Imaginative, Eccentric, Genuine, Unique, Distinctive, Master
Michael “Box” Patterson AKA “The Mojo Man” of Los Angeles, California, has been in the Lowrider game for years. The 53-year old Dorsey High graduate has seen his share of crazy experiences within his lifetime. In his teens, Michael was already immersed in a culture that most people considered to be “trouble.” The enthusiasm for his new love almost led him in that direction, however. “I almost caught a case stealing tail-gate pumps and playground coils with my friend Lonnie Bolden of Professionals Car Club, when I was fourteen years old,” he says. He quickly straightened up, and dove head on into a culture that would ultimately shape his life forever. Fast forward to 2009, and that culture that was once thought to be detrimental to society has now been classified as a legitimate lifestyle, and a lifestyle that Michael has never lost sight of along the way.
Box’s career in hydraulics dates back to the 60’s and 70’s, an early age when people were still trying to hop tall boys (22 ounce beer cans). Learning through trial and error, Box quickly made a name for himself in the hydraulic world. In his lifetime, he has learned several secrets from experienced individuals, and has mastered the art of taking hydraulic parts that were made for different operations and integrating them within the context of Lowriding. From tail-gate lift, to aircraft hydraulics, Box has mastered the art of pump building, creating low maintenance, and virtually bullet proof hydraulic systems. Simply put, as he has integrated, he has innovated, and he has certainly raised the bar when it comes to building Lowrider pump setups.
Box’s craftsmanship and attention to detail can be seen throughout countless past magazine articles from the United States and Japanese publications. Box is considered to be among the first pioneers who created custom setups that took custom tail-gate pumps to a whole new level. He has created a style that has been around for years, but one that he has never really taken any credit for. People since have mimicked and been influenced by Box’s “Mojo” style hydraulics. At first glance, Box’s pumps might look like a setup with oversize fittings, however these setups have more to them than that. Most of these setups have custom machined fittings that help to keep the system from leaking, and allow the hydraulic fluids to flow smoothly and efficiently through the hydraulic system. Box also dialed in the hydraulic principal of volume and pressure, making sure that all of his pump heads are machined to his specs. Why do this? This process means that Box’s pump heads can produce and handle more pressure and volume than any off the shelf pump heads. Some of his specially ported and polished pump heads that are still in use, can produce more efficiently than the Italian and other modern aluminum pump heads that are being used today. Each and every setup that Box has worked on is one-of-a kind, based on the principles he has used in all of his builds, but each build is tailored specifically to the weight and size of each vehicle, to produce the desired effect. These principles usually require him to use square dumps and water faucet slow downs, which generally help to ensure the proper fluid accuracy.
The multi-talented “Mojo-Man” has a lot of history behind his work, as he was even included in helping to establish the first set of hydraulic rules back in 1990. Some of these rules are still in use today, with slight modifications being added since the time they were initially created. In 1991, Box became the Main Hop judge for Go-Lo Entertainment. Once the Japanese Lowrider scene picked up in the 90’s, Box turned in his hop measuring stick, and decided to concentrate on owning and maintaining his shop. The demand for hydraulic systems soared during this time, but after a few years, Box decided to completely change his profession, and became a self employed truck driver. Box’s timing couldn’t have been any better, as the hydraulic market tanked and Box happily hit the road as a hauler. Currently, Box is still self-employed, and owns his own custom Peterbilt tractor that has logged thousands of miles across the United States. When we caught up to Box for this interview, he had a few things to say about his past:
“When I was a youngster living in South Central, I remember several things. If you lived on the West side you didn’t go to the East side, and the same went for the East side guys. For those of you who don’t know South Los Angeles, often abbreviated as South L.A., its a large geographic and cultural portion lying to the southwest and southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The area was formerly called South Central Los Angeles, and is still widely known as South Central by all the OG’s that grew up there. There was an invisible border that everybody respected, which is how some of the cruising spots came to life on our side of town. I was on Crenshaw before there was “Crenshaw.” All Crenshaw had when we were growing up was a section with auto dealerships that had glass windows. So, on the weekends when we use to wash our cars at the local car wash and wanted to see how our cars looked, we would drive through these spots. If you were on a date and wanted to see how you looked with your date in your car, you would roll this same strip. The Crenshaw that everybody talks about now didn’t become that way until the mid 90’s.”
Becoming known as “The Mojo Man” also yielded an interesting story from Michael. Apparently, he can simply look at a car and to this day, the car will tell him what kind of hydraulic system needs to go into it. “I’m like the village elder in the African culture who will cast a spell to ward off evil spirits,” Box explained. “These secret spells were done in herbal bags, amulets and charms. These village elders would drop that “Mojo” and it would protect people on their journey. My way of giving people that same good luck is through my hydraulic systems,” he laughs. “I’m just kidding. There was actually this youngster, Eric from New Orleans, who had a pink ’63. He was one of my first customers, and when they asked him what made the car jump, he said it was because of the car’s “mojo.” The name has stuck [with me] ever since,” he says. The name stuck for good reason as the ’63 he built soon became a local legend. “Once the cars were ready, we would head out to a local cruise spot like Church’s Chicken on Century and Vermont,” he says. “People would gather and wait for this fellow that was the “top dog” to pull up, and they knew that once that car pulled up, they were in for a treat. When this ’63 Impala was going to hop, people would stay quiet and silence would fill the parking lot,” he recalls fondly. “The car had a bunch of tricks to it, long hoses to allow the fluids to flex, it also had the crowd favorite, [which was] a hidden bell in the fender that would ring when the car caught enough air,” he states, adding that “the people used to go wild when they heard that bell ring!”
Spending time with a veteran like “Box” only reiterates the stories, memories, and good times that our wonderful culture resonates more and more with each passing year. It’s clear that he’s definitely got the itch to build some more amazing setups as his eyes lit up with every story he shared with us. In fact, for those interested in obtaining a legendary set up from Michael “Box” Patterson, you’re in luck, as he is working on bringing his “mojo” to another shop soon.