Public Perception, Persona, Profile, Reputation, StatureBack in the early ’60s, Noah “Gumby” Hipolito was like any young man of the time–into the flash of shiny cars and the allure of cruising them. Growing up in the city of Monrovia, California, Noah had a job that enabled him to purchase his first custom car, one that was good enough to enter the local car shows. It was a ’50 F1 Ford pickup that he found in Whittier, California, which belonged to a co-worker of his that he traded his ’64 Chevy for. Prior to this trade, he owned a ’50 Chevy four-door that had been lowered. It was his daily driver that he’d taken to both school and work. “Through the years I worked for car dealerships, like Nelson Pontiac, when I was 16 years old as a painter/helper, so I ended up with different cars,” Noah says. “I got my share of fixing them up, and the more I did, the more I got into working on my cars and taking them out cruising. We had Whittier Boulevard, both the low side and the high side. We had Atlantic Boulevard for the lowrider crowd and Whittier Boulevard near Colima Road on the high side, or white people’s side where they had their hot-rods that usually road higher than our cars. I would work in the day and go to night school. I was already living by myself.” His F1 pickup was his first show car. In the early `80s he was a member of the Antiques Car Club in East L.A.
All of the experience and knowledge Noah gained was channeled into his business of the restoration and repair of vintage cars. “I like what I do. I like working, especially on older cars, but I can work on anything, from the oldest to the newest, whatever comes up,” Noah says. “Since I have cars from the ’40s, people relate me to that era, mostly because of my bomb `Gumby.’ This car came about in 1984. I actually traded a brand-new Nissan for it. The previous owner said I had something he could use, he couldn’t, or shall I say didn’t, want to use the bomb as a daily driver,” Noah adds. “The car was in running condition, just stock, wasn’t that bad, but it didn’t have anything extra or fancy on it, like accessories.”
Once he got the car, he jumped on it right away by putting hubcaps on it, dropping it, and adding as many details as possible. It already had a V-8 engine in it and a new drivetrain, so he could take it anywhere without a problem and has driven as far as Las Vegas and Sacramento, California. “A few years ago I went up there in the bomb. I won Best Bomb at the Cal Expo Center in Sacramento,” Noah says. It’s also been on display at various venues, like the L.A. Sports Arena and L.A. Convention Center. The latest addition to his car collection is a ’37 Buick with a straight-eight.
He has long stopped working out of his backyard and somehow made time to make a little extra money to help keep his livelihood going. “Most of my customers are return customers from the beginning,” Noah says. In order to keep up with the stock parts, eBay has become his new swap meet, but without all the walking around. Sure there’s the Pomona Swap Meet, but he quips that the prices are just too much compared to eBay. “Sometimes we buy a whole car just to get one part and we end up with a lot more parts, but whatever it takes to finish a car, we do.” People have commissioned Noah and his workers to build cars for them. “As long as they’re patient and have the budget, we’ll work on the car.”
As for his take on the lowrider culture, he says he has mixed feelings on what’s happened in the last 35 years. “It’s not getting better, too much new stuff, but that’s part of life. It’s called change,” he says. “Even all the magazines have changed. We used to have magazines that showed cars, now we have magazines that show more ads than cars; but they gotta get the money somehow to keep the books in print.” Noah is glad that they at least still have the big car shows to go to. He really enjoys attending car shows that feature vintage, restored vehicles or even the hot-rod shows to give him different ideas as to what can be applied to his own projects. “A lot of the younger generations are starting to get into the older stuff. It’s expensive but it’s like money in the bank because you’re investing in something that’s vintage, but if you put money into new cars, then that’s just money in the toilet. You keep it for 20 years and that car will be worth a lot more money, but if you keep a new car for 20 days you’ve lost half of the value,” he says.
From time to time the younger generation, the ones who are really into the older cars, will want to stick around and learn how Noah works on these vintage vehicles. “They come in and tell me that I don’t have to pay them to work here, but I can show them what it takes to work on these cars, if they show me that they want to learn. Don’t waste my time or yours–if they don’t like it, they get bored. I tell them to find something they do like because I’m too busy for that stuff.”
One of Noah’s pet peeves is when people who know nothing about the older cars cut and chop them up and then just put on a primer coat. “I see them do a lot of that stuff and before you know it, they try and make the windshield or doors fit and they can’t because they don’t. Then they come to me with a messed up car and ask me if I can make it look nice.” If you’re looking to have Noah build you a vintage car, you’re looking at a minimum of six months to a year for it to happen, and you’d better have the budget to do it. As far as advice: “Get the car running before you do anything else to it.” Once you have a nice car all done up, what is there to do with it? Well, there are car clubs to join, like Oldies, which is Noah’s car club, where he’s been the president of the San Gabriel Valley chapter for the last 20 years.the car.”