Life's unpredictable events can help to mold the choices we make, ultimately shaping our future as we move forward towards our own respective destinies. While there are a number of factors and influences that can permanently affect us, one of the biggest can be a change in scenery, in which we are forcibly removed from our comfort zone and away from the things that are familiar to us. For Audie Munoz, a move from East Los Angeles to Hemet, California during his first year of high school did just that.
Audie was born in East Los Angeles, where he spent his childhood and adolescence in close proximity to an exciting new movement. He was able to experience the glorious early days of Lowrider culture, which was taking the nearby Whittier Boulevard by storm. Since he was lucky enough to have older siblings, young Audie was able to get his first taste of the Boulevard when he was just nine years old. Through his brother's and sister's interaction with their own friends, Audie was able to soak up the knowledge of the street politics going on at the time, while also keeping up on the latest news regarding various area clubs like Sons of Souls, New Breed, In Crowd, and Gestapos.
Already experienced, Audie was given his first car at the age of 14. His older sister gave him a 1957 Chevy, which was already sitting on Cragars. Always eager to go against the grain, he didn't heat the coils to lower the car, although that was a very popular practice at the time. He instead added hundred pound flour sacks, which he acquired from his father, inside the trunk to lower it to the ground. Since he was not yet able to obtain his driver's license, Audie was "side streeting" his way to his junior high school, in attempts to avoid law enforcement. After completing junior high, the mildly rebellious Audie enrolled in Garfield High School, where he spent his afternoons in the parking lot with his'57 Chevy. Not long after his first days at Garfield, his parents decided that a change in scenery was needed to keep Audie out of trouble and on the right track to receiving his high school diploma.
Audie's parents sent him to live with his grandmother in Hemet, California, to finish up his high school education. Even though he was initially disappointed, a reluctant Audie packed up the '57 and drove to his grandmother's house. He was the only Lowrider in Hemet at the time, so he stood out instantly upon his arrival at San Jacinto High School. Needless to say, the young man from East L.A. was not the norm in the area, and he and his car made quite the impression on the other students in the school.
Even though he had been around Lowriding all of his life, it was not really a significant part of his life during high school. Audie had played sports since he was a youth, so when he enrolled at San Jacinto High School, he joined the school's sports teams. Audie excelled at football, basketball, and baseball, earning "All County" honors in football, and "All CIF" honors in basketball and baseball. Audie was out in Hemet for five years before he finally returned to East Los Angeles.
Once he was back in East Los Angeles, Audie began building cars. The '57 Chevy he had kept during his adolescent years was replaced by a '64 Chevy Impala, which was also replaced by a '65 Chevy Super Sport. Audie then bought a Ford LTD and joined the car club that everyone in his neighborhood was a part of; Klique Car Club. It was a good car club, but Audie felt more in touch with what was going on with Lifestyle Car Club. Lifestyle had started two years earlier, and at the time, this burgeoning club was on the rise. Eventually, Audie sold the LTD and bought a 1976 Malibu, before officially receiving his membership in Lifestyle.
It was clear to Audie from the start that Lifestyle was going to be a much different club experience. For starters, the club was run like a military unit. Everyone attended meetings and was dealt a paddle swat if they were late or had dirty white walls. The club was already setting standards, and their President was dictating how the club cars should look. This strict coda helped to make Audie a more focused builder, and he was proud to be a member of this group of Lowrider enthusiasts.
The Malibu was stock yellow, but after talking with some of the members who had custom paint on their rides, Audie took the car to Gary Baca for a makeover. The once yellow car came out of Gary's garage with a Candy Red paint job, and would soon return to this shop area, Baca's Customs, for further color inventions. Unfortunately, a rough chain of events left him needing to make a change. The club's leader left the club to handle personal business, leaving Audie in charge. With the club in disarray, Audie was dealt another blow when he was rear-ended in an accident with the Malibu. It was going to cost too much money to repair, and insurance wouldn't cover custom paint back then, so he was forced to sell it. Without a car, Audie was forced to step away from Lifestyle Car Club, a decision that he ultimately did not want to happen. He was in the same boat as many other members were at this time, as they could not continue to rebuild or change over the looks of their cars to keep up with the clubs rigorous standards. Back then it was also common to be in a car club for a few years, get married, and then leave the club because of family responsibilities. Though Audie hung around the club for the next few years, he did not have a car. Eventually, he felt the need to build another car, so he found a 1965 Buick Riviera and went at it again. Once the car was altered to his satisfaction, he named it "She Devil," and it would go on to be featured in Lowrider Magazine as a centerfold. The Riviera was also part of the Peterson Museum's "LA VIDA LOWRIDER: Cruising the Streets of Los Angeles" exhibit in 2007/2008, and was also featured in the Los Angeles Times' coverage of the Lowrider Museum exhibit.
After the Riviera was built and finished, Audie came up on a1978 Diamond Jubilee Lincoln Mark V, which was for sale by a fellow club member. Since the car was almost complete, Audie decided to buy it and finish working on it. Audie put the car together and added his own touch to the Mark V, which he called "Ruby." Soon, this luxurious ride would be sit tandem next to his Buick in the garage .The Lincoln would also be featured down the line in Lowrider Magazine's "Ford Special Edition" issue.
In the many years that Audie has been in Lifestyle, he has held many officer positions. During Audie's second year in Lifestyle, he became Sergeant at Arms, a position that required him to supervise and police nearly 70 other members.
After all the years he dedicated and committed to the club, his experience has allowed him to anchor the position of Vice President for the past ten years. In order to control a car club that has been in existence for close to 35 years, an officer of his stature has to deal with personality issues, egos, taking care of founding members' traditions, generation gaps, politics, favoritisms, and family responsibilities. How does he do it? He's a V.P. with a SGT. at Arms mentality.
All said and done, Audie has about 40 years of Lowriding memories. Good times, sad times, and bad times, but despite the roller coaster ride he has been on, he wouldn't change a thing. In fact, it's safe to say that Audie he would stand in a very long line to take that same ride again! Audie has gathered quite a bit of club memorabilia over the years, a collection he decided to display in his recently renovated garage. One of his fellow club members, Tattoo Tony, created a few photo collages in digital format that would cover the back wall of the garage. Big Page from Ultrawide Inc. printed out these photo collages on their wide format printers, using the same material that is used to wrap vehicles. The history of Lifestyle CC is presented throughout the wall in the photos, and the side walls of the garage are covered with magazine covers which feature Lifestyle club cars, personal memorabilia, as well as numerous photos of memories gone past. As you can see from the accompanying photos, the garage is quite a sight to see. Audie would like to thank club members Rick Ortega and Tattoo Tony for helping him bring his ideas to life.
So what's next for Audie? He's done building cars, so the Riviera and Mark V are the last cars he'll build for the club. He has no plans in the near future to step down from his position in the club, or leave the club in any way. 2010 marks the 35th anniversary for Lifestyle Car Club, so there is a big celebration in development.
It has been quite a ride for Audie, and he has many people that he wishes to acknowledge who have been the key to his success within the culture he loves. Audie would like to thank his beautiful wife, Elizabeth, and his children Desiree, Brandy, Simon and "Bubba" for supporting him throughout his career. He would also like to thank those "Old Members" who have stuck it out over the years, and continue to ride like it's 1975! He is proud to consider them as friends, along with the rest of his die hard Lifestyle Brothers. We would like to thank Audie for sharing his story with us, and for giving us the opportunity to ride along with one of Lowriding's "been-there, done-that, but-still-doing-it" types of guys. P.S. Audie, sell the Bike, buy Liz a '69 Camaro.