The tales of the older clubs in our Culture usually springs forth a few common names; the Dukes, Groupe, Klique, and of course, the Imperials. The Imperials are one of the few older car clubs that still influence the newer car club generations today. With that in mind, it's safe to say that they have quite a legacy behind them; encompassing the club's beginning, internal clashes, a lawsuit, and the eventual takeover.
Fast forward to this current generation, and you will find that the face of the Imperials is actually two faces; those of leaders Tomas Vasquez and Junior Garcia. This duo took over the club and never looked back, as they had established their leadership qualities by building several cars and helping to unify the club's chapters into one mean, lean machine. In their own words, this is their account of the story behind the Imperials, and how they came to be a united club.
Tomas: Times are little different now. In 1968, $20 bought you a mounted 5.20; now, $100 won't even buy you a tire! At 14 years old, I had a 1961 Impala that I used to race Mustangs, Gran Torinos, and Camaros until that Roadrunner came out. Once I lost to that car, I had to trade it in for a 1963 Impala. When I was 16 and able to have a license, I packed my stuff and left the fields of Northern California and headed to L.A. Once I got there, my cousin Sergio said 'what are you doing with that Lowriding machine?'I looked at him and told him, 'This is how we roll up in Northern California.' [laughs.] A week later, the car was lowered on 5.20s and Astro Supremes, and I never turned back; it was one Lowrider after another! I got in the club in 1971 towards the end of 1972. As soon as I got in the club, I sold my 1970 Monte Carlo and bought a new 1973 Caprice. Two weeks later, it was lifted and people used to tell me, 'You're crazy. How are you going to put hydraulics on that new car?' I just had to have the hydraulics; I was addicted to the juice. Then I took a leave in 1975 when the club decided to have a party with the Lady Bugs, and the club didn't want any of our wives or girlfriends there because a lot of the guys wanted to hook up with the chicks. So, I got out and didn't return until the '90's when I heard that some of the old members were coming back after the club had broken up. I checked it out and it was true. Jesse, David, and Mike Riviera had come back so I came back, too. Even during the time I wasn't in the club, I never stopped building cars. I think I made a good decision; I'm still married to my wife, and some of those guys weren't lucky enough. Junior: I was Lowriding in 1982 and I had a 1968 lifted front and back. We used to cruise Whittier with it, before I sold it and bought a '64 Impala. I also lifted that car front and back and fitted it with True Spokes. Growing up in Hawaiian Gardens, I used to cruise all the time; it was a small community--I even got to hang out with the Tovars. Then I got married and sold my car to buy a house and start a business. I was sidelined until the '90's after I talked with my wife and I told her that it was time for me to get another toy. The kids were all doing well in school, we had bought our home, and the business was doing well enough to finally turn a profit. I thought it was the right time and I bought my '66 Impala, which would be the car that I would get into the club with back in 1999.