In the mid ‘70’s, Mario and Noah Torres worked at an upholstery shop during the day and cruised under the glow of the San Bernardino street lights at night. As these brothers cruised their respective rides, a’73 Monte Carlo and a’73 Firebird down E Street, their little brother, Sam, would tag along and witness firsthand the Inland Empire cruising scene. Even though these older brothers introduced Lowriding to Sam as far back as he can remember, it wasn’t until at age 8, while attending a car show at the National Orange Show, that his perception of a Lowrider would reach a whole new level. “I spent most of the day in awe staring at this work of art known as “Gypsy Rose,” and fantasizing of driving off with the car with no idea of knowing how to drive,” Sam recalls with a laugh. After leaving the show, it was time for Sam to take on his first build, a Lowrider bike. Being from a poor family, the young enthusiast had to get creative. While leaving a mystery of the missing iron flower décor from the front yard, Sam had his brother cut and welded the metal roses as the bicycle’s rear fenders and finished it off with, of course, the fuchsia color as that of the famous bowtie. Happily, Sam pedaled the local streets on his new work of art.
As a teen, and now a part of the I.E. street scene, growing up was a challenge; Sam found out that the streets could engulf you quickly. Luckily for Sam, his leadership skills were not overlooked. While at Curtis Junior High, the school principal put those skills to work by having Sam lead a new school youth program, Chicano Lifestyle. With many of its members having had a previous taste of the gang scene, “the program’s focus was to emphasize a positive role model and break away from the street mentality.” For two years, under Sam’s leadership, the program was praised for its school/community involvement, and he credits it with being highly influential in leading Sam on the right path in life. The timing couldn’t have been better, as there would soon arise needed and new challenges as the family would move to Texas.
At 17, Sam was excited for the move, as he was ready to experience a better life, a better school, and a better neighborhood. Where better to experience this than in the Dallas suburb of Oak Cliff! Let me put this into perspective: If Inland Empire had a twin brother; his name would be Oak Cliff. As Sam put it, “I went from one tough ‘hood to another tough ‘hood, and the only thing that changed was my address!” From his start at Sunset High, Sam felt like an outsider, and it showed in his grades and attitude, causing a few trips to the principal’s office. While some saw a baggy pants-wearing cholo with no future; again, someone would see the potential of this young teen. While sitting in front of the principal for the umpteenth time, Sam was asked, “what is your interest, your passion?” His quick reply; “Lowriders!” Sam educated this school head in the subject of “low and slow” with inspiring success. Under the principal’s recommendation, Sam was accepted to the Transportation Institute. He was finally where he wanted to be, learning the ins-and-outs under the hood.