I thought I’d kick off this October issue by giving you a couple of my thoughts regarding the world of custom, tricked-out paintjobs for lowriders. Many of us in the community love to explore and surpass the boundaries of custom paint, searching for a look like no other; especially those of us who have to guess as to the number of colors we should stop at when we have our cars at the paint shop.
As lowriders, we like to apply numerous colors of candies, flakes, and pearls wherever metal exists on our cars, forgetting that we need to reserve room for striping and murals, too. For others, one single paint effect will do on a color. Among those who choose this method, Candy Apple Red is the number one favorite color, followed by Candy Blue. This is mostly because these two colors are more practical and tend to be more favorable to those who would lay eyes on our car, giving us a better chance of a thumbs-up approval.
Color schemes reign supreme, and it’s interesting to see certain colors come in and out of style as time marches on. For instance, if you choose to be a little different and think outside the box, you might be in accepted territory if you pick purple. An attempt in orange or Candy Lime colors would be a scenario in which you start to take revolutionary steps on the wild side. Some of these colors begin to look feminine, or not very manly. For those who like Candy Magenta, their receptions are usually split in half between those who would criticize it as a “woman’s color,” and those who love it but were afraid to try it on their cars because it’s too daring. When Candy Gold first came along during the early lowrider shows back in the late ’70s, I remember a good friend of mine had an Inca or Aztec Gold from the Lacquer Metal Flake brand candy sprayed on his brand-new ’77 Monte. The car had a great, bold look, and he was bold enough to name and make a show sign that deemed the car “Touch of Class.” We all thought that Candy Gold, though different from all the reds and blues, did stand out, but for all the wrong reasons. Well, before you knew it, every car in the shows for the next few years was Candy Gold. In fact, there was a time when I thought the color would become one of the Top 3 favorite colors of show cars out there.
While color choice is key, color blending combinations and techniques are crucial as well, considering the fact that most lowrider paintjobs have always been over the top. You want to remember that trying new techniques is unique, but don’t go too far over the edge because you know what happens. As extraordinary as multicolors can often be, it’s only when those colors are picked to blend and complement each other that they have the makings of a nice and unique paint creation. Today’s multicolored paintjobs are more consistent than contrasting—I mean purple, green, and yellow can make you nervous, but I must say that for the last 500 car shows I have attended, our paint colors mix together a lot better than in the past.
Our pinstriping has also become outstanding today in comparison to those from earlier times. Let it be known that a straight single color candy, with the right color mix or blend without pinstriping, will blow away any multicolor! I know you think I’m crazy, but I’m also considering the old-school Lacquer Candies that were sprayed over Murano Pearl, which came in mayonnaise-type jars; all you needed to make a base color flip around was a teaspoon full. It would take a painter (like Gary Baca) more than a day and a half, or at least 16 hours to complete the spraying of candy on a full-size car. He would thin out the paint with a 50-gallon drum of thinner, so there would be no blotches, clouds, or streaks, like those that can be found on some of the Urethane paintjobs today. There was no way to streak or blotch a straight candy, and with some added Jell-O brand food coloring dye on top of the coat, it was all over! You just couldn’t leave it in the sun for too long. Despite those crazy techniques, I have never seen anything close to those Candy Apples of yesteryears. If we compared candy paintjobs then and today using a scale, 10 being the best, then candies today are like 7s or maybe an 8. Sorry, I was there and you will get no argument from those who were there as well. When I tell these types of stories to younger people, they stare at me like I’m on the crazy train. When I toss in what cruising Whittier Boulevard was really like, they’ll start to ask me where they can buy a train ticket! In those days, you could see your base color, pearl, and candy as if they were separated by different dimensions.
On another note, it is a must to put down two kits of clear and to strive for something different. Today, everyone sees all those automotive custom paint color charts and they say, “I want that color!” That’s just wrong. Just hand your painter the $10,000 and tell him, “I like that color, but I’m sure everyone around the country has it. I’m paying you enough to be different, so shoot that color with a mix of another couple colors, and for the hell of it, put it on a Pearl White, charcoal, blue, or even a lavender base! It’s deeper than just gold and silver; you want to be different when you spend that kind of money.”
Getting back on track though, I would like to say that no paintjob is a paintjob until the bodywork and block work is done correctly, and with the right materials. Last, but not least, pattern and paint schemes should have a beginning and an end, and should be uniformed throughout the car. This problem with paintjob schemes is everywhere in lowrider shows today. Remember, it’s not a case where the one with the most patterns wins, trophies go to those who know which patterns go with certain car years and models. For instance, we don’t like flames because they’re for hot rods, right? Well in that sense, certain models and years of car bodylines need paint schemes or patterns that complement the car’s body style. You don’t color over the line remember? Luxury cars need to be patterned out differently than a fastback ’65 or ’67 Impala or a Rivi for the simple fact that Cadillacs and Lincolns just aren’t racing boats. Trick paint is cool; just don’t come off looking like “trick or treat.” No disrespect here—and I’m not in your car committee, but remember my Vegas car had a lot going on, too. One thing I’ve learned over the years as paint trends and fads have come and gone, is that some things SHOULD BE SEEN AND NOT NOTICED. We do need to know when to say when, and, even more importantly, so should the painter who empties your wallet.
In conclusion, there is no money in custom-painting lowriders because it’s a lot of work. The painters who shoot lowriders only do it to express their talent and the love they have for lowriding as a sport.
I’m not a painter, and I don’t pretend to act like I really know more than others, but if you have a lowrider and it’s getting painted, be patient enough to think out the color scheme, make sure the colors all match, and have your painter mix your colors to achieve a color that no one has. Be unique and elite! Also, be inside that booth when it’s time to spray it; that smell and memory will last forever. Always remember that it takes time, money, and a good lawyer to get that certain paintjob—sometimes even a divorce lawyer!