On February 9, 1959, the nation was mourning the recent loss of Ritchie Valens, one of the first major Hispanic musicians to reach major crossover success in the United States, and a 2001 Rock ‘N Roll Hall Of Fame inductee. However, in the small town of Superior, Az., Richard and Linda Ochoa were celebrating the birth of their first child, Richard. Years later, as the jefitos continued to instill family values to all four siblings, the Ochoas’ moved to Mesa. Those values included, without exception, to love, respect, and support the familia, and to use passion to take on life’s challenges and opportunities. For the last four decades, that passion has belonged to lowriding, and it has run steadily through the veins of this 2009 Lowrider Hall of Fame honoree.
Richard Ochoa’s love for cars, especially lowriders came very easy, as it was in his blood. A second generation Lowrider, Richard recalls his father cruising the streets of Superior in his ’55 Pontiac. Today, the family album still has the nostalgic photos of the elder Ochoa posing in front of that lowered Star Chief. In the mid 70’s, with his father’s influence of cars behind him, and the cruising scene in the Phoenix area surrounding him, Richard knew it was time to build his first lowrider. This desert low, ’64 Impala, boasted an extraordinary California style paint scheme that was deemed “ahead of its time” by many of the AZ cruisers. Throughout the years, Richard has built numerous rides, some of which have made the pages of LRM, most notably his ’76 Monte Carlo, “Sweet as Candy”. As he became known for the custom paints layered on these vehicles, it was the intricately customized interiors that truly became his calling card. As a previous upholsterer by trade, Richard has always created the interiors in his Ariza cruisers, and is currently near completion on his latest creation, a ’59 Impala H/T.
In the late 70’s, Richard co-founded Pride C.C. Although, the club was well known in the Mesa area, it too, was not immune to the period’s conflicts between rival barrios and neighboring cities. The conflict inevitably affected the club’s base of members. With the violence reaching the club internally, it was time to apply those instilled values and protect his wife and son; it was time to leave the club. This life-changing experience and lifestyle change would set an example and be an inspiration for fellow cruisers, friends, and siblings. For the next few years, Richard continued cruising without a club plaque, but with the heart of a hundred members. And there, at Pioneer Park, is where he discovered that others had similar sentiments regarding the incorporating of family values and using them to move lowriding into a more positive light. In 1980, Richard founded Society Car Club behind those initial philosophies, which still hold true today within the clubs’ charter. These morals carried over into what would eventually become his inspiration as a cultural leader and positive role model for the next 30 years.
In 1983, with the support and confidence of his wife, Teresa, Richard and Society C.C. produced the first Lowrider car show at the Mesa Community Center. The show’s small budget was solely financed by Richard, and was not financially successful in its initial years. However, Richard, as a true visionary, could see the potential benefits that the event could bring to the club and the community. With his perseverance, he educated club members in the various aspects of the show, including the judging. In fact, a majority of the Lowrider Magazine Tour judging staff, which includes senior judge Richard, are products of that initial Mesa Show training. In the show’s fourth year, his persistence prevailed, as the event showed a profit for the first time, and Richard unselfishly knew that it would benefit everyone. He decided “it was time to give back,” something his club has done generously countless times over the years. In all, Society Car Club has donated over $40,000.00 to local scholarships and non-profit organizations. “It was satisfying to see all our hard work pay-off in presenting a show that would benefit the community,” he says of the initial profit turn. Though under his guidance, he is quick to point out that Society members’ hard work would not be overlooked. “The Mesa show’s success allowed the club to operate as a self sufficient organization. It wasn’t a bad gig as members had the ease of traveling to car shows, with travel expenses and professional auto transporting of the show cars to be paid directly by the club account,” he remarks. Paying their own way to the local show was a sure thing, but it didn’t stop there. Richard also adds that “this concept took the Society families to lowrider show destinations throughout the southwest.” In 2002, Society C.C., with Lowrider Events, co-produced its last show, the Phoenix Supershow. In its 20 years, under the leadership of Richard, the annual show prospered into one of the largest and popular lowrider events in the country.
Though, his primary focus is no longer the annual show, Richard continues to be very active in the lowrider community. In 2004, he promoted the first Arizona Lowrider Arte Symposium. Held at the Mesa Southwest Museum, the successful event displayed the works of Chicano artists and the “lowered” automotive art form. It also presented an open dialogue forum regarding our culture, heritage, and the influence of lowriding in today’s communities. Recently, Richard has co-founded MotorSport Showcase, with the goal of the company being to continue promoting the lowrider sport on a larger scale. One of his first projects was coordinating the 2008 Lowrider Art Gallery at the Mesa Art Center. The exhibit featured works by renowned lowrider and tattoo artists, as well as a show area displaying Arizona’s finest rides. The event was a success and gained national media attention, including that of the Phoenix Art Museum. Throughout the summer of 2009, the Phoenix Museum and MotorSport Showcase, under the direction of Richard, displayed a Chicano art exhibit, which included lowriders, and provided public education on the history and future of the Lowrider.
Through the countless volunteer hours on community issues, and his tireless promotion of car shows, fiestas, concerts, car club picnics, and charity fundraisers, Richard has incorporated an educational format focused on the history of this automotive culture. Also, as an ambassador of the sport, Richard has fought to remove the negatively stereotyped stigma of decades past in his promotion of lowriding. His goal is to achieve a more positive view of the culture within mainstream America and the media. Remaining humble, Richard sincerely states, “I could not have done any of this without the support of my wife, Teresa, my family, and my Society carnales.”
In 2004, Richard co-chartered the official Lowrider Hall of Fame and has presided on the Executive Committee since its inception. This is where it gets tricky; for those of you that know Richard, know that he wears humility on his sleeve. As an executive member, he was content with his position, and has declined prior nominations by fellow members. However, this year, with the numerous unanimous nominations and recommendations being written in, as well as hundreds of heartfelt “it’s long overdue” and “he’s well- deserving” sentiments from the lowrider community, this humble man from the desert accepted his place in history as the 2009 LHoF Lifetime Contributor honoree. Paz!