For the past few years, it has been my honor to be part of the Lowrider Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. And in that time, I have spoken about lowriding’s evolution into a world wide revolution. It has evolved from its modest beginnings of individuals cruising the barrios of Aztlan into today’s car clubs that have established numerous chapters throughout the U.S. and abroad. I’ve highlighted the progression of yesterday’s lowrider movement, or onda, into today’s mainstream automotive sport. Although those speeches emphasized lowriding’s development over the decades, the main objective was, and is, to remember what, and more importantly, who got us here. In its fifth year, the tradition continues, as the LHoF proudly honors four gentlemen who have helped pave the way throughout lowrider history.
This inception began about 6 years ago. As I worked the Go-Lo tour, I would hear young lowrider enthusiast get excited about how he met or took a photo with a “lowrider legend”. Don’t misunderstand. I, too, have the utmost respect for these “proclaimed” individuals, but the last time I checked, appearing on the lowrider scene or even winning a few titles in an eight to ten-year span may have you idolized or admired by some. But “legend”–it’s in a class all its own. That title belongs to those that have given A LIFETIME to a just cause.
More importantly, what saddened me was how a true legend, who has given so much to lowriding, can walk down the aisles of a car show unrecognized or even acknowledged with a simple hand shake or thank-you for his inspiration, innovation and never-ending dedication throughout lowrider history. Instead, he’s just looked upon as “the old vato at the show.”
Presently, lowriding is fortunate to have numerous veteranos who, undoubtedly, have given their lifelong commitment and passion to this onda and sport. And for those decades as automotive artists, inspirational leaders in your clubs, or as mentors in your communities, your convictions will not be forgotten, as the Lowrider Hall of Fame continues to strive in recognizing those individuals who have been instrumental in influencing lowriding’s past and present, as well as, its future. I have no doubt that the LHoF will have numerous respected individuals to honor for many years to come.
The criteria set forth are as follows:
The LHoF Nomination Committee, consisting of Lowrider Events judges and past honorees, will submit all nominations to the LHoF Executive Committee. These nominees, with a required minimum of 20 years involved in the lowrider culture and/or sport, are reviewed and final inductees are confirmed by the Executive Committee.
The category honors are as follows:
Memorial Honor – Recognition of a deceased individual who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the lifestyle and/or automotive sport of lowriding; in regards to leadership, craftsmanship, or lifetime contribution. Does not require 20 year minimum history.
Leadership Honor – A founder/leader, which has directly affected the course, actions, contributions, and positive influence of a recognized and organized group and/or car club.
Craftsmanship Honor – Designer, builder, artist in creating original and outstanding vehicles. Also, exhibiting these vehicles for a consistent period of time.
Lifetime Contributor Honor – A community leader and/or activist with a lifelong dedication of time, resources, and heart in contributing, influencing, and/or investing directly back into the lowrider community. This category may include individuals who promote lowrider events that simultaneously educate and entertain such community.
In this milestone year, the LHoF Executive Committee will proudly induct into the 2009 Lowrider Hall of Fame Mr. Louis Barrios, Memorial Honor; Mr. Eddie Tovar, Craftsmanship Honor; Mr. Harvey Reyes, Leadership Honor; and Mr. Richard Ochoa, Lifetime Contributor Honor. Come join the lowrider community on September 12 at the Long Beach Hilton for a night of celebration and admiration for their own. You truly don’t want to miss it! Paz.
Designer, builder or artist in creating original and outstanding vehicles, also, exhibiting these vehicles for a consistent period of time.
The Tools of a Family Tradition
The humble Tovar brothers are second generation car customizers who are no strangers to the pages of Lowrider or the lowriding world. For over 30 years, the siblings have cemented their legacy and expressed themselves through their visions of slammed-to-the-ground custom bombs. We had the pleasure of catching up with Eddie, the oldest of the five siblings, to gain some insight on how the Tovars got started in lowriding, a passion steeped within family tradition thanks to the influence of their beloved father. In his own words, Eddie takes us on a journey through family, creativity, and the love of classic cars.
“Our dad was a car guy before he even met our mother. Back then, he had lowered Chevys, which were really lowriders according to today’s terms. The nicest car he ever had was a jet black ’46 Chevy Fleetline. He ran fender skirts and Appleton spotlights on the car, it was a super-nice, big-dollar car for its day. My dad was an airplane fabricator for Douglas Aircraft so he was very mechanically inclined, he could build anything as long as he had the right tools, and could still make due if he needed to. At an early age he taught us the value of good honest work, mechanical skills, and how to work and interact with each other. As the years passed, our father was diagnosed with an enlarged heart because of a clogged artery. Several heart attacks in a six-year span took its toll on my dad, until his passing from that last heart attack in 1969. His death brought our family closer together, as we all picked up the slack trying to fill his void. I went from being a boy, to becoming a man as I was the oldest of the kids. With help of my grandparents, my mom was able to bring us up, raise us to be tight, and help one another when someone needed a hand, all the while encouraging us to always look out for one another.
When my father was still with us, his garage full of his tools enabled me to have my first experience with practical mechanics. I got my start when my dad gave me a lawn mower to go out and cut lawns so I could make money for my things. I started doing lawns for the neighbors until one day when the lawn mower blew up. I told my dad what had happened to the mower and he told me to bring it into the garage and see if we could find out what was wrong with it. He told me that we had all the tools, so I would have to take it apart. After about an hour and a half, I had it completely taken apart, and found out the problem. Dad told me it threw a rod so I needed to put a new rod in it. He gave me the rod (at the time we had a garage full of parts) and told me to put it back together. I shot him a bewildered look and thought, “put it back together?!?” He smiled and said, “yeah, you know how you took it apart, so just put it back together.” So I tried. It took me a day or two to put it back but with my father’s help, I did it. I felt a great accomplishment as not only had I put it back together, but it also ran perfectly, so that was actually my first experience with working on anything mechanical.
After that, we got mini bikes, which sometimes broke, and we had lowrider bikes, which my dad used to paint for us, complete with spotlights and chrome fenders, sissy bars, and those metal flake seats. At a early age he used to do things for us that really influenced us, for example, I still have my first Tonka truck that he lowered and flaked out the top. This Tonka truck served as the blue print to what would be my first car. As I was growing up, my Grandpa Pete said, “Mijo, this truck is going to be yours when you get old enough to have it,” and he kept his promise. When I was old enough to drive he gave me the truck, and that’s when I started lowriding. I de-arched the leaf springs to lower it, put some chrome rocket wheels on it, and then eventually threw on some Tru Spokes. We couldn’t afford to take our cars to body shops, so we learned on our own. As soon as we were able to paint, we candied and two-toned the truck the same way that my dad had painted the Tonka truck.
Our uncles also taught us bodywork and were very influential on us. They’re a little older than us, in fact, they used to cruise Bellflower and Whittier Boulevards back in the day. My uncle Freddy, my uncle Raymond, and my uncle Gilbert used to go out there in their cars. In those days, they used cement bags to lower their cars. We had an uncle Raul who used to channel his cars as well. He had a brand-new ’54 Chevy at the time. Like I said, we couldn’t afford to take our cars to go have them painted or get new brakes put in, so we learned right here in our garage. If a situation occurred where we couldn’t do it or couldn’t finish the job, we would ask someone to help us complete it. In most cases though, we would end up figuring it out by ourselves.
Our mom was very supportive of our hobby, and was always cool with us having a car as long as it was insured. She use to tell us “I’m not going to lose my house because you guys don’t have insurance!” So we all had our jobs, mine just happened to be wheels and tires. I got my first job with a wheel place and I’ve been doing that just about all my life. I’ve seen all kinds of cars hot-rods, customs, and lowriders, I guess you could say that I know what’s going on out there with all the current styles of wheels that people are using.
Believe it or not, what helped in achieving our style was a welding machine, an MIG welder to be exact. Things changed for us big time. We got our cars and our style by using that welder in ways we’d only dreamed about until then, so once we had that, it was on. After I bought a welder and a plasma cutter, I decided to take my 1948 and went ahead and body dropped it, in order to get the car lower to the ground. This decision really changed and defined our style of the cars that we would build. After a few weeks of working on the car and dialing in all the obstacles that we encountered, we did the same sectioning procedure to Michael’s green ’39. This type of car build became our signature and part of the Tovar identity. Now with every car we build, people expect us to section and body drop, it’s definitely a lot of work but I don’t think we would have it any other way.
Our dad was only 39 years old when he passed away. He didn’t leave us with much, but he did leave us with a garage full of tools, and for that, we are forever grateful, as that’s where we got started. When anything broke down we went to that garage, and we built all of our cars out of that little garage too. We didn’t know very much about life, but we learned to be there for one another, thanks to the way our grandparents raised us. My mom was the backbone of the Tovar family, she always supported us in the lowrider life. My backbone now is my wife Teresa, who I have been married to for 31 years. She has always supported me 100 percent, when we first began dating, our dates would be going to a car show or sometimes cruising to Whittier Blvd, depending on the mood. Once we got married, nothing ever changed; if I wanted to do something to a car she would tell me to go for it. If I needed an extra pair of hands she would be there, from helping with a windshield to adjusting a hood. Even my daughter Melissa, and my youngest daughter, Valerie got caught up helping. If I needed to bleed brakes they would be there to help out because of this type of family support that we share. Without this type of support I don’t think I would be where I’m at today. We stick together because family is number one to us.”
This humble family attitude is what earned Eddie this year’s spot in the Lowrider Hall of Fame. Hopefully soon his brother will follow, as the whole Tovar family deserves to be inducted, but for now it will have to be one brother at a time.