You know you were born into the custom car world when your father pulls-up in a custom '56 Chevy with tuck and roll interior, chrome show pipes, and dummy lights to his own wedding. That was the case for artist Marcos Gaitan of San Jose, California. As a kid, Marcos grew up cruising with his parents, going to many Rod and Custom shows. In the 70's, when the Lowrider scene began to take off in Northern California, Marcos began going to Lowrider events, even attending the first ever Lowrider Magazine Show in Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, CA.
As a kid, Marcos did a lot of artwork before getting into Lowrider bikes. After learning how to drive in his brother's lifted '64 Impala with a chain steering wheel, Marcos got his license, and a '62 Oldsmobile Starfire. He ended up customizing the Starfire as a Lowrider with everything in it, except for hydraulics. With his new driver's license and '62 Olds, the sixteen year-old was ready to hit the boulevard with his older brother during the golden age of Lowriding. Marcos, who was fortunate enough to be out on Storyand King during the peak of the cruising scene, would spend his weekends hanging out in parking lots and hitting on girls on the boulevard.
"Back in the '70's I was into Punk Rock music, and I still am," explains Marcos. One day, Marcos went to visit one of his buddies in Berkley. "As we walked down the street, there was a band by the name of Psychotic Pineapples playing on the street," he remembers. "The band had someone there dressed up in a Psychotic Pineapple costume smashing into the crowd and bumping into the people there. I remember that made me laugh, and since then, that name always stuck with me," he says with a laugh.
During the second half of his college years, Marcos drifted away from the Lowrider scene to pursue a career in art, but he still kept a watchful eye in the Lowrider scene. After earning his Fine Arts degree, Marcos started focusing on the work part of his career. Becoming a professional artist gave him the opportunity to travel all over the country, doing original paintings and murals for customers in their houses or place of business. "I would travel a lot for work and would always go to museums, but after a while, I found myself going to car shows again," says the artist. He would find out about nearby events, as well as people in the Lowrider scene through a website called LayItLow.com. Although he wasn't fully immersed in it, in a way, Marcos never really left the Lowrider scene "My heart was always in it," he says. When spectators would go and see his gallery, they'd find that all his work was about Lowriders, including a piece of the Jack in the Box on Story and King. The famous corner hangout spot on King and Story was a very popular nook during the iconic era of Lowriding.
In 1999, Marcos finally gave in to the desire of again having his own Lowrider, so he purchased his '66. His search for a club to join began immediately as well. Feeling that he didn't fit into the clubs from San Jose, Marcos contemplated joining a club from Southern California. "My vision was different than what the guys were doing these days, I was more into what was happening in the '70's," he explains. Being a little older, Marcos started Hightone Car Club with his brother Martin Gaitan, and some of his longstanding friends from high school. "All the guys in my club are guys that cruised Story and King in the 70's," he remarks proudly. "There are nine guys in the club, most of them are friends from school, but all of the members are around the same age (mid to late 40's). Everyone in the club is seeing what I'm seeing, and wanting that classic style," explains Marcos.
Even though his car was not finished, Marcos would still travel to and attend many car shows. Throughout the years, he kept picking away at the car, working on it slowly. He was determined to finish the car, even though he had a lot on his plate; he had gotten married, remodeled his house, and became the co-curator of a big art exhibit.
The art exhibit that Marcos Gaitan co-founded with his college friend Lissa Jones was the "Mi Coche, My Culture" exhibit, held at The Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, CA. On the opening night of the exhibition, there was a line of a few hundred people waiting to get inside, and the street was covered with news vans. He took a moment to take in the feeling of it all. "Wait a minute, this is just an art show," Marcos thought to himself, "art exhibits don't get national press coverage like this." The art exhibit was featured in local newspapers and news stations, and received coverage in countless magazines, including an article in the pages of Lowrider Magazine. Considering that Marcos and Lissa only had a month and a half to get everything ready, it was obvious that the exhibit was a total success.
When the time came to work on the car, Marcos began the process by taking his car to a small-time guy, who had a reputation of doing decent work within the Lowrider scene. That guy nearly destroyed the car, much to Marcos' chagrin. "He messed up the doors, the sunroof, the hood, the trunk and he even ended up selling my car," he says, flabbergasted. Marcos ended up taking him to court for selling the car, and had to change almost every single part on that car. "And that's before I did any of the custom work," he insists.
He ended up taking his car to the guys you see in Rodders Journal. "These are the guys that go to the Goodguys shows or the Rod and Custom shows," says Marcos, adding that "the reason I went to them was because of my previous experience." Having only Hall of Famers in the rod scene like Marcos Garcia, John Aiello and Bob Divine work on his car, Marcos was invited to be the first Lowrider to show his car on the main floor of the San Francisco Rod and Custom show, three years ago. Unfortunately, Marcos was unable to complete the car in time. "This car has put me thru hell and back. We stayed up until midnight trying to get this car finished for the photo shoot," recalls the tired artist.
Since all the cues come from the past, very little has changed in the design of the car over the past 10 years. "I designed the paint job the night before I took my car into the paint shop, I did the drawings in color and then just went for it," explains Marcos, stating that the paint job was also cued from the '50's and '60's style. Ten pounds of a special blend of flake was purposely laid on the car. "Usually you can see behind the flake, but I didn't want that. If you look at the paint you can see that it's rock solid, you can't see thru the flake."
Due to a money issue, Marcos ended up doing everything backwards on the car. When the time came to put the engine in, the car was already painted. "We ended up putting the engine in with the transmission and the whole front clip on, the only thing that was removed was the hood," he says. With the car already painted, nobody dared to use the engine jack. Everyone told Marcos "it's your car, you put it in." The nervous Marcos slowly dropped the engine in, knowing that one wrong move would seriously damage his car. With the help of fellow club member Raul Lerma guiding the engine from underneath the car, it only took them 20 minutes to put the engine in.
"I didn't mean to do all this. I just wanted a nice paint job, rims and hydraulics, like most guys," he says. Spoken like a true Lowrider. Catching a bad case of builder's disease, Marcos basically put his family life on the line to try and get the car done. There are still a few things that are going to change on the car, but not much. "I love this car. I don't ever want to redo it or sell it" explains the artist with great pride. "My car isn't a points car, it's a style car. Style over trophies." Marcos Gaitan would like to thank Lucky7 Customs, Handsome Dave at Bullseye Classics, Tim at Stack Life, his fellow car club members Hightone and a very special thanks to his wife Diana.
San Jose, CA
The pineapple three-stage paint job, was prepared and sprayed by Lucky 7 Customs.
Stock 327 motor, and 350 transmission was used. To allow the engine to breathe properly, an Edelbrock intake and Carburetor combination, as well as a finned custom air cleaner was used.
The interior was done in leather and ultra suede. The interior was dressed up with a custom center console that was painted to match the dash.
A Kool Aid Hydraulics set up, which featured aluminum blocks, powered by 4 31-series batteries.
13x7 Dayton Wire Wheels