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Austin Car Clubs Give Community A Lift

Dani Matias
Lowriders are customized with hand-painted designs, engravings and pinstriping.

Some kids come home from school and hog the television remote or hide behind their smartphone for hours. Nine-year-old Angel Martinez, however, is usually found twisting a wrench on his “lowrider” bicycle or helping his dad wipe oil off car parts.

Lowriders say the hobby teaches kids how to care for something, learn independence and, most importantly, helps keep them off the streets. That’s why Luis Martinez wants to pass on his passion to his son.

Instead of getting involved with drugs or gangs, Angel can "come home and look at his bike and clean it," Martinez said. "[He] gets it ready for the next show or whenever the next weekend [is that we're] going to go ride.”

Lowriding originated in East Los Angeles around the 1950s. The cars, customized with hand-painted designs, engravings and pinstriping, are fitted with hydraulic systems that allow them to jump up and down. The street-hopping, colorful vehicles require hours of work and are usually passed down from generations.

Credit Dani Matias
Angel Martinez helps his father work on lowriders.

Movies often portray lowriding as a gang-related activity, but Cruisin car club member Matt Almaguer says that’s just Hollywood. He says today’s lowriders are hoping to leave behind something more impactful and positive. They want to present the hobby as family-oriented and an opportunity to “come together,” he said.

Robert Rodriguez, the president of Austin Lowriding, says maintaining a lowrider is a continuing process of “tender lovin’ care.” More importantly, he said, it’s an activity that opens doors to better things.

“Instead of being in the streets doing bad things, this is a good, positive thing for … families and the children,” Rodriguez said.

Austin Lowriding is dedicated to bringing car-centric clubs together and promoting car club events held in Austin. Rogerick Davis, who co-founded a club called Hands Full of Cash, said he loves getting the different car clubs together.

“My favorite thing is the respect, you know?” Davis said. “We can all come together as one without any problems and that’s what I like about it, a club atmosphere.”

Davis said when all the cars clubs are together in one area, it’s nothing but a good time. Since kids often tag along with their parents, the clubs try to host events during the day.

Each car club has a different style; their rides differ based on the club’s signature and an individual’s preferences. Brown Impressions is known for engraving and artwork on its cars, for example, while La Familia has its name plastered on windshields and other areas of the cars.    

Credit Dani Matias
Robert Rodriguez, president of Austin Lowriding, says maintaining a lowrider is a continuing process of "tender lovin' care."

Some of the cars are custom-made with Spanish terms and phrases of endearment like “Este Amor Es Real” (This Love Is Real) and religious symbols like the Virgin Mary. There’s something about these personalized cruisers that offer solace to those who work day and night providing for their families, like lowrider Stacie Ramos.

Ramos said for her, lowriding is a release.

“Out of the stress of all week long, you know, having your 9-to-5 or whatever job you have, you know it all comes with stress,” she said. “But when you’re lowriding, when you’re cruising your car you worked really hard in, and it’s actually running, driving you somewhere, it’s a really nice feeling.”  

Many lowriders don’t come from the wealthiest of backgrounds, but say their experience offers more than money ever could. Most have very detailed cars, some like to keep it simple, and others are just starting off. But it’s the appreciation and support from the people around them that make this culture so special or what many say is “all they’ll ever need.”