So who were the people that you looked up to when you got started?
Well, when I was growing up, I always saw local guys in San Pedro with Lowriders, and I wanted to have a car like theirs someday. I would have to say that I was inspired a lot by Rock Deleon from Groupe back in the day. He had an '80 ragtop Monte Carlo. The car was all candied and chromed out, and it was called "Fine as Wine." That [car] would be the standard that I would try to reach, when I used to build cars.
I know some people will always remember you for your "South Side Player." Do you think the timing was right to break that car out?
It was the right time, but I wish I would have brought it out a few months earlier. Simply because some of the heavy hitters that I wanted to compete with were already gone. When we built that car, we thought of the future. You can say it was ten years ahead of its time. I think that if that car was fresh off the assembly line, it could give some of the cars out there today a run for their money.
Even though you were known for the '64, only a few people know about the stable of Cabriolets and Paris Convertibles that you have owned and built.
There were already some out there from the Individuals, we just took it to the next level. We started doing full conversions. I probably owned about seven that were fully done and never made the magazine, since I was prone to building them and selling them. Now those cars are harder to find, and they have become relics. If you've got one, you should hold on to it.
Do you think this industry is going to pick up?
I hope so, for everybody's sake, not only work wise, but as a culture. It's sad to see this culture dying, as the new generation doesn't have the same passion or pride that we did when we got involved with it.
These kids nowadays are more negative. [It seems that] the first thing out of their mouths is "I will never be able to afford it, It's too much money, I don't want that." They'd rather buy a set of cheap China $250 wire wheels versus us; we had to struggle to buy a set of Dayton wire wheels for $1,350, and now those wheels are about $2,200. Their mentality is set very differently than what we had when we were growing up.
Why do you think that is?
There are a couple of reasons. For instance, the older guys in our industry don't help the situation. They might still have their cars, but they're not helping the next generation. They've moved on, and their priority has become their family. The other reason is that there are not a lot of shows or events to go to, and if there are, they've been condensed. You can't go cruising, you can't just go hang out, you can't even go to some parks because the park rangers will run you right out. A good example [of this] that I personally experienced was with my club. We went to El Dorado Park, and within 10 minutes of us parking, we had the Park Rangers asking us if we had permits and [questioning us] about what we were doing. The Park Rangers told us, "It would be best if you guys left."
How do you think you'll be known in our industry?
The industry has evolved and changed from when I got started. I'm known for building Lowriders, but recently I've been involved with several Originals, Low Rods and semi-Hot Rods, that's what my clientele is coming too. As a business, I have a family to feed. I wish I could just concentrate on only building Lowriders, but the fact is, that some people don't realize how much Lowriders cost to build.
What did you think about the Japanese market?
For us it was great, as it was a source of income that fueled the Lowrider economy. The market was good until Japan nearly wiped the California cars out. Now they can maintain their own economy with all of the cars that were purchased from the states. I think China really hurt our culture, from the bikes to the hydraulics and wheels.