Lowrider clubs have changed dramatically today in comparison to yesterday's Lowrider Club's, some of whom can be best described as "Gangs on Wheels." These Car Clubs from the late '60's and early '70's fought with each other anywhere on the streets, as the competition during those times was literally a "nothing to lose" concept. Welding another clubs plaque to the frame of a car and scraping on it down the Boulevard was an agenda for some of the guy's. The use of masking tape to hang another rival Car Clubs' promotional dance poster upside down on your ride was also an invitation for retaliation. All threats were guaranteed back then and they were delivered in a timely matter. Getting dragged from your car by eight or nine rival Car Club members and accepting a pretty good beat down was the norm--even while in traffic! During those dark times, the weapon of choice was the bumper jack, and if you ever left your vehicle parked out in front of a store with your plaque displayed in the rear window, the enemy club would leave behind shattered glass on the pavement from your back window, and an empty space where your plaque used to sit. Hell! Some guys even collected plaques from all the different clubs.
Today car clubs invite other clubs to join them for picnics. There are ceremonies called Trophy Presentations at Car Shows. A trophy back then was another mans destroyed vehicle. Long gone are the days when the term "Hit Car" meant "a beat up four-door vehicle that could pile in 5 to 6 long-haired characters, that was also dependable enough to take you to the scene of a planned attack." With it, you could wreak havoc and not have to worry about having this car banged up as retaliation, because it already looked that way. The stories and memories from these early day experiences seem unbelievable, but sadly enough, they are true. I lived through the latter part of those years and saw it for myself. I laugh now when I think about it, because I know people would say, "Oh, he probably believes in "La Llorona" too! Let's just say that the character of these individuals and their clubs was more of a commitment to violence campaign than it was a display of Lowrider camaraderie. My best advice would be to listen to one of those car club vets, take notes, write a book, and come out with a movie!
There were quite a few clubs who disbanded because of that era. Some changed their club names or joined other clubs. Some bought Harleys or Cadillac Seville's, and moved to faraway places like San Bernardino, CA. But in those medieval times, there were definite risks involved when you had a rather nice car and went for a slow ride on Whittier Blvd. in E.L.A. There were the days when the Orpheus Car Club, who were a club to be reckoned with, would let it be known that no one was to be on Whittier Blvd. for a certain time, and that place would become an instant ghost town, just by word of mouth! Those types of guys, with the wife beater shirts and flared Levis pants, meant what they said, and although they were a terror on the streets of L.A. who took care of business with clinched fists and crowbars in hand, they sometimes did so with a certain amount of respect. For instance, if you had a problem with another car club and your woman was with you, they would let you slide and get you handled another day. They would also let you know that you got a pass, however! You could be sure that the next time you cruised by solo on the Boulevard, you would be going to a Body Shop the next day for an estimate!
Car Club Wars became a reality because the majority of clubs back then had large quantities of membership, which also included shotgun riders, and quite a few street gang members thrown in to the mix as well. As a leader, or President of a Car club back then, it was hard to tell what and where some of your members were. Every club weekend meeting someone would bring the problems or trouble they encountered or started, so that their club could to take care of it. Right or wrong, everyone had to back it up. That grew tiresome, thus it eventually became the beginning of the end. There was an "I've got nothing to lose" mentality with a whole lot of pride behind those plaques and short sleeve embroidered sweatshirts. Famous old school car clubs such as the Sons of Soul, NewWave, Gestapos, Klique, New Life, Groupe and New Breed were constantly in some type of beef or wars throughout these trying times. This gave plenty of reason for the ELA. Sheriffs to remain on tactical alert, trying to curb the Lowriders and their enthusiasm. Very few clubs like the Majestics, Bachelors LTD, Classics, Imperials, and the Groupe at times, had quality cars and focused on pursuing a different image and direction, namely to expose their clubs' cars at the R.G. Canning Car Shows. I have been fortunate to be around long enough to hear everyone of those clubs' versions of the war stories. Who was the baddest? Who started it and who finished it? Who won most of those brawls? In the end, the sad truth is, they all lost and we, the newer generation had to live and learn from it. It wasn't all bad back then though, as it was these old car clubbers that started it all for us, and they also sacrificed away the enjoyment that we all share today. Lowriding is a hobby, sport, and a Culture now and those guys are the only ones responsible. Never forget that, or forget them! If you come across any one of these guys you can't tell them "Wish You Were Here," because in reality, they still are. Please let them know that they are responsible for everything being the way it is today. Appreciate the gift of Lowriding, and appreciate all those guys from the past, as well as the ones who have also passed on. If you're in a car club today, then you have rules and bi-laws or standards. Who do you think established them?
This walk down memory lane was inspired by our Cover Car, the 1976 Caprice Classic, which brought back all those old memories. I remember the time when this car was the baddest of all the Lowriders ever. They took up so much room in the Chevrolet Dealer Show Rooms. Most of all, I also remember that in that era, Lowriding survived its growing pains, so that we can put behind us the days when Car Clubs were Gangs on Wheels.
Ask Danny Boy, from the Groupe Car Club what I am talking about; he lived it, and still does in his own style in our "Image" segment. Danny Boy is a respectful leader of generations through his work with the Groupe Car Club. He saw that old school way which was taught to all of us, and now he teaches on in the magazine too!
We also have Mr. Tribal himself, Bobby Espinosa, who also learned a lot from the streets and applied that culture to his clothing line. He wears it well in our "Original" segment, too.
The Imperials Annual car show was a great success as usual, and is beginning to look like an old fashioned Lowrider happening. We have the coverage of that ever-growing event, which respects and repeats tradition; just like their club does!
Also in this month's issue of Lowrider Magazine, we visit the Museum, or I should say, the Muffler Shop of the Legendary Joe Epstein. You may recognize that familiar name as synonymous with Mater Deluxe and Fleetline. Joe's Image and style have made him more than "legendary." That title covers not only Whittier Blvd. in Montebello, but anywhere in the world where you can hear the rap of the pipes sound. Please check out his shop and story, and perhaps visit his historical place of business if you get the chance.
There are some wise guys in the "Car Club" section. Congratulations are in order for the Good Fellas Car Club. They are a family, and do come well represented.
The future ain't what it used to be!