cruisers, his pride of little lows is ready to take on anything at the shows.

    The class is "Special Interest," and competition can be tough, pedal cars up against boats, scooters and almost anything else emblazoned in true lowriding style, elaborate paint schemes, lots of chrome and plenty of heart. One former entry in this corner of the cruise soon grew so popular that it got its own special section. Lowrider motorcycles have been one of the most popular categories at lowrider shows for two decades, attracting as much (or more) attention than rides on four wheels.

    Far and away the most popular low rides on two wheels, however, have been celebrated since the '60s for their commitment to the Movement. These are lowrider bicycles, their front forks bowed for cruising low, the tank flawlessly filled, disguising a mean rake as a strictly cosmetic modification. "I consider a real lowrider bike to have spoke wheels, a spring action fork and a nice paint job," explains Warren Wong, the inventor of the 144-spoke wire wheel for bicycles. "It doesn't have to be a candy paint job, but they are always welcome."

    But, lowrider bikes didn't start out with all of these expensive extras, those aftermarket goodies that barely bump you up a class in modern competition. Times were tighter in the late '60s, and a lowrider really didn't need all of that stuff to build a bike ride. With one exception, every one of those first lowrider bicycles all had to have those awesome spring-action forks.

    By the mid '60s, lowrider-style cars were cruising up and down Whittier Boulevard, flying placas for Imperials, the Duke's and New Wave Car Clubs. Bill Blake's father owned Dennison's Cyclery, right on Whittier, where Bill spent his childhood watching the Lowrider Movement grow, while helping the neighborhood youths out with their very first cruisers.

    "The kids' dads and older brothers all had lowrider cars and cruised up and down Whittier Boulevard at the time," remembers Bill. "They and the older kids who couldn't afford cars were fixing up their bicycles. They wanted to imitate their brothers and dads. Then, Schwinn came out with that spring fork in front and it just seemed like a lowrider bike."

    Just as the Lowrider Movement shifted into high gear, Schwinn came out with a revolutionary new cruiser, the 19631/2 Sting-Ray. It was built to resemble a dragster, one of the top motor trends of the era. With the banana seat, the split tire--just like the dragsters--and the high handlebars, it was a real breakthrough in bicycles. "It took cycling from transportation," continues Blake, "to being fun to ride. It was such a success that they immediately added colors."

    Like Chevrolet, Schwinn was the first to take color and body style, as well as cost and performance, into account when building their rides. "The fad peaked when Schwinn began producing the Krate series of colorful Sting-Rays: the Orange Krate, Apple Krate, Pea Picker, Lemon Peeler, Cotton Picker and Gray Ghost," writes Bicycling Magazine's Scott Martin. "The company made 17 million Sting-Ray style bikes between 19631/2 and 1973, according to bicycle historian Jim Hurd."

    The Sting-Ray, measuring 161/2 inches (measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the end of the rear dropout), was soon joined by the Sting-Ray, Jr., rolling in at only 151/2 inches, for even smaller boys. The "female frame" Sting-Rays, the Slick Chick, Hollywood and Fair Lady, also got a new little sister, the Li'l Chick. For the smallest cruisers on two wheels, the Li'l Tiger, measuring in at only 12 inches, kept the smallest set on the road and in style.

    Schwinn was becoming the world's leading bicycle manufacturer, selling the first bicycles ever built with real attention to form, just perfect for customization. East L.A. cruisers weren't the only ones who thought so. In 1964, kustom legend George Barris caught a glimpse of the new Schwinn and was inspired to create a museum quality custom that, even today, is just dripping with lowrider style. Joining his four-wheeled kustom kreations built specifically for The Munsters, "Monster Koach" and "Dragula," Eddie Munster's wildly modified '64 Sting-Ray kept the show's youngest viewers dreaming.

    "The forgotten cruiser was well ahead of its time, with major modifications starting with an all gold-painted chain frame that was welded together," wrote Lowrider Bicycle editor Saul Vargas. "It was equipped with many extra features, including chopper-style sissy bar and handlebars, with a windshield that had Eddie's name lettered on it, upholstered biscuit-tucked seat and brass molding designs on the fenders. The cruiser also had a crash guard that served as a rear bumper and a unique and fully operable lamplight that dated back to the late 1800s or early 1900s. It was equipped with classic springer forks that gave the bike a smooth ride when you hit the breaks and started skidding on the rear Schwinn slick."

    Every self-respecting kid in America wanted a Schwinn Sting-Ray like Eddie Munster's--even a stock cruiser would have been fine for most of them--with its sleek 16-inch front wheel and drum brake, springer fork, five-speed stick shifter in honor of muscle car mania, banana seat, mag wheel chain ring, "ape hanger" high-rise handlebars and, on top of the line cruisers, electric turn indicators and checkerboard rear mirror. For a group of young East Los Angeles Chicanos, however, even this was not enough.

    "The first modification was filling in the frame," Blake begins. "Not only that, they added streamers and mirrors, and pretty soon they started lowering them. Bending the fork was probably the most common way of lowering them. Schwinns just seemed to fit the Latin spirit because they had a lot of chrome and the lowrider cars had a lot of chrome. There was something to lower because of the front fork, and it just seemed to connect to the lowrider cars."

    "I started out with bikes," remembers renowned custom painter "Big Ed" Madrigal. "I would lower my seat, I wanted to fill in the tank. I used to do that when I was a kid. I made the sissy bar to sit low to make it look like little pipes, putting on metal and chrome to make it look like a motorcycle."

    This was long before the first lowrider happenings hit the parks, but even at R.G. Canning and other mainstream events, you would sometimes see a lowrider bike proudly displayed next to the competing car, sometimes dressed in matching paint. These bikes were still cruisers, meant for transportation on the boulevard more than for hauling trophies. It never really reached beyond East Los Angeles in this early phase, but that didn't mean those cruisers were any less firme.

    "The lowrider bike guys at the time were just a little group, and they weren't really considered very serious," says Blake, who watched a group of East Los Angelenos take their bikes from stock heights to radical lows. "The other kids were into them, but never thought that it would be a huge fad. They were ahead of their time. It was all Chicano back then, really a product of the Mexican barrio, and it was all people who related to the lowrider car movement. Everyone involved was just really cool, and not afraid to be different."

    These pioneering lowrider bicyclists cruised their way through high school, but as they graduated to four-wheeled machines, the younger set failed to pick up the idea and turn it into a custom trend. The new faster, lighter BMX bikes were coming in, and heavy Krates and Sting-Rays just seemed like dinosaurs. A few cruisers kept the faith, but by 1971, even the barrio was feeling the need for speed, investing in those shiny new trick bikes that just wouldn't look good lowered, no matter what. "Lowrider bikes just took a siesta," says Bill Blake.

    In 1974, Bill Blake took over his father's Whittier Boulevard shop, and had almost forgotten about those chromed and customized cruisers that the neighborhood kids had been into a few years before. "Then, sometime in the late '70s, I started getting phone calls here at the bike shop. 'Do you have old Schwinn parts, old Schwinn bikes, old Schwinn forks?' I'm a businessman, I don't like to tell customers 'no.' I found a stash of old spring forks and began marketing them. Then, I heard about a new magazine and contacted this salesman that they had there, Alberto Lopez. I placed the cheapest ad that Low Rider Magazine would accept and got a tremendous response."

    Unknown to many businesses, lowrider bikes had made a huge comeback throughout the early '80s. Cruisers who had enjoyed the fad as a teen, than graduated up to a lowrider big enough for the whole family, were introducing their own children to the two-wheeled cruisers.

    The very first issue of Low Rider Magazine featured a Northern California cruiser looking cool on his dropped and raked Schwinn, a fad that was coming up and dropping down throughout lowriding's San Jose-East L.A. cruising corridor. "It was the whole Mexican-American Movimiento," Blake hypothesizes. "Back in the '60s, if you were Mexican, it was considered kind of a bad thing and everybody knew it. Then, with the Chicano Movement of the '70s, it became a good thing to have a Mexican heritage, which was really good for everyone. That psychological change, 'Brown Power,' really made the kids proud. All of a sudden, Mexican-Americans were making real gains in this society. That's when lowrider bikes started coming back on the streets."

    "In 1992, Alberto Lopez approached me about designing wire rims for bicycles," remembers Blake. "We came up with a 72-spoke wheel that looked really good on the bikes. Alberto knew the people over at Dayton, so we went ahead and called them 'Baby Daytons.' " The rims were a success, Alberto and Bill going on to create a custom lowrider-style frame, the "Aztlan Cruiser," and other aftermarket extras ready for retail. Lowrider Bicycle, Inc. was born.

    Now, although retail companies like LRB, Inc. were shipping hundreds of lowrider bicycles and parts across the country, nobody thought that the world was yet ready for a full lowrider bicycle publication. Nobody, that is, except LRM photographer Nathan Trujillo. "It was over Christmas, 1991, that I came up with the idea--I had been looking through past issues of LRM and I would see these small pictures of some good-looking bikes. I thought, 'There's a story there.' "

    Emblazoned across the pages of Lowrider Bicycle Magazine, it seemed that the Movement might be lost amidst a growing laundry list of "must have" mods, from candy and chrome to even more expenses. But, look carefully, not just in the magazines or on MTV, but at the kids cruising your neighborhood, at the youth packing the shows, proud of their Street and Mild Customs. These are the real future of lowriding.

    All a true lowrider really needs is a clean cruiser (or a rusty frame with potential), and enough pride in yourself that you are willing to work for something real rather than falling prey to society's negative elements. The hard work of builders like Mike Lopez, Alfonso Dominguez and Andrew Juarez is meant to inspire others to do their best, at whatever they do, from schoolwork to clean customization. If a solid beginning in bicycles leads to quality car customization, so much the better for the Lowrider Movement. But the process of setting goals, achieving them, and having something as beautiful and worthwhile as a lowrider bicycle to show for it is reason enough.


  9. #8
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    Chapter 8 Lowrider History Book


    Chapter Eight

    The Tejano Connection

    The long-awaited Lowrider History Book is still in the works and we hope to have it published sometime this year. In the meantime, we are presenting a series of excerpts from the History Book that will hopefully answer a few questions regarding the history of the sport and give an indication of where we're heading as we cruise into the future.

    Although dropped and chopped "shorts," as Tejanos sometimes called their lows, have rolled the dusty Texas highways and byways for at least 50 years, the mists of time begin to burn off in the early '70s. Hydraulics had already made their way to the Lone Star State, where they were modified for front and back lifts, and it's certain that modern "lowrider style" had been in effect since the late '60s. In El Paso, Texas, the first lowrider clubs began to come together.

    When 12-year-old Armando "Mando" Santillan's family moved from East Los Angeles, California, to El Paso, where Texas meets the Mexican and New Mexican borders, back in 1970, "Lowriders were barely starting." Springs were being heated in backyards and behind shops throughout the Lone Star State, to achieve the long, low silhouette prized by careful customizers. But, it just wasn't Whittier Boulevard.

    "There weren't many clubs, certainly not many lowrider clubs," Mando remembers. "But it was a Latin thing--everyone was cruising." The Exclusives had already made a name for themselves, riding on 14-inch rims lifted from '57 Chevys, and they reminded young Mando of the beauty of the Boulevard. They weren't the lowriders that he remembered, but they were close enough. He had always loved cars, and dreamed of the day when he would have a low of his own, a real lowrider like "El Chuco," as young Chicanos had years ago dubbed El Paso, had ever seen. Like many young men, he began hanging out at the neighborhood body shop, "George and Son's--the best in town."

    "I met Richard Salazar, our club's founder, in 1972. A group of us--we weren't a club or anything--used to hang out at George and Son's, the Salazar family's shop. We had Chevys, Fords, Pontiacs. Nobody cared about the make and model back then. You just needed a clean car, nice paint, 14-inch rims and 5.20s. It was hard for us to get things. We didn't have Rockets or Cragars. We got the cheapest rims that were still rims." The crew, influenced by Mando's tales of Whittier Boulevard, of twisted grilles, candy paint and hydraulics that could make your car come up off of the ground, decided that it was time to upgrade their little group.

    "A bunch of us got together at George's and were looking at Richard Salazar's black '64 Chevy Impala with a charcoal gray top," begins Mando. "It looked so sharp, we painted all of the cars the same black with the gray, plus gangster whitewall tires. One guy couldn't afford a car, so he had a hearse. We decided to cruise Ascarate Park, and we put him last."

    Ascarate Park was the place to cruise in El Paso, its horseshoe shaped road and plentiful parking beckoning hot rodders, truck clubs and every type of automotive enthusiast into their own little section for everyone to appreciate. The park allowed drinking, and the few rides which had hydraulics could hop and scrape without hassles from the police. It was a party every weekend, and this one seemed no different.

    "We started to cruise, and two police officers thought we were a funeral. They began to escort us, stopping traffic for us." The cruisers were content just to play along, enjoying the extra attention when they hit their destination. "When we got to the park, they gave us tickets because they stopped the traffic! We went to court and won. After it was over with, Richard said, 'Let's call ourselves The Undertakers.' "

    Soon, several other lowrider style clubs started appearing, New Breed, Image, Lords, Browns, Destini and more. Following The Undertakers' lead, these clubs invested in jackets and plaques along with 14-inch rims and whitewall tires. Women's social clubs soon followed, ladies without the means to buy a ride showing their support for the Lowrider Movement, which was getting hotter than the dog days of an El Paso August. And the style began to spread Eastward.

    Odessa, Texas, lies almost 200 miles east into the prairie and scrubland from El Paso, neighbors by Texan standards. By 1973, Nick Hernandez had been watching lowriders cruise Odessa for years; he decided that it was time to start a real lowrider club. Influenced not only by the increasingly beautiful rides of El Chuco, but by the organizational skills of the Chicano Movimiento, Nick knew that there was strength in numbers. He called his lowrider car and bicycle club "Taste of Latin."

    Nick knew that by utilizing the different strengths of each member, whether metalwork or bondo, upholstery or paint, that each individual car would come together cleanly, earning the entire club respect. It also provided protection from young, overzealous police too eager to prove themselves; unlike the primarily Mexican-American metropolis of El Paso, where racism was seen as simply counterproductive, tensions sometimes ran high in little Odessa.

    As the '70s continued, disco transforming regular gauchos into rhinestone cowboys, lowrider clubs continued to organize themselves across Texas and the Southwest. By the late '70s, lowriding was the new Tejano thing, hundreds of clubs cruising from Corpus Christi to Dallas and El Paso. Nick invited Odessa locals, Forever Car Club and El Barrio C.C., to join Taste of Latin in the parade, and the many independent cruisers of Crystal City weren't shy as the rolled right up to join them. The caravan commemorated one of the great Chicano Movimiento victories in the history of Texas.

    In 1978, Low Rider Magazine was still just a California publication. It had only barely broken into the Los Angeles market, and was delivered by hand throughout the California barrios. Still, issues somehow made their way to all corners of a cruising nation, from Espanola, New Mexico, to the tiny bordertown of Del Rio, Texas.

    Del Rio, as you might guess from the name, grew up against the life-giving water of the Rio Grande, a stone's throw from the border between Texas and the state of Coahuila, Mexico. Not far, as the lowrider cruises, from El Paso, Odessa or Crystal City, this small town probably had more lowriders per capita than East Los Angeles; they were Texas style lows, all independents who built more for go than for show, but Del Rio was definitely as low as the Lone Star got.

    In 1978, LRM received a letter from Sylvia Ramirez and sisters Mary Jane and Veronica Mojica, three Del Rio cruisers. "Nosotros somos de Del Rio, Texas, and we have been trying to organize a lowrider club since 10/26/78. We organized 21 cars to enter our annual Fiesta de Amistad parade. We called our club Border Riders de Del Rio. Everyone enjoyed it very much, you could see Chicanos and some Gabachada taking pictures and cheering on the cars."

    The LRM staff--flattered that their publication had crossed miles of mountains, deserts and prairies and fallen into the hands of dedicated Del Rio lowriders like these--headed into Texas to see what was up. Sonny Madrid, "El Larry" and the rest of the crew couldn't believe their eyes--from El Paso to San Antonio, lowriders began cruising out of the barrio and into the pages of the magazine. With the help of San Antonio lowrider George Velasquez, Sonny set up a permanent Texas bureau to keep a finger on the pulse of a lowriding nation.

    Even further East, hugging the Gulf of Mexico in a warm and sticky embrace, Corpus Christi could not have known what was rolling in from behind. In 1978, two younger members of Taste of Latin-Odessa moved to Corpus Christi with their family, their raked, twisted and chromed bikes in tow. Within a year, brothers Abel and David Leal had hooked up with local cruisers like Joe Ramos, who had a lowrider style '65 Chevy with a tilt front end, and decided to start a new chapter, Taste of Latin-Corpus Christi.

    The Leals had been to San Diego, California, and cruised Chicano Park, and were used to the uneasy acceptance of Odessa lowriding. Corpus was a whole new ballgame. "It was slow," remembers David, president of the new club. "We used to get a lot of stares and bad looks, but I started making friends who were interested in lowriding."

    Within six months of moving to Corpus, the Leals had lowered enough cars and introduced enough gente to the idea of lowriding that Taste of Latin was joined by other local clubs on Port Avenue and Ocean Drive. The city was soon the sight of LRM's easternmost distribution, the farthest shore of Aztlan. Inspired by Odessa chapter president Nick Hernandez, the brothers soon began to involve lowriding with local politics.

    Lowriders were showing up everywhere. In Laredo, south of Del Rio on the Rio Grande, Jesus Martinez had founded the Brown Impressions. In Houston, northwest of Corpus Christi, lowriding had exploded onto the scene. West Heimer Street and Memorial Park were soon alive with lifted lows from Latin Attractions, Los Magnificos, the Finest Few, Latin Image and Mystical Car Clubs.

    The Houston scene had hookups for hydraulics, thanks to Art Lee in Arizona who sent out setups with instructions for installation by local mechanics. Almost everyone was still on Cragars--when Texans liked a style, they were slower to give it up than the fashion-conscious California cruisers. One of the nicest rides on the road was painted at Garcia's Body Shop, a popular Houston lowrider hangout. Nick Ochoa's '64 Impala, "Red Devil," proudly flew the Finest Few placa, rolling with club president David Doria's '64 for a sight that few lowriders would ever forget.

    In every corner of Texas, people were hearing about the new style, seeing rows of lows cruising the boulevards. The police tried to keep it underground in some towns, while other boulevards continued rolling proudly through places with a developed Chicano community consciousness. The lines of communication were opening; Low Rider Magazine was beginning to be available in busier barrios, giving Tejanos tips on California lowrider style, from custom paint tricks to rims that could survive the hop. Even better, retail hydraulic stores offered mail order service, allowing many Texans to finally buy the setups that they had only heard and dreamed about.

    The first lowrider club in history was ready to make its presence known in El Paso. "This guy from the club, Benny Ramos, moved to El Paso with his two brothers," said Jesse Valadez, president of lowriding's oldest and most respected organization, the Imperials Car Club, who wasn't sure how to handle their request. Other clubs had been starting new chapters across the Southwest; he didn't want his club to be bound by tradition, but at the same time wouldn't want anyone to sully the Imperials spotless record. "Then we said, well, if you guys want to start another chapter, you had better go by our rules. And everything worked out."

    It was a step up for El Paso, and the Imperials Car and Bike Club (both were welcome) worked at improving the quality of lowrider customs for everyone in the city. El Paso was already far friendlier to lowriders, and Chicanos, than most of Texas. "El Paso was probably 85-percent Mexican," says Undertakers president Mando Santillan. "Blacks and Mexicans grew up together--everyone was speaking Spanish and into lowriding. We really didn't have any problems with the police, as long as our cars were legal. A lot of us tried to make our rides custom, smaller steering wheels, cars lowered below the rims, and the police would bust us for that. But, there wasn't really the racial harassment, the racial discrimination that other Chicanos may have had to deal with."

    This relatively peaceful environment, right on the border between two very different culturas, was a perfect environment for lowriding to grow in. And, across the state, lowriders in less hospitable places were coming up as well, supporting each other and the Lowrider Movement. As the '80s, "The Decade of the Hispanic" began, Texas lowriders were professionalizing, opening shops, throwing shows and becoming more involved, at every level, with the national lowriding community.


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    Chapter 9 Lowrider History Book
    By The Time I Get To Arizona


    Some six or seven hours east of Whittier Boulevard, not too much further than San Jose from the birthplace of lowriding, lies Phoenix, Arizona. South Phoenix is historically the home of Arizona's largest barrio, a traditional crossroads where styles and ideas from Texas, New Mexico and California mix. Lowrider style rides have cruised Central Avenue for more than 30 years, drawing on a tradition of pachuchismo that has existed even longer among the severe and beautiful desert scenery that the state is famous for.

    "Back in the '60s, we didn't have the fancy cars," remembers Max Arboleda, who grew up in South Phoenix. "We didn't have the thousands of dollars that we put into the vehicle. Lowriding at that time was maybe heating the coils of your '56 Chevy, then slouching down really low in your seat so only the top of your head showed. That's what we called lowriding. Then we started seeing the really nice cars." Like the pachuco style, which first made its way westward from El Paso in the late 1930s, the idea for organizing barrio-style cruisers into clubs came from that same West Texas bordertown.

    Although lowriders, and possibly lowrider clubs, had existed on the Boulevard for years, the first Phoenix car club for which records were available was Destini Car Club. Joe (his full name has been lost in the mists of time) first moved to Phoenix in the early '70s from El Paso, bringing word of lowrider style clubs like the Undertakers and others who were cruising strong.

    Phoenix lowriders had access to the Southern California styles sweeping the nation--it was only a half day's drive to watch rods race in the salt flats, or customs cruise into the Long Beach Coliseum. These were mostly the realm of White Arizonans, however, and while the barrio certainly had its own low and slow rides, they hadn't really thought about lowriding as a style all its own, a source of pride for the community.

    Destini Car Club helped change all that. Chicano community consciousness in the traditionally conservative state--Arizona refused to respect the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., until the NFL threatened to move the multi-million dollar Superbowl elsewhere--was not as developed as in other areas of Aztlan, but cruisers quickly recognized that clubs were good for the barrio as well as the cars themselves.

    When money was tight, club members would devote their time, energy and hard-earned cash into one ride that the entire club could be proud of, specializing their skills. One member might be good with a spraygun, while another was learning upholstery work with a local tapicero. Some would even make their way to Whittier, where East Los Angeles lowriding was getting back up on its rims.

    In 1976, lowriding entrepreneur Hugh Stillman decided that Arizona was ready to make the hop to hydraulics. The city, then some 700,000 people, was about 20-percent Chicano and supported a large cruising population. After casing Central Avenue to see how much lowriding had come up in Phoenix--even independents were benefitting from the clubs' growing expertise--he found a location for a new shop. Ted Wells was soon on his way to Phoenix to open the first out-of-state branch of Otto's Hydraulics.

    Although the market seemed promising, plenty of cruisers coming in to check out the goods, local talent couldn't install Stillman's patented pumps, dumps and cylinders as well as barrio-trained California cruisers could. There were soon problems with inventory, and two poorly planned, advertised and attended lowrider happenings proved more expensive than Stillman expected. Already spread too thin, Stillman decided to cut his losses and close up shop.

    Central's cruisers, however, had had their first taste of hydraulics and weren't ready to abandon their toys. The few rides that had been lifted at Otto's flaunted their equipment on the boulevard, and hopping a few inches above a tall boy caused quite a spectacle in the earthbound town. Soon, dedicated cruisers made the long haul across the desert into Califas, making their way to Otto's L.A. for the work that they were craving.

    Another option presented itself when an underground Chicano magazine from San Jose found its way into the hands of a few dedicated cruisers. Low Rider Magazine featured, among the California-style paint jobs, interiors and other custom tricks, advertisements for mail order hydraulic kits. Places like Otto's, Low Rider Hydraulics and Andy's began noticing more and more Arizona addresses on expensive outgoing mail. New Style-San Jose president and Andy's Hydraulics owner Andy Douglas decided that Phoenix was worth another look.

    A trip down to Central in '78 convinced him. Destini Car Club, which had gone down in 1977, along with Otto's and several other newly formed lowrider clubs, was back flying their plaque under new leadership. Former member Manuel Mendoza had decided that it was time to get back on the Boulevard, and his fellow members named him president. The revitalized Destini Car Club was ready to take it to another level, as were so many other fledgling and OG clubs. Andy noticed the plaque, talked to the guys and decided that he would be right there to help.

    Later that year, Andy's Hydraulics opened a new store, right off the Central cruise. Joe Montenegro, a former manager of Andy's in Los Angeles, was in charge. "Cruising was different," Joe noticed of his new home. "The quality of cars was not as good. But, people were able to hang out on the street. It seemed to me to be 10 or 15 years behind Los Angeles in terms of the attitude of the police, people in general as far as cruising. There were not a lot of problems. People were content."

    Like the golden age of cruising in East Los Angeles, the car clubs got along with one another, the independents rolled peacefully, and the officers didn't yet relate these young car customizers with the troublemakers who occasionally made their presence known. Arizona wasn't as wealthy as its western neighbor, but business began picking up none the less, top of the line cruisers learning that only lifts would put them over the top. There was only one catch--Andy Douglas stood firmly against installation, offering only retail equipment and a few helpful hints to the faithful.

    After fulfilling his six-month contract with Andy, Joe decided to open House of Hydraulics, a full service shop featuring installation, maintenance and other hydraulic necessities. Joe remembered that back in San Jose, Andy had started off by lifting fellow New Style members at cost, creating sort of a rolling, hopping advertisement for the shop. Joe, a member of Spirit Car Club-East Los Angeles, gave president Ruben "Buggs" Ochoa a call. With his blessing, Joe got started building a Phoenix chapter that would do Whittier proud.

    Spirit Car Club, destined to become one of the area's top clubs, started off with the same commitment to quality and community as the mother chapter. "We discuss potential members' past history, we try to stay away from bad personalities and the person must have a clean car with Tru-Spokes, Tru-Classics or Zenith wire rims to even be considered. The vehicle and the personality play an equal role. They are then evaluated and voted either in or out."

    Until lowriding publications like Q-Vo, Firme and Low Rider Magazine got their starts in the late '70s and early '80s, very few lowriders made it into mainstream publications, especially outside of Southern California. As you flip through your library's stash of lowriding documents, therefore, it seems as though Central Avenue in Phoenix was suddenly, inexplicably, packed with show-quality rides. This is a trick of history; many of the cars mentioned here had their beginnings in the rich lowriding history of the '60s and '70s, as did so many Arizona clubs and cruisers.

    Since no documentation of these cars, clubs and cruisers was readily available, at least until the creation of magazines by and for lowriders, it is easiest to begin when LRM's cameras finally cruised into Phoenix, recording the cars and clubs for future posterity. It's actually a 10-mile caravan south to the scene, the shores of Firebird Lake on the Gila River Indian Reservation.

    In late 1978 or early 1979, hopper Jimmy Borunda hopped aboard a puddle jumper headed to San Jose, hoping to meet with the owners of Low Rider Magazine. Over a meal at Antuna's with publisher Sonny Madrid, Jimmy made his proposal. If LRM would head out to Phoenix for a California-style Super Show, he'd help them in any way he could. A few months later, after thinking long and hard about it (and asking Andy Douglas how the new shop was doing), Sonny was ready to tango with the firebird.

    Sonny sent in his crack team, new accounts manager Alberto Lopez and a man who would have a profound effect on Arizona's lowriding scene, Johnny Lozoya. The going was rough--although most accounts stress that lowriders had a relatively good relationship with Arizona police, no public facilities were willing to let LRM use their grounds. The Civic Coliseum refused to host what they called a "gang culture" event. "Not one park, auditorium or any type of convention center would allow a lowrider show," remembers Johnny Lozoya.

    Jimmy Borunda was stumped--after promising his services, the Phoenix area had proven completely uncooperative. Finally, he and his brothers hooked up with the Gila River Valley Indian Reservation, who were more than willing to host the show. Some 10 miles south of Phoeniqueria, the reservation was part of the system of Native American tribal nations that cover a third of Arizona's territory. Recognized as independent from the United States government by the United Nations and more than 100 countries, these nations are sovereign; that is, they don't have to answer to anyone but their own elected officials. They were down for a lowrider style fiesta.

    Reservation officials agreed to build a special "hop platform" for the requisite battle of the hydraulics, also providing areas for parking customs and cruisers, as well as for the many bands and other acts who wanted to perform. Phoenix media announced that a convention of California gangs was going to be hosted at the reservation, quoting area police predicting that a riot would begin on Central Avenue the Friday before the show.

    These dire warnings proved to be just police paranoia, peaceful lowriders from Mesa, Tucson and other Arizona lowriding towns pulling up next to El Paso's and East L.A.'s finest. "Firebird Lake lives on in the minds of all who attended Low Rider Magazine's First Annual Arizona Lowrider Happening on April 4, 1979," wrote promoter Johnny Lozoya just after the event.

    "The lake, South of Phoenix, came alive with thousands of Chicanos who had gathered from throughout Arizona, Tejas and Califas. Everyone handled themselves very well during the event. Car clubs representing had the opportunity to make some of their first major contacts with the lowrider movement in Aztlan."

    Danny Aguilar of Society C.C.-Mesa built his '63 Chevy Impala, "Tangerine Extacy," for the shows, but felt comfortable showing off the artwork by Efrain "Bugs" Gonzalez of Color Creations on the streets. Spirit member George Martinez can cruise his '72 Chevy Monte Carlo, "Sweet as Candy," right alongside. The police monitor the Avenue regularly, occasionally shutting it down, but seem to enjoy Randy Lopez' '85 Chevy Camaro Z28, "Lady Pleazer," Danny Ochoa's "Super '64" Impala or David Zueta's "SS Six-Tray" Impala as much as anyone else.

    What it really comes down to is a tight-knit lowriding community willing to work together to promote a positive image, cruising the extra mile to earn the respect of the community. Because of this commitment, along with high-quality custom rides and local craftspeople that rank with the best lowrider artisans in history, lowriding in Arizona has a staying power independent of any publication or promotion. If ever Califas lowriding should collapse again, or simply if a lifted cruiser is seeking refuge from overzealous police trying to spoil their fun, there will always be Arizona, a place to show and shine and cruise.


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    Chapter 10 Lowrider History Book
    Let The Show Begin


    Lowriding was dealt two potentially deadly blows as the '70s came to an end. The release of Boulevard Nights gave Los Angeles Sheriffs and police across Aztlan carte blanche to arrest and even harass lowriders, although only a tiny percentage of them were even affiliated with gangs. To many officers, driving a lowrider car, combined with wearing certain styles of clothes, marked a young Chicano as a potential criminal. The Constitution forgotten, the police may have thought that their barricades would stop the Lowrider Movement in its tracks. What they also forgot in all of the excitement, however, was the lowriders can hop.

    "When the boulevard was shut down, it sent shock waves across the country," explained Roberto Rodriguez. "The gathering of Raza everywhere practically became outlawed. Worse, it spread from city to city across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas, even Nevada. It was the same everywhere, but East L.A. was unique because nobody did anything about it. In San Diego, the Low Rider Council and the Committee on Chicano Rights filed a lawsuit to prevent the closure of Highland in National City. In Phoenix, quick action by the lowriding community prevented the closure of Central Avenue. On Central in Albuquerque, the Raza took a different approach--they negotiated with the police department. In San Francisco, the Raza filed a lawsuit against the city to open the Boulevard."

    As Robert attests, Los Angeles lowriders couldn't get it together in time to prevent the closure of Whittier Boulevard. One of the largest cities in the world, there were dozens, perhaps hundreds of car clubs scattered throughout the city, without any central form of communication other than Low Rider Magazine, which was losing relevance to the community as the '80s progressed. Moreover, Whittier was the first boulevard closed; cruisers didn't have time to prepare or a precedent to follow. In later years, as word of successful fights in other cities filtered back to Whittier, East L.A. cruisers would give it a try. But, by 1982, the laws were accepted by all authorities. The Boulevard would remain closed.

    But Los Angeles remained the center of lowriding, Whittier or not. Why? Because crafty cruisers couldn't be kept in the garage for long. If the streets wouldn't have them, decided Los Angeles lowriders, then they would simply take the cruise to a whole other level.

    Two prominent lowriders, owners of the two most celebrated and award-winning lows in Los Angeles, agreed that blame for Whittier Boulevard's violent closure fell squarely on the shoulders of their fellow cruisers. "Whittier was a good thing," Imperials Car Club president Jesse Valadez told LRM in a 1980 interview. "But, it got out of hand. Too much violence--the Sheriffs didn't close the Boulevard, the people did. It was our fault. The people have to pay for it now."

    "Gangs stopped the cruise," agreed Lifestyle president Joe Ray. "If you wanted to get back at anybody for something, you would find them there on the Boulevard. Everybody would go down there. They'd bumperjack your car and not care if your kids or old lady were in it. Or they'd shoot at it."

    Jesse and Joe were elite lowriders, and their cars, "Gypsy Rose" and "Dressed to Kill," respectively, had turned heads at every street light and by 1979 were the centerpieces of every show. Both had learned to avoid the Boulevard in their valuable lows--after Jesse's experience with the first Gypsy Rose, the '63 Impala destroyed by jealous rivals one night on Whittier, he was a little more careful on the Boulevard at night. As for Joe Ray and his club members, they had long since decided to build their cars mainly for the shows, almost ignoring the street scene.

    But the Imperials, lowriding's oldest and most respected club, had been built on their commitment to cruise. Many of their cars featured high-performance modifications and all of them were ready to caravan at a moments notice, for any wedding, quincianera or other fiesta that might enjoy their rides. Their supremacy was based on this rough and ready attitude, combined with high quality of their rides. But, as shows were becoming more popular, and cruising more dangerous and illegal, the times began to change. Their unwillingness to work with "trailer queens" threatened to cost them trophies. Show cars have the luxury of an almost decadent commitment to customization that daily drivers just don't have. This, however, was a sacrifice that Jesse Valadez was willing to make.

    More established automotive cliques, from hot rods to street customs, had already faced this debate. Is a car built to show, or to cruise? Jesse Valadez made it clear to his members that their rides would never be trailered into a show--besides, their cars still swept sweepstakes at every lowrider show, or at least in the lowrider class of every R.G. Canning and International Street Car Association (ISCA) show that they entered anyway.

    "To me, a lowrider should be in the street. That's a lowrider. The shows are different. There's more money involved in show cars. Before, it was just paint and maybe interior. Then it was undercarriage, chrome and all that. I can see the reason why that hot rod owner is not driving that car. I wouldn't either. Competition makes a car undriveable. You're going to fix up your car for the garage and for the shows."

    But competition was the name of the game, whether on the Boulevard or at the Great Western. The Imperials knew it, but they knew that even in their street cars, they remained on top of the Lowrider Movement. They didn't hesitate to tell the world.

    "We used to meet behind Pep Boys," remembers Joe Ray of the fledgling Lifestyle, "and we would cruise by the Imperials. They would clap their hands at us, and show us that they were number one. And we'd hide behind Pep Boys." Joe Ray took this as a challenge.

    Gypsy Rose and other Imperials show stoppers were the cars to beat, and these older veteranos of the cruise weren't really taking the show scene too seriously. They were only having a little fun, trying to inspire younger lowriders to be their best, but they had pushed this young man over the edge, forging a lowrider of steel that would force lowriding to a new level of professionalism. Joe Ray began whipping his club into shape, demanding no less than excellence in paint, interior and hydraulics setups, explaining to his charges that this club came first, before work, friends and, if need be, family.

    "If you lose and somebody else wins, you clap and you give them their time and their moment," he explained. "But for me, if somebody is going to get that spotlight or win that trophy or take that torch, it had better be somebody from the club. I was made like that when I got into this. You remember all those things, the clapping, the trophies in your face, a lot of things that were said."

    Inspired by the Imperials' challenge, Lifestyle began investing in all new cars, going full custom within months. Joe asked nothing of his club mates that he wouldn't do himself. His celebrated '73 Buick Riviera had already cruised across the silver screen in the 1978 sleeper Corvette Summer. To challenge himself further, he invested in a far larger canvass for his vision. "Purchased in late 1978," wrote El Larry, "Joe drove the '79 Lincoln Continental to his parents' home, and much to their surprise, the next morning the Mark IV was dropped on its frame in their driveway, having been lifted overnight by club members 'Spy' and 'Angel.' Spy had a complete chrome front and back setup and turned Joe onto it, to guarantee that the ride would hit the streets juiced. A couple weeks later, a dark candy red finish was sprayed on, along with a matching Bob and Son's interior."

    Other Lifestyle members soon followed suit, lifting, wiring down and candying their rides almost immediately after driving them off of the lot. Many more custom tricks were expected to follow, requiring a financial sacrifice that would eventually include the driveability of their investment. If the car couldn't hack it on the streets, but still brought home trophies, that was fine. Competition, not cruising, was this club's focus. In their effort to become number one, they would even try to monopolize the skills of master automotive craftspeople.

    "Some clubs didn't like other clubs," remembers master painter Gary Baca of the era. "As soon as you're a part of a club, like Lifestyle or Imperials, there was always friction. I had done one car for the Imperials and it became a big thing to Lifestyle that I was doing an Imperials car. I said, 'Hey, it doesn't matter--he came to me, I painted his car.' That's that, you know? I didn't sign a contract, put myself on retainer. I just didn't want any part of that."

    1979 was a watershed year for lowriding. If the East Los Angeles Sheriff's Department thought that the Lowrider Movement would falter with Whittier's closure, they were proven wrong by the summer of '79's four-star show season.

    Low Rider Magazine had already organized shows throughout Northern and Central California, and had pulled off a major coupe with their successful Phoenix, Arizona, show at Firebird Lake. In 1979, inspired by Spirit president Ruben "Bugs" Ochoa's success throwing full-on lowrider shows and concerts at the Great Western Auditorium since '77, Sonny Madrid decided that it was time to take on Southern California. The Super Show was extraordinarily successful, more than 20,000 people showing up to check out the rides, in particular their sweet '65 Chevy Impala that Fresno's John Veleri had tricked out into the "Lowrider Limo."

    Heavily advertised in Low Rider Magazine, some of the nicest show cars in Northern California chose between driving or trailering down their top entries. Larry Rivera, president of Midnight Sensations, didn't like to miss a chance to show off his '72 Impala painted at Sal's Customs. Sal's also took care of New Classics president Tom Zabala's '77 Olds Cutlass Supreme, "Too Mean Tangerine."

    Salinas was also in the house. Ruben Arzua's '69 Impala, "Hot Stuff," was showing off that Jimmy Olivas paint job to perfection. The New Style crew, every one of them lifted at Andy's, was on the road, including new president Manuel Garcia's '76 Chevy Caprice, "Technikolor." With paint by Bugs and an interior stitched in at Rogelio Cevalos' House of Lowriders, this was a NorCal ride to beat. More than 20,000 fans, friends and cruisers made it to the event, which was covered by no less than five networks and media from around the world.

    These shows were becoming incredibly popular, providing a safe, legal alternative to a cruise under siege. "Car shows ended up really helping the Movement," explained former Groupe president Eddie Flores. "You'd set up fancy lights, see interiors and see what other people were doing in a safe haven. It created competition, which is always good." Competition without bumperjacking, club rivalry without anything more than mad dogging--like hot rodding before it, lowriding was on its way to becoming a gentleman's sport.

    The tradition of the hop was by now an institution at events from LRM's to R.G. Canning's, and by 1979, thousands of dollars were at stake. Superstars like Mark Spancel, "Rag Top Ralph" Carrillo, "Old Man" Frank Cordova, "Pump Eddie" from Norwalk, Gary May, Jesse Munoz, San Fernando Valley's "Traveling Man" and Ernest "Ford Dog" House emerged from the crowd, winning trophies and admirers throughout the lowriding circuit. They were all charging their batteries, strengthening their A-arms and gearing up for a decade at the hop.

    Whittier wasn't the only Boulevard under siege. From Story and King in San Jose to Central in Albuquerque, New Mexico, traditional cruises were being attack by police forces from above and sabotaged by gangbangers from below. Lowrider happenings would only grow in importance as we ushered in the '80s. Although it seemed that something had been lost, the spirit of the free, rolling car show with roots in ancient Aztec/Mexican traditions like the paseo, there were definitely advantages to this important change in lowriding's direction.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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    Chapter 11 Lowrider History Book


    The '96 Lowrider Magazine Super Show, held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, was a well-choreographed dance of lowridings past, present and future. Beautiful cars on the cutting edge, celebrating classic lowrider styling were everywhere in evidence. Of the 800 vehicles packing the grounds, Henry Castro's New Age Cadillac, "Wife's Enemy," was Sweepstakes material, although the two finest '64 Chevy Impalas on the scene, "Loco '64" and Chito Sanchez' beauty battled it out for top honors. It will always be hard to beat the best lowriding body style ever built.

    "The guys in Detroit had no idea what they were building," sighs Michael "Box" Patterson, whose very nickname reflects the popularity of the '64's boxy body style. "They took all of the original molds and cut them up. They no longer exist."

    "The hot rodders are willing to settle for fiberglass cars, their '32, '34 and '36 Fords," continues electric wizard Terry Anderson. "But lowriders are into nostalgia. We'll never settle for fiberglass." Maybe not, but only time will tell.

    The future of lowriding certainly seems to be borrowing more and more from the hot rod set, what was once a sport of just cosmetic customization offering points for souped-up engines; even the '96 Bomb of the Year, Thomas "Whitey" Neilly's flawless "My '38" featured plenty of high-performance extras for the judges to inspect. They were, of course, gold and chrome plated in true lowriding style , as was the NASCAR style, bored over and blueprinted mill of Jorge Castano's Lowrider Truck of the Year, aptly named "Wild Thing 2000."

    Why this new commitment to high-performance parts in a sport dedicated to cruising low and slow? "Because the car can place anywhere," explained T.J. Jhagroo, of her family's newest creation, an '89 Acura Legend dubbed "Done With Accuracy." It can go to a lowrider show and have no problem. Then it can go to an ISCA show and still be number one."

    Of course, lowriders aren't the first ones to borrow from the first wave of what we now call California Car Culture. Detroit now regularly employs many of the innovations pioneered at the salt flats. Today, with lowriding America's new favorite autosport, neither Detroit nor Japan is shy about borrowing some of the features that define low and slow vehicles.

    And, lowriding innovations keep coming. "They are going to start doing things with cars that we don't even think are possible," says Klique president Mando Estrada. "It's like, in the old days, if someone told me that I was going to drive my car on three wheels, I would tell them that they're crazy. Now there are plenty of cars on three wheels.

    As lowriders and fans cruised through aisles of Super Show quality cars, rides like Robert "Pee Wee" Wu's "China Spice" Euro, Charles Clayton's '61 Impala, "Eightball," already destined for a new Japanese owner, and the first Bomb Truck of the Year, Richard Acosta's '51 Chevy, "Blue Angel," they noticed a red carpet rolled out for the finest of rides.

    Present and accounted for were some of lowriding's legendary vehicles. Ishmael Robles wonderful "Tower of Power," a bomb built to bridge the gap between kustom and lowrider, glowed with a 20-year-old paint job as impressive as when it first hit the scene. Said collector Bill Paine, who now owns the legendary low, in addition to plenty of classic, rods and customs, "This car gets more attention than any other I have. It's like owning a Rembrandt."

    The Lowrider of the Year, "Brandy Maddness," is the beauty built by Klique president Mando Estrada that kick started the Movement a decade before, was present and accounted for. Northern California was represented by one of its finest trophy haulers, Jose Gomez' "The Tantalizer." The Duke's, one of LA's first car clubs, cruised in with first president Julio Ruelas' '39 Chevy Deluxe, which had carried the Zoot Suit cast from notoriety to fame, in as much style as el Pachuco could muster.

    Representing lowridings most famous rivalry were two of the most classic classics of all. Lifestyle president Joe Ray's celebrated Riviera, "Dressed to Kill" looked as good as it did the day that it cruised out of the Gary Baca's and "Big Ed" Madrigal's shared paint booth, a collaboration of giants in the custom world. The most famous lowrider of all, former Imperials president Jesse Valadez' sweet '64 Impala, "Gypsy Rose," cruised out of Chico and the Man syndication into the present on old school Cragars, looking pretty in pink.

    As some of the most important personalities in the history of lowriding mixed and mingled there on History Lane, an astute observer might have noticed that what was once an impossibility taking place right there on the red carpet. Jesse and Joe, whose rivalry helped push the sport of lowriding into an era of uncompromising quality, shook hands, admitting once and for all that it was all in fun. They had helped build a sport that had become a subculture, a starting point for youth to explore their creativity, leadership skills, and mechanical prowess.

    "I'm anxious to see if this lowriding phenomenon encourages young Chicanos to take on careers in mathematics, physics, engineering and design, rather than just cruise through our lives," director Luis Valdez, of Zoot Suit, La Bamba and Teatro Campesino fame wonder out loud. "We need to go at all speeds. We also need to express ourselves and our own humanity in the deepest and most profound way. That's Chicano. To be Chicano is to explore the depths of your potential, not to stay in the same place."

    Lowriding, by its very nature, has inspired many young people to become more than what the world expected, especially in the Chicano community. One young pachuco who dropped his '40 Chevrolet way back when set the standard when he graduated onto bigger and better things, Cesar Chavez cruising into every tiny town in the San Joaquin Valley to organize the United Farm Workers.

    "I've got police officers, I've got attorneys in my club, I've got people who are in all kinds of professions, from dentists to one of the producers at CBS, John Lara," says former New Wave president Roberto "Beto" Hernandez. "We didn't just fall apart. We've got electricians, mail carriers, people in the gas company. These people did something. I'm very proud of our members."

    Some lowriders, involved as the scene grew into a $16 billion a year business, became successful within lowriding. Entrepreneurs like Andy Douglas, Orlie Coca, Robert "Zeuss" Clausell and Box Patterson all started on the boulevard. Others who were interviewed for this book have made their names throughout the community. Ed Flores, founder of Groupe Car Club, now works at the UCLA Law School, helping Chicanos make the transition into the difficult program. He pointed out that his former vice president, Steve Mott, is now a pediatrician. "Rocket" Reyas Rio, still a member of Pharaohs Car Club, is a community activist who still enjoys the occasional cruise. Joe Montenegro, former president of Spirit C.C. of Phoenix, Arizona, began his movie career lifting an ice cream truck for Cheech and Chong; he was recently part of the Oscar winning team behind Forrest Gump's pyrotechnics.

    According to president Armando "Manod" Santillan of El Paso's first lowrider club, The Undertakers, original members now include a detention officer, an attorney, and a deputy sheriff. "We wanted to stay in the lowrider scene, but we also wanted to do something for our community and ourselves."

    Earning and budgeting money for a lowrider requires a responsible attitude and mathematical skills that complement science, economic and math classes in high school and college. Organizing a car club, electing officers, then acquiring facilities and requesting city permits for toy drives and other events are no small feats; that civics class suddenly becomes much more interesting when you are dealing with real-life politics. It is no surprise that many young men and women rise from the lowriding world to become very successful adults. This level of community involvement means power, which can translate into more understanding and acceptance of a much maligned sport at every level.

    "You have a lot of leadership in these lowrider organizations," noted United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta. "First, some of these lowriders are older, and can support what these lowrider organizations are doing. Because of the whole lowrider culture, these people have been able to earn a very strong position in the community. But, they've got to get involved politically. Lowriders should be able to have their space, their area where they can cruise.

    "Look at the amount of money that your city spends on golf courses and other adult and youth recreation, then compare it to what is in the budget for lowriders. Then when you have a lowrider show, get everyone registered to vote. Let local politicians know what you're doing. You can say, "Okay, Ms. So-and-so, Mr. So-and-so, we are willing to support you for city council. We'll come out and help you get elected. But, if we do this for you, you've got to give us a safe place to cruise." As the lowriding community grows, haven for lowriders and lowriding fans will continue to grow.

    "Someday, I'd like to open up a restaurant like the Hard Rock Cafe, a theme restaurant with lowrider cars coming out of the walls, the whole history of the Movement," muses Joe Ray. "It could have plaques on the walls from all of the old clubs, pictures of their picnics, everything that they've done. It would be like a Hall of Fame, momentos from the boulevard and music from Thee Midniters. I could just spend the rest of life in there, looking at the way that it was."

    Lowrider shows are in constant jeopardy, threatened by unfriendly city governments who believe lowriding the realm of gang-bangers and worse. This doesn't just affect big promoters; small scale events like high school car shows, toy drives and charity show and shines are all fair game as these "civil servants" try to stop the Movement. Only by setting aside differences, be they club rivalries or racial tensions, can lowriders form coalitions strong enough to elect lowrider-friendly officials and pressure the city into allowing the show to go on.

    There is a debate in lowriding, which continues today, between those who seek the sublime in car shows, and those who consider these immobile constructions "trailer queens" unworthy of the title lowrider. This debate has taken place among the hot rod set for decades; lowriding offers a new twist. Historically, lowriders ignored everything under the hood; performance was not an issue. As lowriders unable to operate like real cars continue to take the trophies away from "real" cars, the focus on cosmetic customization becomes increasingly competitive. Do all of those high performance extras, added on for points, really count if your engine can't turn over?

    Whereas representatives from other auto sports have found allies within the system. The NHRA, for example, received government funding and assess to the public schools throughout the '50s when filming instructional videos to legitimize hot rodding as a safe, fun sport, rather than a destructive gang-related activity, lowriders have always had to stand alone. Because their cars were not respected at other shows, lowriders started throwing their own shows. They created their own magazines when others would not have them.

    And, as lowriders face the future, it will be museums created by lowriders, for lowriders, that will dominate that aspect of the sports scene. It will be lowrider associations, local, statewide, perhaps someday even national, that will win these low slung customs the right to cruise and show at will. It will take every individual's effort to do it.

    "It doesn't matter who you are, because the impact that you can make on the world may not be known to you for a long time, if ever," says Ron Aguirre, who first installed hydraulics on a car all those years ago. "I'm pleasantly surprised and happy that what I created with my father and friends is more alive today than in the past. My dad would have gotten a big kick out of that."


  13. #12
    Enthusiast Poster
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    ALWAYS SIX FOUR DIPPIN

  14. #13
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    ~H I Ds~ $85

  15. #14
    420Puffin
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    Fuck all that it's too much to read,,, is there an audio tape I can order?
    My Car May Not Get Me The Pussy Yet,... But It Gets Me To The Pussy.




    Quote Originally Posted by Typical Cholo Stereotype View Post
    if you're raza then by birth you have landscaping skills, and the charisma to sell oranges carnal.


    or there's the life of crime.

  16. #15
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    I skimmed through it really fast. I don't take any one that calls wheels, "Rims" seriously, so I will not be reading this.
    Layitlow.com: Where you prove how gangster you are by how illiterate your posts are...

  17. #16
    Riding Sboccolati
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    Its a misinformative read if you ask me, althou some of it is entertainin.
    How can you say ''lower than customs'' when some customs back in the 50s were an inch from the ground with static drops? But mostly it was customs that used hydraulics first, and in those times they were not called lowriders. I could go on but its no point.

  18. #17
    Banned
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    when i was growing up lowriding was a joke. there was zero after market parts, accesorys, and no one was sharing info like today you guys have it a lot better. its still a struggle in some parts of the country, we don't even have a chromer here itsa joke

  19. #18
    Z FIGHTER
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    #1 if its what you do, day in, day out, fuck a book.

    Ain't no book gona define what we do.

    What about all the different types of people that also hold it down

    Fuckin hate it when its a chicano or Mexican thing

    They full of shit

    Don't forget the brothers and asians and white folk that do it better than most them.

  20. #19
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    cleanest cars lifestyle car club chicanos imperials chicanos list goes on so how could you bitch about it dogbonekustoms where you from anyways homie you seem to know alot and goku is just mad

  21. #20
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    Did not read, went cruising.......

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