Public Preception, Persona, Profile, Reputation, Stature
So where do you want me?" The words bellowed out into the brisk Northern California morning, echoing off the nearby buildings as the sun began to take its rightful place in the mid-summer sky. The words, although common among photo shoot subjects, carried a cool confidence, reserved for a chosen few, who've truly seen and done it all. The tone made sense however, considering that the subject of this photo shoot was not just an "average Joe" in the lowrider scene. We were in the presence of the leader of Northern California's New Style Car Club, Doug Vigil. During his past three decades of service to our culture, he has been a New Style Car Club member for 16 years, and the ruling President for the last cinco.
As with most Car Club leaders, it took a few phone calls to track down this veteran, as we needed to build a trust among his people to assure them that we were truly who we said we were. No sweat, we explained that this assignment came straight from the Editor, Joe Ray, himself. Doug instantly gave us the green light, and set up a time to meet, so that he could share with us his stories and experiences regarding his life in the low-lane.
The first conversation we shared took place on a cruise in his black Benz, as we made our way to Modesto, California. It was early in the morning and unfortunately for me, Doug doesn't drink coffee, which made me shiver at the thought of us possibly not making a latte stop. Graciously, he obliged anyway and with coffee in hand, we went on about our schedule. He made a couple of calls as we drove, checking in with the two businesses he works with to make sure there weren't any emergency work obligations that might prevent him from focusing his time and attention on our interview. Luckily, nothing had come up, so he was cleared for the entire day. We all wish we could just build our dream cars for a living, but the reality is that we must all work outside businesses in order to remain stable for our families, especially in this economy. This work ethic is shared by Doug- even though he is New Style President, he holds down two other jobs to put food on the table. When he's out of the garage, Doug works as a foreman for J&M Inc. as a heavy equipment operator, and owns and operates his own service, Mel's Water Trucks in Modesto, CA.
His road to Lowrider royalty has been a long one, and before there were name plaques, club shirts, trophies and victorious car shows, there were bicycles. During his teen years in the late '70's, the bay area native molded up a Schwinn lowrider bike and joined Reality car club. Among the ranks of this club, Doug met Big Al Zepeda, aka "The King". Doug recalls the many times Big Al, "would pick [him] up, [along with] his bike, and take him to club meetings." This proved instrumental to his growth in the culture. "This membership and exposure to the car club gave [me] an opportunity to learn and move closer to the dream of owning and restoring my own car," he states. He also remembers competing against the legendary Alex Ochoa throughout those early years, eventually becoming good friends with him, as they shared bike building techniques with each other. Ochoa went on to form the Ochoa Bros. Kustoms shop, based out of Stockton, CA, finding motivation from their early experiences. Doug also garnered his first press in the late '70s, scoring front page coverage in his high school newspaper, and later with the Tracy Press for a Cinco De Mayo special feature. Even though he was still on two wheels, he was heading towards his destiny.