It takes true dedication to become a certified Lowrider Original. Hours upon hours must be spent honing one's craft and sharpening one's skills, and after all that is said and done, it takes years to earn the respect of your peers. But don't take my word for it, take the testimony of one of the most dedicated members of the Lone Star State's scene, President and Founder of Phaylanx Car Club of Dallas, TX, Mr. Joe Ruiz. Joe's love for all things Lowrider started at a young age when he moved to the mainly Latino neighborhood of Oak Cliff on the Southwest Side of Dallas. "Everybody in my neighborhood had some kind of custom-built car, naturally, I was more interested in Lowrider cars that had a clean paint job and were lowered," he says. Joe's passion intensified when he joined a "half-day half-work" school program, where he would go to school in the morning and then would head to a Cadillac dealership to work for the rest of the day in the mechanics department. While others his age were out chasing girls or playing sports, Joe's Junior and Senior years of high school were spent sneaking into the paint and body department of the dealership, where he would find his true calling; he wanted to become an automotive painter.
Joe's entry into car customization came in the form of his first Lowrider, a 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo, which he purchased at the age of 17. The first step in Joe's build was to reupholster the interior, which he did by draping the car in crushed velvet and painting it in a Black Cherry color. After a few months, he lifted the car with a two-pump set up, and cruised it with his fellow car club members from Latin Cruisers. Joe remembers cruising his first Lowrider to clubs and Parks all over the Dallas/ Fort Worth area, and occasionally running into other car clubs like Majestics, Estilo, and Royal Classics. The scene around him began to expand, and so did Joe's level of expertise in building Lowriders.
By the time the early '90's hit, Lowriding was gaining momentum all over the country, and was especially strong in Texas. Joe's attention to detail and craftsmanship caught the eye of an LRM photographer back in '92, garnering him his first national attention. Joe cruised with a few different car clubs before establishing Phaylanx Car Club with his brothers "Porky" and "Fat Boy," along with some of his other close friends, back in '91. The name was taken from the Greek word Phalanx, meaning "compact" or "a close knit body of people," and the club added the "y" to give it their own twist. Phaylanx quickly became one of the most respected and family-oriented car clubs to come out of Oak Cliff, representing the Lowrider Lifestyle well with a number of quality built cars. Joe was on the scene in a major way, and his professional life was about to change with the times as well.
At the age of 24, Joe decided to quit his job, as he felt that working at the dealership stifled him creatively. After taking a few months off and working from home, he opened up JB Kustoms in Dallas in'94. "When I first opened up the shop in '94, I was mostly doing all candy paint jobs. However, my artistic feel for doing patterns came naturally, since I could finally do the work on my own time. I always asked the customer the nickname of their car, because I can either add a different twist or style to the car that matches with the nickname. I was one of the first Lowrider builders in Dallas that started to add pin stripping, patterns, and ghost murals to cars," Joe says proudly. Joe's attention to detail and humbleness has kept him busy throughout the years, and he has worked on or built such notable cars as "Outer Limits," "Strip Tease," "Taste of Wine," and "Under Taker."
Since so many award-winning Lowriders have been built at his shop, Joe keeps close ties to the other Lowrider Car Clubs in the Dallas area. After visiting one of his friends from California, Pete Cruz, Joe was introduced to the INLA , and saw how different car clubs could work together to ensure that Lowriding was represented in the right way. In '02, Joe started the Dallas United Lowrider Association, or the "ULA," as it is known, with some of the most respected people in the Lowrider Community, including Luis Morales, and Mando Reyes. Their goal was to uphold the positive image within the Lowriding community, and maintain the same positive image in their respective neighborhoods. The ULA aims to alter the negative stereotype that society associates with Lowriders by successfully organizing car shows, family-oriented picnics, parades, and very successful toy drives for the area's needy children and families. The ULA also assisted the Dallas Police Department by building a Lowrider Cop Car, which is used for the local Dallas P.D.'s D.A.R.E. program. They also extended a helping hand by raising money for members that have been struck with illness or have fallen on bad times.
Through it all, Joe remains humble and grateful to be a part of something that has had such an amazing impact on his life, and the lives of others. Today, he is busier than ever, and has branched out his customization skills by building motorcycles and boats, in addition to classic Lowriders and Bombs. He balances his personal and professional life, and always makes time to attend the ULA meetings and car shows all over the nation. Joe has always stayed true to the game, and is one Lowrider enthusiast who is always a phone call away, willing to lend a helping hand at a moment's notice. Joe would like to give all the ULA members special thanks for keeping it real, and for always being supportive with one another. We are sure that Joe's journey has just begun, so keep an eye out for his new Lowrider to hit the streets, and hopefully grace the pages of LRM sometime in the near future.