Celebrated guitarist and music producer Ry Cooder's Grammy-nominated Contemporary Folk album Chvez Ravine is "a magical-realist street opera celebrating the life and death of the barrio that the Dodgers killed," says Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz, Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. The album has also been called a post-World War II-era American narrative of "cool cats," radios, UFO sightings, J. Edgar Hoover, red scares and baseball.

In reality, the record is a tribute to the long-gone Los Angeles Latino enclave known as Chvez Ravine. Using real and imagined historical characters, Cooder and friends created an album that recollects various aspects of the poor but vibrant hillside Chicano community, which was bulldozed by developers in the 1950s in the interest of "progress." Dodger Stadium ultimately was built on the site. Cooder says, "Here's some music for a place that you don't know, up a road that you don't go. Chvez Ravine, where the sidewalk ends."

The musical strains of Los Angeles-including conjunto, corrido, R&B, Latin pop and jazz-conjure the ghosts of Chvez Ravine and Los Angeles at mid-century. On this 15-track album, sung in Spanish and English, Cooder is joined by East L.A. legends like Chicano music patriarch Lalo Guerrero, recently deceased Pachuco boogie king Don Tosti, Thee Midniters front man Little Willie G., and Ersi Arvizu of The Sisters and El Chicano.

A Los Angeles native born in 1947, Cooder has been working in Cuba since 1996, producing The Buena Vista Social Club, with Ibrahim Ferrer, Ferrer's Buenos Hermanos and Mambo Sinuendo, all Grammy winners. Three years in the making, Chvez Ravine marks his musical homecoming to America, which he hopes will generate interest in a documentary that he's planning on the East L.A. music scene of the '40s and '50s.

To further bring to light the whole land-grab incident, Cooder is having a '53 Chevrolet ice cream truck built as a rolling tribute to Chvez Ravine. To bring his vision to life, he has enlisted the talents of well-known lowrider builder Fernando Ruelas (and sons) of Duke's Car Club in Los Angeles, and noted Chicano artist Victor Valdez of San Antonio, Texas.

"I wanted Fernando to build this ice cream truck like the old Good Humor trucks that used to go through the neighborhood," Cooder says. "But inside the box, we'll have a diorama of Chvez Ravine. On the outside, I will have a [full body] mural where every panel tells a piece of the story. It will be done by genius Chicano artist Vincent Valdez, whose painting Kill The Pachuco, a violent depiction of the '40s Zoot-Suit Riots in Los Angeles, won critical acclaim."

There's still a lot to do to the previously trashed truck. But the bodywork is finished, the engine is done, the brakes are on and the murals are being laid out. Is Cooder happy with the progress? "It sits just so, I tell you," he says. "The slope is the thing. Good Humor figured that out. This is for me. I've wanted an ice cream truck forever. You can't just work and work and work. And this [truck] is worth it! This thing is something else."

Monte Carlo MattersAttention Chevy Monte Carlo drivers and restorers! Call 800-222-1020 (GM) and ask for a "restoration packet" for your car. Have your VIN number and mailing address ready and then crack open a cold one and wait for the package to arrive. It's free in the U.S. Unfortunately, for most of Canada, this service is not free. EST hours are 8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Monday - Friday.

To determine your Monte Carlo's original options, check the codes listed on the trunk lid sticker. If you're not the original owner of your vehicle, be sure that the VIN on the sticker and the VIN on your car match, just in case Pedro over at Maaco might have switched trunk lids on you.

Chevy debuted the Monte Carlo in the '70 model year, when it was advertised as having "the longest hood ever," and the popular car was offered through '88. In '87, when GM cancelled the Buick Grand National, they kept the plant running until December, and all of the GNs built after August were still labeled as '87 models. We who owned them called them '87.5s to distinguish them from the regular '87s.

It's interesting to note that Monte Carlo SS models were also built in the Flint, Michigan, plant alongside the GNs, and those built after August were indeed labeled as '88s! It's possible to have an '87 GN that was actually built later than an '88 Monte Carlo! The steering unit on the SS models is one of the most desirable units on the market as far as G-bodies go.

What makes an SS?

So you wanna know what makes your SS an SS? Well, the heads of that engine are from the Cross-fire Camaro, and the cam from the L-81 Corvette, while the exhaust is specific to the car. As far as the body goes, the rear is specific to the SS, as well as the nose and striping. Getting the power through the gears is a specifically built transmission that's mated to a wheel/ tire and suspension package of equal caliber. All of these elements combine to make the SS, which is also the last full-frame RWD carbed car made by GM.

How to make sure that your '83-'88 SS is really an SS.

Make sure that the eighth digit in the VIN is a "G." Check the trunk lid sticker and make sure that the following codes are present-B4V, L69 and F41. Also make sure that the VIN on this sticker matches the VIN on your car and the VIN on the driver's door. Don't be afraid to track down the original owner of the car and ask when in doubt.