The annual October crowning of each year’s Lowrider Super Show Champions in Vegas is a very special moment. For most, it sums up the thousands of hours of dedicated effort and hard work that competitors see through the long road they’ve travelled in building their perfect creation. For one particular person, who has been building bikes and trikes for over 10 years, it also illustrates what pursuing a dream is all about. Tony Ortega, of Tombstone, Arizona, finally received something he had been seeking for over a decade; top honors in being crowned the 2010 Trike of the Year Champion. The road to success can be a long one, and no one understands and appreciates that journey more than Tony. For years, this dedicated builder has put in countless hours in building his two and three-wheel beauties, for his quest to compete in car shows throughout the southwest.
Tony’s success in bike building actually began with his first car project. While entering a car show in Duncan, Arizona, Tony fell in love with the 2-wheel version of Lowriding and quickly took an interest in Lowrider bicycles for their style and beauty. Curious, he felt his own creative talents might make for a good transition into this new world of bike building. When Tony commits to something, he has no trouble in staying on task, a trait that would be very valuable to him within the bike building arena. Looking to get a better perspective into the bike building phenomenon, he did what any young American would do; he got on the World Wide Web and began researching this exciting subculture. Before long, he found Finest Creations Bike Club, which opened his eyes to the sport even more. He established a dialog with the bike club, and since he was in Tombstone, a town known more for horses and wagons than candy paint and chrome, he was forced to embark on this ten year journey on-line. Tony made the best of his long distance relationship with the sport, and eventually he physically joined Finest Creations Bike Club. One thing Tombstone did have was Lowrider Magazine. Coupled with what he was learning online; these two resources gave Tony a great foundation within the two-wheel world. Because his interest was so genuine and he was so isolated from other builders, this local from Tombstone started his journey without prejudice or bias.
When Tony finally connected with someone to learn from, he learned from one of the best, as Tony’s mentor was the four-time Bike Champion, Mike Lopez. Tony gives him full credit for opening his eyes to many of the creative ideas or concepts that rule the bike world; many of which became realized through Tony’s ambitious builds. He also created his bikes by taking the Lowrider Rule Book into consideration. He mastered each point category, that way that maximum points allowable could be reached. As you see here with the 2010 Champion “Lunch Money,” paying attention to detail is certainly worth a lot more than the lunch money we took to school! The name comes from the fact that while Tony invested small amounts of money at a time in this build, the end result was a priceless champion.
As a builder, Tony quickly found out that bike engineering and part building was an area that required his full attention. In fact, he now owns and operates T and T Metal Workz in Tombstone, which makes custom bike and trike parts for the Lowrider market. Now a proud champion, Tony is quick to point out that getting to this highly respected plateau did not happen overnight. His family has been and always will be his support system in his Lowriding career. Although his mother is very proud of her son’s accomplishments, it was Tony’s Uncle Charlie, known as Tuna, who has always been there for his nephew. Tuna is a regular at the Lowrider Shows and is highly involved in helping Tony get his trike show-ready. This includes making the road trips with Tony and helping him tear the bike down after displays. I can speak from personal experience; when your family supports you, it carries you through the tough times so that you can truly share in the triumphs on the show circuit. Victory always tastes a little sweeter with family nearby.
When Tony’s not at a car show or building in his garage, his focus in life is education. Since receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree, Tony has spent the past three years working on his Ph.D. He is very determined in reaching this goal, and feels that education is the key to one’s success. This value was instilled in him at an early age by his beloved mother, who has been the inspiration for his continued pursuit in education. As a single parent, Tony’s mother worked her way through college in order to make a better life for her family, and as they say, “the fruit seldom falls far from the tree.”
Tony now flies the Rollerz Only plaque. The plaque means a lot for this champion, and he admires the club for many reasons, especially for being one of the world’s largest and most recognized car clubs. He stands beside and admires the many champions which also fly the RO Plaque, and credits the completion of his latest creation as being a club effort. “Lunch Money” was painted by John Twitty of the Kandyshop Kustoms in San Antonio, Texas and a member of Rollerz Only San Antonio Chapter. The upholstery and display were done by Margarito Patino, also a member of the RO Texas chapter. When it came to the engraving, Hernan’s Engraving transformed raw metal and chrome into a flowing work of art. Tony also wants to give props to Gene Bare and Mike Lindville of Rollerz Only for parts and work they contributed on the build. He also sends his respect to the Rollerz Only Phoenix Chapter for their support, and a thank you to Lowrider Magazine, for keeping up the standard of what Lowrider bikes represent across the board.
Tony is not done yet. He would like to finish his newest creation, which should be hitting the 2011 show circuit soon. This version has two wheels, but promises to be another Rollerz Only future showcase. Between Tony’s determination and family values, I guess he also shares the same motto of his home town, Tombstone Arizona, with Boot Hill and the OK Corral; “The Town Too Tough to die…”