If you've been in the classic Lowrider scene for the past few years, then there's a good chance that the name John Kennedy rings a bell. Of course it might sound familiar because John Kennedy is the name of one of our greatest U.S. Presidents, however, the John Kennedy that we are referring to happens to also be a great leader, albeit in the Lowrider culture. He is best known for his amazing work at Bowtie Connection, one of the industry leaders in car restoration, which has survived through the ups and downs of our currently tough economic times.
John's a true Lowrider original, as his roots in our industry go back almost 25 years, dating back to the Orlie's days. He's one of those guys who always kept his finger on the pulse of the Lowrider scene, participating in all the latest trends and building techniques, while still keeping true to the traditional ideals of the culture. His vehicle repertoire has been as diverse as anyone's, ranging from the mini-truck that he drove in High School, to the '64 Impala SS convertible that he restored after he graduated.
John's humble beginnings can be traced back to his parents' house in San Pedro, where John grew up. Of course in those days there was no Bowtie, it was just simply "White Boy John's." The sixty-four that he purchased right out of High School served as John's introductory education into the custom car world. As a teenager, John would often see a local Lowrider driving his convertible around town. One day after admiring the convertible during his high school commute, he promised himself that he would one day purchase the car and make it his own. Once John had finally saved up enough money, he approached the owner of the car to inquire about it. The owner was an easy sell, as he had almost abandoned the car himself, after it was involved in a minor accident. John happily picked up the '64 and took it home, stripping it down before sending it to the paint shop. Once the car was painted and ready to be assembled, John was left with no choice but to learn to assemble the car himself. Apparently, the old man who had fixed the damage was able to convince John that today would be as good a day as any, for him to learn how to install moldings.
This served as John's introduction into the car restoration world, and John never looked back, building his sixty-four into a daily driver that would last him for the next several years. This car also educated John about the business side of the car world, as it opened his eyes to the fact that he could get paid for doing what he loves to do by turning it into a business. After he sold the car, it was exported to Japan, giving him the confidence that his restoration work could continue to earn him top dollar. During this time, John split time between Orlie's Hydraulics and Homies Hydraulics, where he honed his suspension expertise to perfection on his Candy T-bird, "Tears of Clown." After a few years of working out of his parents' driveway and garage, he outgrew the house, and his parents were quick to recognize their son's predicament. They supported him by offering him a loan to help him establish his own legitimate business.
John took the money and formed John's Exports, a business that enjoyed a great run while the Japanese market was strong. Business was good for John back in '93 and '94, as this niche market flourished in Southern California's stable economy. John's exports built some of the industry's top cars, including his "South Side Player," and "South Side Sesenta," amongst other cars. As John witnessed the decline of the Japanese market, he realized that he would have to change with the times in order to survive. He did so by creating Bowtie Connection, the industry leading shop that we all know of today.
We sat down with John and picked his brain on the virtues of staying hungry, teaching others, and being the best builder you can be.