From cruising up and down the Blvd. every weekend, to competing against the best-of-the-best at shows, Low Conspiracy did it all, and they did it with style. With a majority of their cars having candy paint, and all of their cars being lifted and riding on Zenith wire wheels, Low Conspiracy set the bar high in the late ’70’ and ’80’s. Reaching up to 80 members at one point, and helping to promote a new magazine called Lowrider Magazine, this club that was started by a few high school friends in San Jose, CA became one of the most legendary car clubs to have ever come out of Northern California.
In 1977, Low Conspiracy was established by 10 high school friends in San Jose, CA. One of the main guys was Jose Martinez, who became the club’s first president. “Everything was done democratically. From choosing the club’s name to picking the club’s colors, we all voted because it was everyone’s club,” he says with pride. Members suggested different names for the club and then took a vote. The name that Jose Martinez had suggested, Low Conspiracy was chosen as the name they would represent. When it came time to design the plaque, the newly formed club wanted to stand out from the crowd. Not wanting to have the letters on the plaque in a straight across position, the original members decided to slope the letters in the middle and have the ends come up sharply. “The club suggested the design of the plaque and [original club member] John Cortez drew up the club’s design,” Jose recalls. Within two years of its existence, the club membership had risen from 10 members to over 30 members. Being lifted and having Zenith wire wheels were a must for Low Conspiracy, as they had adopted a unified style. “When we had meetings, we would fill up the parking lot, and it would look more like a car show,” Jose says with a laugh.
In the same year that Low Conspiracy was formed, Larry Gonzales had established Lowrider Magazine. Being from the same city, it was only a matter of time before these Lowrider icons would cross paths with one another. Jose explained to me about his senior year in high school when he met Larry; “He came to my high school and started selling the first issue of Lowrider Magazine in the parking lot,” says Jose, who owned a ’75 Monte Carlo at the time. Larry was asking around to see who owned the Monte Carlo. When he found out that it was Jose’s, the two began talking about cars and became fast friends ever since. In the early years of the club, Low Conspiracy did a lot to help out Lowrider Magazine, even assisting Larry Gonzales in promoting the first car show that Lowrider Magazine ever had. “Low Conspiracy and Lowrider Magazine did a lot of things together in the early days,” says Sergio Martinez, a long time member of the club. “El Larry used to come to our meetings and he would tell us what he was trying to do with the magazine, so we worked together to help each other out.”
During the golden age of Lowriding, the legendary Story and King Boulevards in San Jose, CA would attract thousands among thousands of car enthusiasts and spectators alike, every weekend. People would come out to cruise the Blvd. from as far away as Los Angeles. One club that would always make their presence felt on the Blvd. was Low Conspiracy. “We used to cruise Story and King every weekend, from Friday to Sunday,” says Low Conspiracy member Sergio Martinez. “Once you saw another car flying your plaque you would follow him, before you knew it, you had a dozen club members cruising together. That was how we met up back when no one had cell phones,” explains Sergio. Another club that was known to cruise Story and King was New Style Car Club, also out of San Jose. “Back then, there was a friendly rivalry between Low Conspiracy and New Style,” says current Low Conspiracy president John Ponce. “I honestly think that if it wasn’t for the friendly rivalry, Low Conspiracy still wouldn’t be around.” Back then, both clubs were big and very popular. In a sense, it was the competition of trying to stay ahead of each other that kept the clubs going.
Just because Low Conspiracy would cruise Story and King every Friday through Sunday didn’t mean that they couldn’t compete against the best-of-the-best at car shows. “Low Conspiracy would fill up a whole building with show cars. Show cars that would be driven to the show,” says Jose Martinez. “It was one of my biggest memories” says John Ponce, as he recalls a car show that Carnales Unidos threw back in 1983 in Bakersfield, CA. “It was a classic showdown between North versus South.” Low Conspiracy, who drove all their cars down there, literally filled up a whole building, and Lifestyle Car Club filled another building. “It just went back and forth at the awards ceremony,” says John. “If Low Conspiracy wasn’t placing first or second, it was Lifestyle.”
Around 1986 the mini-truck phenomenon hit the Lowrider scene, dominating the culture with their tilt beds. The fad took off to the point that you would see more mini trucks at shows than Lowriders. “We had a lot of guys wanting to join the club with mini trucks, but thankfully, we stuck to our guns and kept it a traditional style car club,” says John. Low Conspiracy would have been a big club at the time, as far as numbers are concerned, had they allowed mini trucks. Instead of going with the fad of the time, they kept a low number of members in the club, but with quality cars. “That was a hard time for the club” explains John, “but if it only came down to being Sergio and myself in the club, then so be it.”
In September, Low Conspiracy had their annual picnic at Heller Park in San Jose, CA, where the first issue of Lowrider Magazine was shot. The club holds their annual picnic there to bridge the gaps between fellow members, new and old. “The guys in it right now are solid guys,” says John, adding “they have a lot of passion for it [lowriding].”
“We both used to have custom cars on turn tables and we would get big trophies,” says Sergio. “Right now, we are at a point where we want to drive our rides and enjoy them.” Both Sergio and John have ’60’s Impalas that they drive. “Our cars are clean enough to show, but we miss the old days when we used to drive our rides everywhere,” recalls Sergio. “We’ve come full circle, and are at a point where we are going back to cruising and enjoying our rides.”
“Right now, what I really enjoy doing is going to a car show in Los Angeles or Las Vegas and seeing guys from different car clubs that have been doing this as long as I have,” says Sergio. “When you see them, you kind of just click in and start talking about the old times. When you’ve been doing this for about 30 years, it’s not about competition anymore, it’s about respect.”
John Ponce would like to thank all of the members in Low Conspiracy and Rick Romero who has done a lot for the club since he’s joined. To all potential members, you won’t make it in this club without the one thing that best defines it; respect.