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.
The Lady Bugs entered their first car show sponsored by Pioneer Auto Club in 1975. They knew they did not have a chance to win anything, but they did it to promote the club. During this time, many of the car clubs had business cards printed and exchanged them with each other for invites to club socials, softball games, picnics, and club sponsored dances. The Lady Bugs were known to have some of the best dances, and they were able to invite a lot of the top clubs from that era, thanks to the exchanging of business cards. The Lady Bugs would also help to organize some of the other car clubs' events, and to thank the Lady Bugs, the clubs would present them with trophies for their efforts. The club also created community service projects, like holiday caroling, at retirement homes during the holiday season.
The popularity of the club peaked between the years of 1974 and 1975. In 1976, the club founder and president Stella Perez left the club to start a new chapter in her life. Ruby Alexandra Beloz also left the club and went back to college to secure her degree. After Stella's departure, sisters Yvonne and Suzie Vallego reorganized the club and they continued on with the foundation that Stella and Ruby had set into place. They continued with the same set of rules and regulations, but changed the club colors from red to blue. The Lady Bugs continued on until 1978, when the club was disbanded for good.
Although the club was together for a short time, they left a lasting impression in Lowriding. The Lady Bugs set an example for young women everywhere by breaking the barrier of the male-dominated Lowrider car club scene. The importance of this club is referenced in the Women of Lowriding chapter of the Lowrider History Book. The young women of the Lady Bugs car club made history and opened the door for future generations to participate in Lowriding.
Lowrider Magazine would like to thank Conrad Garcia for connecting us with former Lady Bugs Vice President Ruby Alexandra Beloz. We would also like to thank Ruby for the use of her photos for this feature. If you are or know a former Lady Bug car club member, Ruby would like to get in contact with you. You can contact her at the web site she had created or the email address listed below.