Hitting the shores of the United States for the first time in 1949, the German made Volkswagen Beetle was not readily accepted until the 1960's and 1970's - a time when its popularity peaked. Stylish and priced well, the car was the ideal compact car for college students and young adults. One of the biggest draws to the Beetle was also the ability to personalize and customize it, without spending too much money or putting in years of effort. An unsung automobile in our culture, the Beetle was actually an integral part of the early years of Lowriding. In fact, the first issue of Lowrider Magazine shows part of a Beetle on the cover. Lowrider car clubs in the early 1970's usually had a few club members that owned the Volkswagen Beetle, and there were a couple of clubs comprised of strictly Volkswagen owners. The most remembered of all was an all-female car club, The Lady Bugs, who proudly customized their all-Beetle fleet and cruised all of the legendary spots that their male counterparts did.
The Lady Bugs came together in the early 1970's, thanks to a few girls from Sun Valley, Echo Park, and East Los Angeles, California. The president and founder of the Lady Bugs, Stella Perez, used to go to Elysian Park on Sundays in hopes of recruiting girls to join the club before she headed to Whittier Boulevard for Sunday cruise night. Stella met the club's future Vice President, Ruby Alexandra Beloz, during one of her recruitment trips to Elysian Park. They became good friends and would eventually see each other at Elysian Park and Whittier Boulevard every week. Inevitably, Ruby was asked to join the club and become the Vice President. The only problem; Ruby owned a Ford Pinto. When Ruby mentioned this to Stella, Stella's response was, "Yeah, but it's a cool looking Pinto and you will be the mascot!" Unbeknownst to them at the time, Stella and Ruby were creating Lowrider history as the first all-Chicana female car club.
The young ladies in the club all came from different backgrounds. Most of them had jobs, and some were going to college full time, working towards earning their secondary degrees. There were also single mothers and other members were engaged to members of the male car clubs. At the peak of Lady Bugs' membership, there were about 68 members including the shotgun riders. With that many members, the club's leadership structure had to be organized, disciplined, and consistent.
The club's government came up with a list of requirements for membership. The vehicle had to be a Beetle; and if the member did not have a Beetle, they were required to be shotgun rider for a member with a Beetle. The car had to be kept clean at all times, and the plaque was not to be left unattended. The members were expected to respect themselves as well as other members, and they were encouraged to look after one another. They were also expected to participate in club activities. While these strong women definitely took their passion seriously, the most important Lady Bugs rule was for each and every member to have fun.
The Lady Bugs attracted tons of attention wherever they went. Females in lowered Beetles with 5.20's and Cragars were quite a site to see at the time. From Elysian Park to Whittier Boulevard, The Lady Bugs got the attention of other respected car clubs like the Bachelors, Orpheus, and the Imperials. The Lady Bugs also got the attention of the authorities, just like their fellow male Lowriders. The club was even featured in a new East Los Angeles-based publication in 1975 called Latin Quarter.