All across the nation, in ‘hoods everywhere, there are a million and one stories … and this is one of them. There are a lot of people who would lead you to believe that lowriding breeds gang bangers, thugs, and general chaos. Unfortunately, those same people will never look for or tell you stories of how lowriding has changed peoples’ lives in a positive way. But we will. When we took a trip to Tulare, California, to visit Joe’s Auto Works we knew we were going to visit a talented painter. What we didn’t know was that we were going to get an inspirational story-one that we wanted to share with you, our readers.
Joe’s childhood started out well enough. Born in El Monte, California, Joe soon moved to Woodlake and started hanging out at lowrider painters Jesse Medrano and Martin Mesa’s paint shop. They were the only ones in town painting lowrider cars, and that was something he wanted to be a part of.
Joe was a regular fixture every day, running errands for them, all the while soaking up their painting style and techniques. The paint jobs that Joe saw come out of the shops inspired him. Seeing them roll down the street and the attention they drew made Joe want to be a part of that. He wanted to be able to paint his own cars and his friends’ cars, but at that time, as a teenager, he had other things tugging at him. The call of the streets become stronger and stronger and for a while Joe succumb to them. Like the poorest areas in L.A., Chi Town, and New York City, the scourge of drugs, prostitution, and robbery surround them. Goshen, California, made the draw to street life inevitable.
It was the birth of his first child that was the spark that Joe needed to start turning things around. He got his GED and went to an autobody and paint trade school to learn the correct techniques. Joe probably could’ve just picked up painting techniques in the streets but his decision to go to school speaks to the dedication that he had for his craft. With the proper education he learned things like collision work, which for any body shop is the bread and butter. He wanted to be able to do it all and do it well. He worked at numerous shops, hanging out with better people and getting his act together. He would pull many 16-hour days in an effort to perfect his craft and have money to save. A number of years passed and Joe, in general, felt unappreciated and realized he would never get rich working for someone else. He also had a deep desire to work on lowrider cars, the very thing that got him into painting in the first place. So Joe took the savings he had accumulated and went out on his own. In 2004 he opened Joe’s Auto Works in Tulare, California.
After being our cover car (June ’08), Trino Alfaro and his “Cherry 64” wanted to redo the car, frame off. Joe was tapped as the man to make it happen and he went to work creating one of his finest masterpieces to date. The frame alone was quite impressive, and the finished product debuted at our Portland show with rave reviews. Joe did a few touch ups and then went to work on his patterns. What emerged was a masterpiece. Joe’s patterns have that old-school flair of his heroes growing up and he incorporated quite a few paint tricks of his own in Cherry’s build. Joe is looking to do many more top-notch cars in the near future. He wants to build cars that will live in lowrider history as pieces of rolling art.
He’s also looking down the road and wants to retire at age 40. Since he’s opened his shop, or been painting for that matter, he hasn’t had the chance to build a car of his own. Being able to paint his own car was the very reason he got into painting to begin with. So when he retires he wants to build his own cars, in addition to a few select customers.
In the meantime, it’s full-steam ahead for a guy who made good and is doing some mean old-school paint jobs right now. His legacy will live on forever in the pages of magazines as well as in his paint jobs, but for now Joe’s living proof that good things come out of the ‘hood and lowriding.