I reached driving age by the late ‘70s, and the car clubs in my area at this time were Orpheus, Majestics, and Carnales Unidos. All these “club” guys were a few years older than I was, but I still mingled with them and absorbed the lifestyle. I did my own work by striping cars on Saturday morning at the Mobil station on Cecil Ave. and Hwy. 99, specializing mostly in scrollwork and names, which were both big back then.
I remember taking an influence from Mingo Pena; he showed us young guys how hydraulics worked and guided us to where we could get parts. He shared his knowledge with us.
Another big influence came in the form of “Big Abel” Acosta, founder of the Majestics Delano Chapter. Back then, I was doing stripe jobs and lettering for Majestic’s members, so I began making a bigger name for myself as being a guy who was dependable and did quality work.
I would attend the original super show “The Lifestyle Show” at the Shrine Auditorium and the Sports Arena. It was like school for me, because I was studying the big time paint jobs and bringing these ideas back with me to use on my customers’ cars. My club friend Mario “From the Barrio” Martinez and I would journey to the famed Whittier Blvd. on various Saturday nights to cruise in the scene. While I was getting some great education on the streets, it was time for me to get even more in the classroom.
In 1977, I graduated high school and enrolled in the Tulare Adult School Auto Body Program in Tulare, Ca. The instructor, Jeff Dailey, gave me full run of the shop. Jeff Dailey, was my mentor and I appreciate greatly his contributions to me as a human being. While at Tulare, I met Big John Vargas, an owner of various custom cars and trucks. John taught me the ins and outs of custom bodywork, chopped tops, suicide doors, custom fenders, custom front ends, and block sanding. Working with John only fueled the fire, and I also stayed with Jeff for a few years until he retired.
I began working for the local Chevy dealership in Delano, but I was doing custom paint with the management getting the credit. After that, I worked for different shops in the area and was always on call for special paintwork. “Have gun, will travel.” That was my motto and the dealership days were probably the last times I worked for any specific shop. I was self-employed from then on and I’ve been blessed with constant work for over thirty years. I have a great respect for the other artists in my field and I’ve been really privileged to see the work of Art Fullington, Big Ed Madrigal, Walt Prey and John “Mr. Custom” Tosta. I studied their work religiously; these men are true masters and their amazing output is a testament to their dedication.
As my reputation grew, I began to get candy jobs from all over the state. San Francisco, San Fernando, Fresno, Bakersfield all reached out to me for my services. I put together a small home studio to do my graphics and airbrush work, opting to rent paint booths for completes when I needed to. I continued to do custom paintwork on Harleys, Helmets, Hydraulic tanks; custom paint on diesel trucks, signs and lettering, airbrush art, basically anything that came my way. I was lucky I had learned different aspects of custom work, so if the car business was slow; there was always a Harley, a lettering job, or something else to keep me busy.
In the last 10 years, the majority of my custom work has been for “Lil Abel” Acosta, president of Majestics Delano chapter. He brings the cars base painted and I do my artwork and patterns. He keeps me busy and I can’t thank him enough.