It takes integrity, dedication, sacrifice, and persistence to become a true Lowrider Original, and in this issue, we sat down with someone who exemplifies all of these qualities perfectly. He is none other than Lowrider Legend, Anthony Fuentes; a mainstay of the Lowrider Movement since the 1970’s. Anthony was born in the city of Lynwood, CA, and he grew up around the buzzing Lowrider culture that was slowly emerging from the SoCal streets at the time. Anthony remembers playing in his neighborhood, and noticing that every other home either had a Lowrider car parked in its driveway or stored in the house’s garage. He longed for the day when his family would also have one of these amazing machines in its possession; a day that would soon come.
At the age of 9, Anthony’s fascination with these dream machines became a reality when his older brother, Ralph Fuentes, got his first car; a ’72 Grand Prix given to him by his father upon receiving his driver’s license at age 16. The eager young Anthony began accompanying his older brother to different cruising spots, such as Whittier Boulevard and Pacific Boulevard. Around that time, he met some of the scene’s OG Lowriders like Michael Tovar, Ted Wells and Magu. Though these guys were local legends already, his main influence was his older brother, Ralph. Too young to have or build his own car, Anthony wanted to express his creativity in this new and exciting Lowrider world, but didn’t have an outlet to do so. While cruising with Ralph, Anthony saw kids his age on Lowrider bikes, and he decided that building a bike of his own would be a great way to get involved with the culture. He figured he could learn how to work with his hands, and maybe even show off his bike at the shows he loved to attend. His optimistic world would soon change drastically, however, due to the unfortunate passing of his father during his high school years.
The Fuentes boys were now without a father, and older brother Ralph invited his brother to live with him, a move that young Anthony was grateful for. Ralph, wanting to keep a tradition alive, gave Anthony his first Lowrider car when he was 16, just like his father had done for him. This touching gesture gave Anthony a renewed sense of confidence, as well as a 1964 Malibu Convertible, that was lifted front and back. Encouraged by the positive influence of his older brother, Anthony focused on his Metal and Paint shop classes in high school, using the school’s resources to fix up and paint his own car. Anthony also spent time working at McDonald’s, and was able to save up enough money from the job to get some of the car’s parts rechromed, including the front and back bumpers and some of the moldings. Working on the car and seeing the progress he was making became an inspiration for Anthony beyond his belief, and it was at this turning point in his life that he forged his career path.
After high school, Anthony dove headfirst into car customization, and began working for the now legendary shop, Orlie’s Hydraulics, in 1986. The staff at Orlie’s Hydraulics was completely comprised of Lowrider enthusiasts, and they all learned from one another, forming a positive, team-like atmosphere. “It was like a big circle. When we installed a setup, we would all add our ideas, and whenever there was a problem, we all worked together to fix it,” Anthony explains. Unfortunately, Orlie had to move his shop and family to New Mexico, leaving a frustrated Anthony without a job. Out of struggle comes progress, and brothers Ralph and Anthony sat down to form a survival plan. The boys convinced their supportive mother to take out a second loan on the family home, money that they believed could become the seed money for their very own starter shop. The boys’ mother saw the determination in their eyes and the logic behind their plan and agreed, loaning the boys enough money to rent a one bay shop, complete with tools and supplies. This shop, located in the city of Huntington Park, CA, became the birth place of the now legendary Homies Hydraulics in 1989.
The first Lowrider that they lifted was “Trokita Loca.” The Fuentes brothers installed a two pump chrome set-up with four batteries, and haven’t looked back since. Considered one of the industry’s top hydraulic builders, shop owner Anthony knows that as long as everybody has imagination, the hopping world will forever evolve. I asked him if he felt that the hydraulic world was growing stale. “Everybody has ideas and adds their own input, and just when you think something is maxed out, someone else comes up with something new,” he says. “There’s no possible way it can be maxed out. When someone sees somebody else’s set-up, they use the influence to add their own twist or flavor. That’s what we are in now, it’s like a big circle. Everybody adds their own twist, and the circle just keeps getting bigger and bigger.” He speaks from first hand experience, and it’s definitely true that the hydraulic game has definitely come a long way since he started. Technology and research in the field has allowed for more reliable setups, and breakthroughs in the latest air-powered innovations. It’s definitely not the ’70’s anymore, and the set-ups that this hop wizard builds are certainly not your father’s set-up.
Anthony is not only known for building award winning set-ups, he is also known for building some of the top cars in the world, including his own “Fire,” “Big Dipper,” “7 Teaz,” and “Sundance.” His love for cars is not one dimensional, either. This pioneer has also built Woodys, Bombs, and he remains a big fan of Hot Rods and Rat Rods, showing his appreciation for any car that was built by paying attention to the details. “The game was missing details,” explains Anthony “At this last Super Show, you could tell that some cars were built without cutting corners, and were very detailed,” he says, adding, “The detail aspect has come a long way, and it was nice seeing that.” Anthony remains a builder for satisfaction, not for profit, even though some of his cars have been sold to Japanese collectors. When building his cars, Anthony explains that they are built to represent him to the fullest; he never envisions a project to be sold. It just so happens that every time he builds a car, someone comes to the table with the right offer, so he sells it and then he moves on to the next build. Anthony is not a selfish builder either, looking to gouge his customers for profit. When he works on their cars, he advises them on the virtues of building their ride to achieve a unique vision that will represent them. He also encourages them to be patient and not to cut any corners. Many other builders have come and gone, mostly due to the fact that they are in it for the wrong reasons, or just to make a quick buck. Anthony’s love for Lowriding is deep rooted, and his steeped history in the culture has garnered him the most valued asset our culture has to offer; respect.
Having been a member of South Side Car Club for years, he recognizes that the cars in the club represent the era that he grew up in, and the automotive dreams he had as a little kid. Times have changed drastically since then, and most purists feel that they have changed for the worse, for a variety of reasons. Anthony has his own feelings on the topic, believing that availability and the economy have been the most significant factors in the decline. “The lack availability of the rear wheel drive cars is part of it,” he laments. “Back in my day, we could buy a car for two or three hundred bucks, like a Cutlass, and it was an all around clean car. Nowadays, a 16-year-old can only afford the front wheel drive cars like the Toyotas and Hondas, so that’s what the new generation has to work with.” He raises a good point. “If they want a rear wheel drive car, they can’t afford it, so they’re stuck with what’s available for the cheaper price. Take the ’64 for example. A ’64 now is totally out of reach for the younger guys, especially the ones with younger families. So I think the economy has a supply of the cars which are just too expensive and out of reach for the younger generation, so they build what they can afford,” he says.
Anthony is currently not working on any new projects, but he does have some plans for “Sundance” for next year. Ever the consummate builder, Anthony undoubtedly has a few new tricks up his sleeve, which will force other builders to step their game up. Homies Hydraulics is doing well, and has built over 11,000 set-ups since it opened. At one time, they were putting together 2 to 3 setups per day, especially back in ’02 when they had to finish cars in time to meet the shipping boat cutoff dates for the shipments to Japan.
There is a long list of people that Anthony believes have helped make him into the person he is today. He would like to thank his older brother, Ralph Fuentes, Oscar Nunez, Peter Diaz, Mando Diaz, Ted Wells, and Michael Tovar for always being there for him from day one. Anthony’s knowledge of car and hydraulic building has enabled him to set many of the current standards in the industry, but his attention to detail and humbleness have been the main keys to his success. Enthusiasts, builders, OGs, and newbies alike respect his impact and presence in the game, both as a car builder and an all-around good person. For these reasons and many others, Anthony Fuentes is considered among the elite in the culture, and is deservedly this issue’s Lowrider Original. Thank you for your continued service and dedication to our wonderful culture, Anthony.