The long and winding road for Lowriders often has nothing to do with the asphalt they cruise on. Instead, the road they are riding is much bigger than that; it is the road of life and for some lucky Lowriders in our culture, that road comes full circle as they pass down their Lowriding passion to their offspring. This is exactly what has happened down the stretch for veteran Lowrider “Big T” Vargas, who started Lowriding at the age of 17 in Orange County, California. While all his friends were “Ricky Racers,” he remained infatuated with the cruising lifestyle and groomed himself to become a Lowrider. His rite of passage occurred when he bought his first Lowrider, a 1964 Chevy Impala SS hard top in 1972, which became his classroom. The eager young student used the car to learn how to install hydraulics, perform body work, and even made the car his canvas as he taught himself how to paint on it. This introductory ride and crash course served him well as he made it a daily driver that he used nightly on the hallowed Whittier Boulevard.
As time goes by in any builder’s life, they move onto other projects and “T” was no different. He sold the six-four to his cousin and bought a 1972 Ford LTD with the cash from the sale; painting and lifting the LTD before heading back to the Boulevard. As his appearances increased on Whittier, his respect grew, and he quickly aligned himself with the Sabor Car Club in Orange County and held the positions of Sergeant of Arms as well as Vice President of the club. Times were good, “Big T” had his LTD and rode around until his heart was content, but times were about to get even better.
An aspiring musician, one day in 1978, Big “T” was at a block party playing drums in a band called “City Stuff” when he took an interest in a beautiful member of the audience. Within no time, “Big T” struck up a conversation with the pretty girl and found out that they had a shared love of cars. To make matters even better, she mentioned that she had a 1970 Chevy Impala in original condition, down to the skirts! The chemistry was undeniable and the two began to date, unaware of the fact that they would one day be married (They still are today.). With a budding romance in the works, the wind was at “T’s” back and he and his compa began to take apart his new girlfriend’s 1970 Impala to customize it. They redid the interior using a custom touch of swivel seats and blue velour. The duo also painted the car black and had it striped, so the once-stock ’70 Chevy had evolved into “T’s” new Boulevard cruiser! The car was no joke, either. He entered it in the 1979 Super Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center and took first place in the street class. Around this time, Groupe Car Club was opening a chapter in Orange County, and Big “T” joined the newly formed chapter, continuing to hit the streets in style.
Before long, the jovial Lowrider found himself a married man and a father of young boys, one of whom, Jr., bought a ’65 Impala SS hard top in 1996. His son, Possum, bought a ’68 Impala Fastback in 1998, and “Big T” and the boys opened a shop called “Special T’s” where they would paint and lift cars. The first project on their to-do list came in the form of a ’64 rag that “T” purchased from V-Max of Ultimate Hydraulics for $4500 in 1999. Once it was home, “Big T” and the boys started work on the classic Chevy. Before they could complete the car, “Big T” and the boys lost interest; pushing the ‘64 to the back burner as life had given them all different priorities. Years went by and though he tried to sell it, the sale of the ’64 never worked out for one reason or another. Obviously, the Impala was meant to stay in the Vargas family.
One day in 2008, Possum approached his dad about completing the car. “Big T” happily agreed and Possum told him he was not going to stop until the car was complete! Three years later, Possum’s promise was kept and the Impala was completed.
“Big T” is certainly one lucky Lowrider. While the road has been long, he’s ended up with a wonderful family and been able to build cars with his sons, completing the circle of building that eludes so many Lowriders. While this particular ragtop took an awful long time to complete, “Big T” and Possum never gave up, and the result is this amazing black beauty you see here. “Big T” would like to thank Possum, Jr., Rob Dog, Anthony, and most importantly, his wife for all of her support since the fateful day they met in 1978. n
Tech Specs “Bittersweet”
Owner: Big “T” Vargas
Vehicle: 1964 Chevy Impala SS Rag Top
City/State: San Jacinto, California
Paint: Big “T” and his son, Possum, took care of all the bodywork and prep for paint. A Black DuPont base was sprayed first and then Black Candy was sprayed on top. Charcoal flake band black candy patterns and six coats of clear finished off the paintwork.
Engine: A 2000 Chevy 350 Vortec was installed between the fenders. Electric fans were installed as well as an aluminum radiator, and the car’s transmission is a 350 Turbo with a slip-yoke driveshaft. A number of chrome accessories were installed to dress up the engine. All chrome plating was done by V-Max from Ultimate Hydraulics in Norco, California.
Interior: Possum and “Big T” fabricated the door panels and seats to fit the Impala correctly. Zip and Frank at Hemet Upholstery in Hemet, California covered the interior in black leather and tweed with the original stitching. The father and son team painted the dash molding and console to match the exterior. Manny’s Custom Upholstery in San Bernardino California took care of the ragtop in black.
Audio: Possum installed a Pioneer audio system powered by Alpine amplifiers and fit a custom ported box under the ragtop.
Suspension: Possum and “Big T” reinforced An X-frame with 1/4 plate. They grafted Cutlass brakes and rear end onto the frame. Possum and “Big T” also installed the hydraulic system in the Impala. It consists of a Whammy tank, #9 Marz gears, 1/2-inch fitting with eight-inch front and back cylinders and is powered by five batteries.
Wheels: 100 Spoke 13x7 Chrome.
Tires: 13-inch 5.20s.