Living up to the highest standards is what Lowrider car clubs are all about. The pride we feel in coming together with the common goals of automotive restoration and improving our communities binds us all; and no club understands this more than the legendary Dukes car club, a club with over five decades of service to the Lowrider culture. Their fifty years of memories makes them the oldest car club in the scene, and continuing the traditions set by his father before him motivates current Dukes President, Jason Ruelas.
The club was born in 1962, as the Ruelas brothers, along with some of their friends from the neighborhood, started the club in South Central Los Angeles. Within its many years of existence, the club has gone through its fair share of ups and downs. One of the club’s toughest periods was the Vietnam War era in the ‘60s, as several members, including three of the founding club members were drafted into the war. Even though the original Duke’s club faded, the Ruelas family kept the Dukes name alive and in the mid ‘70s, Fernando Ruelas began to revive the club once again. By 1980, the club had opened up two other chapters, one in San Jose, CA., and the other in Ventura. During this time, many of the original Duke members had gotten married and started their families. This commitment to family forced the club to change its usual activities, in order to better include the club members’ families. Fernando owned a 1937 Buick that was known as “Black Crow,” and he began working with his oldest son, Jason Fernando Ruelas, in designing and building Lowrider bicycles. The fond memories are not lost on Jason, as he credits them as being the foundation for his love for Lowriding. “I started off in the Lowrider scene by painting Lowrider bikes and molding the frames when I was a kid at my dad’s shop,” Jason recalls with a smile. “By my early teens, I had graduated to working on cars.” The experience would ultimately serve him well, as he would one day lead the very club his father had helped to revive. “I’ve been President of the Dukes mother chapter ever since my father passed away over a year and a half ago,” explains Jason. “Even though I was raised into the club, I didn’t become an actual member until 1994, when I joined [the] La Habra Dukes chapter.” After being with that chapter for about a year, Jason started up the Whittier Dukes chapter and was President there until he had to step up to run the mother chapter. The pressure was great, but Jason didn’t buckle under the responsibility for a second. “I was a little nervous when I started running the mother chapter because I wasn’t sure how some of the members were going to accept me due to the age difference,” he explains. “It was just a matter of establishing myself by not coming at them too strongly while still remaining firm in my leadership. I think that helped me to conquer the age difference.” Jason’s resolve has endeared him to his fellow club members, and he appreciates what his club means to each and every member. With his members in his heart, and expansion on his mind, Jason has helped to spread the Dukes’ way of life. “I’m going to keep running the club the same way that my father was running it,” Jason says. “The only changes I’ve made to the club since I’ve been running it were to start up chapters in Japan, Sweden, Southern Nevada, and Dallas, TX.”
Jason would like to thank his brother, Alex Ruelas, for doing a great job and taking over the Whittier chapter of Dukes, his mother, Gloria, for all of her help and support, and he wishes to also thank his fiancé, Yvette, for the moral support. “I also want to thank my brothers, Alexander and Matthew, for being there during these tough times. My deepest appreciation also goes out to Jesse and Laura Gonzales, Joe Alvarado, Richard Castro, Richard “Chivo” Ciniceros, and to all of my fellow Dukes members for being so supportive of not only myself, but our club as well,” says Jason proudly. Long live The Dukes!