San Diego Car Clubs Celebrate Culture, Family and Friends
I’ve never been a car guy. Never owned my own ride. Never really had an interest. I only recently got my license a couple year’s ago at 40 years old. And that is because my son was going to be born and I needed to be able to drive my wife to the hospital when he was ready to pop out.
One thing I’ve respected though is the lowrider car and the lowriders themselves. Seeing them cruise the calles in their firme rides. Low and slow. Gliding along the street as though riding on air. The lower the better. When a fine carrucha makes it’s way through the barrio heads turn. Life pauses for a few seconds as everyone stops to look and admire the works of art on four wheels.
Chicanos were the first lowriders. They put their time, effort and hard earned dollars into making their cars shine like stars. During the early 90’s other cultures jumped on the lowrider bandwagon and started tricking out their rides like Chicanos. They wanted to be cool too. Wanted people to admire them as they drove up and down their respective neighborhoods.
Some lowriders restore their ranflas to original condition. Others customize their rides by adding hydraulics which can make the cars bounce up and down on two wheels or tilt from side to side by flicking switches inside. Some prefer old style cars from the ’30’s, ’40s and ’50’s. Others are down for the ’64 Impala, the standard of the lowrider set. Many go for something “newer” like the Buick Regal. But no matter the preference they all want their rides to look as smooth as possible.
Every New Year’s Day the Oldies Car Club organizes a menudo breakfast for San Diego’s car clubs at Chicano Park. Numerous clubs from throughout the region show up and show off their lowriders. Some of the car clubs that attended this year were Oldies, Viejitos, Pachuco, Klique, Veteranos, Imperials, Life and others. There were at least 60 firme rides of various makes, models and styles throughout Chicano Park on this first day of 2013.
One of those was Rene Acevedo’s beautiful ’47 Fleetmaster convertible. Rene is a member of the Viejitos Car Club. The Fleetmaster is the second lowrider that he’s owned. The first was a 1941 Chevy sedan delivery. His dad started Viejitos and he’s been involved in the car club culture his whole life.
“My mom says my dad took her to the hospital in a ’64 convertible to have me. Amazingly, I was born into this. Second generation.”
He says the best part of events like this is family and friends.
“The car eventually becomes part of the family. It sounds kind of cliché. Cruising with the family. My dads involved in it. The guys from the car club we all know each other fifteen plus years. We baptize each other kids. We go to everybody’s family functions. It’s all family. Basically that’s what this lowrider thing is about. Just family.”
Lowriding ain’t just an American Chicano thing anymore. The car club culture has gone international.
“We got fifty two chapters worldwide. We got chapters in Japan. We got chapters in Australia. Chicano Park Day last year we had 58 Viejitos cars here. They just love coming because it’s all culture here. It’s your culture. It’s your history. We’ve had the Japanese come out here. Especially for Chicano Park Day. They want to be a part of the event celebrating the birth of the park. It’s beautiful man. There’s no other park like it.”
Lowriders have been a part of Chicano Park for decades. There’s even a mural dedicated to the various car clubs of San Diego. Every Chicano Park Day the Amigos Car Club organizes a lowrider car show to go with the festivities. Lowriders from throughout California and the southwest come to this annual event to show off their customized rides to the thousands of people in attendance.
Lowriding used to carry the stigma of being affiliated with gangs and violence. That stereotype doesn’t hold water anymore. Lowrider cars are an art form. And lowriding is a lifestyle. Though started by Chicanos it has transcended Chicanismo and has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Though I’ve never been a car guy I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work that goes into building, keeping and maintaining a lowrider and the lifestyle that goes with it. It’s about culture, family and friends. So when you see a firme ranfla cruising by stop, look and admire the artistry and the hard work that goes into making beauty on four wheels.