One of the greatest pleasures and responsibilities we have at Lowrider Magazine is to share with our readers the stories of those select individuals who have truly taken our culture to the next level, making a positive impact on the lowrider community, as well as the world around them.
Johnny Lazoya truly defines all that is good about lowrider and custom car culture. A true pioneer, Johnny has been a figurehead in the lowriding scene for close to 40 years, serving as a promoter, lowrider, Lowrider Magazine staff writer, photographer, and most recently, a photographer immersed in Hispanic politics. His reach in the culture can be felt far and wide. Whether you're a newbie attending your first Arizona Super Event Show, or a longtime enthusiast and subscriber of our magazine, chances are the name Lazoya is very familiar to you, as his hands have graced every aspect of our pastime.
We caught up with the 56-year old Johnny and visited his past and present ways of life, and had these words to say:
"I am not a painter, I am not an upholsterer, and I don't do chrome plating. My expertise is to promote the Lowriding Culture or the custom car craft. The custom car craft was my first love and the lowrider culture my second, because I've always been really into the vehicles whether they were hot rods, lowriders or classics.
Growing up in Alhambra, California, my interest in lowriders developed in the 60's. I remember when my sisters would have these parties and these amazing cars would creep low and slow right outside the house. They didn't look like my parents' cars, either. Back then, they would have the battle of the pipes. That included the flame throwers which were the most intriguing to me. They would battle to see who would be the lowest, and who could throw out the most spark from the pipes. We later moved to Hollywood, California, where I lived off the corner of Hollywood and Vine, where George Barris had his legendary shop. I saw the Bat Mobile and the Monkey Mobile get developed, and these were my nurturing seeds into the customizing world back in 1967.
Once I graduated, I moved out to Oxnard, California. In 1972 I joined a car club called the Stylistics in Ventura County. After a few years, it broke up and three or four new clubs branched out from the original crew-The Brown Sensations, The Originals from Fillmore, and New Image that I started. The bottom line for this new club was in the name-New Image. I wanted to break the stereotype that Hollywood had produced and the media had cast upon us. We all didn't have the same lifestyle and our interests were different-some of us listened to Rock music, Motown as well as the oldies.
You could say that I actually lived a crossover lifestyle, and I wanted to project that image for lowriders. We felt a lowrider was a custom car, and the word "lowrider" is basically referring to a state of mind. Anybody can be part of the lowrider culture, and it's not just about owning the vehicle. The vehicle itself to me has always been a custom car just like the Barris cars. Personally, I wanted to share a different perspective of lowriding-that we, as a culture, are multi-dimensional, and not one dimensional as we are often seen or portrayed.
We have always been multicultural, having various interests from the different races involved in the lifestyle. In 1974, when we started New Image, we wanted nothing but newer vehicles. When we were at the shows with our late model vehicles, we could show people that we had the same class, sophistication, and style as the classic bombs did. We quickly learned that we had a following and that, if we sponsored the dances, then people would come. It was good exposure for us, and we also learned to make money from it.