If you have ever participated in a Lowrider Magazine event, the name Ochoa probably sounds familiar. The last name carries a lot of weight due to the fact that this family has been a part of the lowrider movement for many years, maintaining a strong, yet quiet leadership role in the southwest; thanks to the dedication and diligence of patriarch Richard Ochoa. In fact, Ochoa was one of the first judges ever employed by Lowrider Magazine after exposing the former owner/publisher Alberto Lopez to the Mesa Lowrider Show. Over the years, Richard has truly given his all to help shape the lowrider community through his influential judging skills and constant support. Always humble, Richard Ochoa is not the guy you'll find parading around bragging or seeking any credit for his vast contributions to the lowriding culture, instead, his actions speak for him. He truly loves the culture. While others talk about it, he lives it, and lives it to the fullest. This month in our Image segment, we shine our spotlight on Richard Ochoa, the pride of Mesa, Arizona. For those who don't know him, get ready to learn, so buckle up, and take a historical ride with one of lowriding's true father figures.
Growing up in Superior, Arizona, Richard considers himself a second-generation lowrider, because his dad was lowriding as far back as the 1950s. As a child, he remembers flipping through the family photo albums and seeing images of his dad and his dad's then-girlfriend posed next to vintage rides that his father owned during this time. His dad's girlfriend soon came to be Richard's mother. Those images of his dad became his blueprints, which also influenced his love for cars and the culture; it was simply in his blood.
When we asked Richard about his first custom car buying experience, he replied, "My first car was a 64 Impala. I bought the car for $150 and I remember buying my 5.20s and Supremes one wheel and tire at a time. Once I had the wheels the next thing to do was to add the hydraulics. I remember working as an upholsterer doing automotive, airplane, and furniture upholstery back in the early 70s. Doing car upholstery was my first full time job as a young man. The work helped me finance my earlier car building experiences and I also did trade work for work on my '64 Impala."
In the mid 70s, Richard started his first club "Pride CC" with his compadre John "Bully" Rios, who bought a '65 Impala hardtop after Richard bought his. "We both lifted our cars and started cruising Main St in Mesa," he says. "Mesa was a conservative city at the time but they still had their cruise nights, which were usually bumper to bumper with a variety of muscle cars and hot rods, including '57 Chevys, Camaros and Chevelles," he recalls fondly. "When we got there we turned a lot of heads and it sparked interest, because we were some of the first to have hydraulics in Mesa. The people didn't know what to make of it as they saw the cars go up and down. Some of our high school friends started buying cars and within a year the club expanded."
"The Pioneer Park in Mesa is where we use to have our club meetings and it became a magnet or a hub, as the cars from neighboring cities and as far as the west side of Phoenix would come over," Ochoa says, smiling. "This was too good to be true, as the neighborhoods or `Barrios' started taking offense to the outsiders cruising in their neighborhoods." Unfortunately violence and territorial misunderstandings spilled into the Mesa streets and stalled the club's growth. "The turf wars affected a lot of people out in the "Valle" including my old club. After a particular incident, there was no way to jeopardize my family or the others in the club so I put the club on hold," he says, shaking his head in disappointment.