You can bet that the main concern of those preparing for the annual Lowrider Nationals was how sweaty hot it’s going to be in August in Bakersfield, California. Located in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and a rapid trip up from the “City of Angels,” the Kern County Fairgrounds is the main casa to the indoor, outdoor Lowrider Nationals Summer Slam car show and concert with the main hook being that top winners take home a ring for bling, but diamond-encrusted dentistry has yet to be explored. The single-day event to some is about ground-pounding hoppers and going paint to paint against the best competition that the sport has to offer, but, oh, there’s so much more to tickle the flame in the brain.
Last summer, the West Coast was in the middle of a searing heat wave that was exploding power pole transformers like hydro hopper pumps on overdrive stressing for 100 inches. So with the show looming with custom car entries on the arrival, entertainment and a hefty complement of sponsors on the line, the staff had their fingers triple-crossed for a good show and some cool weather.
Getting things in order means that Rick Munoz, Lowrider Nationals president and CEO, oversees the entire scene, which brought in more than 500 lowriders, power-packing import racers, a mass of custom bicycles, monster 4-bys, luxury dub rides and swivel-door SUVs to near fairground capacity. “Our ninth year had record numbers of the finest show cars, clubs, hoppers, performing artists and thousands of fans, but the 10th year anniversary show in 2007 will be off the hook,” says Rick, who goes on to say, “We are pulling out all of the stops for the big 10.”
As the day shifted into automatic, the indoors quickly lit up with the glamorous likes of cruising masterpieces like Anthony Fuentes’ “Sundance” ’63 Chevy Impala. which was in a ring race against Tanya Maxwell and her ’63 Impala powerhouse, “Ultimate Obsession,” from the Ultimate Riders group. With the inside showcase throwing down, the outdoors was another show and shine spectacle featuring strong local appearances from Majestics to Nokturnal, the Lowrider Club of the Year Oldies C.C. and Carnales Unidos among several area truck clubs.
Of course, brisk business between automotive buyers and sellers is often a good barometer of a healthy show economy. Interested motorists visited show sponsors like Goya Foods, Budweiser and Dr. Pepper, along with the U.S. Army and radio stations such as Hot 94.1 FM, Pirate Radio 93.1 FM and The Beat 96.9 FM.
The Nationals encompasses a number of exciting views but what the show was founded on was the excitement of the single- and double-pump hydraulics contest, and any fan will tell you that they’ll jump at the chance to see a car soar in the air or flip on its side in the Radical Car Dance contest. One time, Hoppo’s Hydraulics owner Art Tuason gave onlookers a show when his skyscraping hopper turned into a raging inferno on the same field. The stage was set on large plates of construction steel and the grandstands were teeming with fans watching a 30-car lineup begin a 211/42-hour hopfest. As the afternoon wore on, the battle of attrition left burnt trunk motors, busted ball joints and plenty of blown hoses spraying hydraulic oil across the pit.
It could take months to field a competitive hopper with no guarantees that the investment will be returned. The Street Single-Pump Hop saw Danny Rodriguez (Brown For Life C.C., Santa Ana, California) launch to a First Place win, while Jason Garcia (Beach City Customs, Long Beach, California) beat back all challengers in the Street Double-Pump category. Radical hoppers take it to a higher level, like an athlete on steroids. The crowd was totally switched on to the likes of Eddie H. (National City, California) in the Radical Double-Pump class. Climbing to the upper reaches of the Radical Street Dance was veteran switchman Jerry Lamm and the last winner was Peter Cuevas in the Double-Pump Street Luxury class.
Winning the coveted rocks on a ring and the cool distinction of being named the 2006 National Champion were some famous faces and interesting challengers in the car phase of the show. Entrant Tony Vera (Nite Crowd C.C., Compton, California) captured National Champion status and won in the Luxury Car class, while the Car Championship went to Anthony Fuentes (Southside C.C.) who realized a top win with his golden six-trey.
Still other champs were to be given rings like Rosalio Perez (San Jacinto, California) now the National Truck Champion with his ’79 Chevy El Camino, “Gold Dust,” and in the latest class named National Champion Dub, the ring went to Jonathan Vargas with a 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 widely known as “Trophy Taker” from Nokturnal C.C. And lastly, the newly awarded National Champion Bicycle was handed to Art Garcia (Thee Artistics, Anaheim, California).
Digital, video and phone cameras are all the rage in today’s instant-media market. Many show fans carry them to record modification ideas, snap up friends and girls, and the day’s spirited entertainment, too. Up on the Budweiser stage were rap rhymesters Bubba Sparxxx fanning the flames of fame with other underground micmasters like Malverde, Brown Boy, Luna and Moz.
The Lowrider Nationals posted another successful show event. The producers continue to spotlight the attractive and intense urban car culture as it thrives and drives along our streets, while all along mindfully sharing the culture’s passion and artistic creativity.