Public perception, persona, profile, reputation, statureGrowing up on the streets of Jalisco, Mexico, is no place for any youngster. With its busy street action and the possibility of getting tied up in the wrong element, it’s easy to imagine how a young George Luna got caught up in the gang lifestyle, which ended up becoming a big part of his life. Up until his teen years, George was surrounded by criminals, doing what he had to do but never getting carried away with his actions. He was always aware of his surroundings.
His family relocated to South Central Los Angeles, which George refers to as his “ghetto life.” The first thing 13-year-old George did was join a gang. Being the stranger on the streets of South Central wasn’t healthy, so George felt he needed to belong to something in order to fit in and survive.
But what about the cars and the lowriders? How did they fit into all of this? Well, to back up a bit, George actually bought his first car, a Volkswagen Bug, when he was just 10 years old. Since he was still in Jalisco and the laws are much different in Mexico, George found a way to drive and own his first car in the early ’70s. But George’s first taste of lowriding would be as a teenager when he found himself and his homies on Whittier Boulevard. “I was into gangs. We used to cruise Whittier Boulevard in my homey’s ’65 Impala, and we used to love it,” George says. “Cruising the streets and the hynas and partying all the time was something outta this world. I really liked it!”
Even though the experiences were overwhelming for George, it would be a while before he had his first legitimate ride. “I really wanted to get into a bomb, a classic car, because my dad was into them,” George says. “He had a ’51 Chevy that I learned to drive in, and he also had a ’51 Panel. I grew up as a mechanic with my dad who liked working on cars. I didn’t know what a lowrider was back then, I just knew what kind of car I wanted to have.” George didn’t really become a lowrider until he settled down from his ways of the gang life and began to work more on his car projects.
Learning the difference between the classic cars, like the tri-year Chevys, to his favorites, the ’40 and ’50 bombas, he gravitated to the vintage style of those cars where everyone had to be original. But it was a ’50 Chevrolet four-door fastback that would be George’s defining moment. “It had to be a four door because of [my] gangster mentality from the neighborhood because that’s four more homies to carry with you!” He found the Midnight Blue car in Compton, California, where he traded it out for his ’71 Chevy Impala, which was a nice ride but George just had to have that fastback. Once he got it, he washed it, put some gas in it, and headed to Whittier Boulevard, but to his surprise the car was marked so he had to get rid of it. After that, he found a ’37 Nash at the Pomona Swap Meet for $500. By this time he was 20 years old and was mellowing out from the gangster life to that of a family man. When he hit the Pomona Swap Meet he was cruising a ’67 Impala ragtop, but he fell in love with the Nash because he says it looked gangster.
The guys who brought George full circle were his friends “Negrito,” from Classic Memories Car Club, and Huero. “They are the ones who pulled me into lowriding,” George says. “I met these two on the streets. They wanted to buy my car. They were from different neighborhoods but they already had their cars together, and I was coming out of the ‘hood to become a family man. I didn’t know what was popular or what a ’49 Chevy was, I just knew that I liked four doors, lowered suicide doors, and it had to look Mafioso, so I got the Nash and then got hooked on going back and forth to Pomona.
The Nash had been sitting for about 25 years, so he had to get it running. It had a flathead six-cylinder engine, which is when he was first introduced to flathead engines. He used Coca-Cola and WD-40 to loosen the buildup rust on the engine, got it to run, drove it around a bit, and was hit up to sell it after the second time he went out in it, so he sold it to get a better car. “I still had my Chevy Impala and I bought some hydraulics. Since the car was already cut, I put the hydraulics in myself and then sold it to buy another bomb, but I ended up turning around and trading it for a ’39 Chevy Master Deluxe as an even trade,” George says. “It was a bucket, but hey it was a ’39 Chevy, and by that time I was already hanging around Classic Memories Car Club. By then I had walked away from my neighborhood with my new family and went to learn a trade as a mechanic. I was working in my own shop and still going to school. I found out though that in order to get a job the way I looked all tatted down, since people would look and judge me even though I wanted to be a good person, was to learn a trade where people would hire me because I had a skill not because of the way I looked. I went to school in Lawndale, California, to learn to be a mechanic and to do smog checks, which finally opened doors for me. I graduated two weeks later and started working right after that,” George says. Once he learned all that knowledge, he applied it to the lowrider part of his life.