Ralph Fuentes was born in 1961, the same year that Chevy subtracted the fins from its classic Impala models, opting instead to introduce the Super Sport to the market. Growing up in Lynwood, CA, Ralph was heavily influenced by his elders and neighborhood peers; he is one of the few veterans that can truly say that he’s been around custom cars ever since he was born. As a young boy, Ralph used to spend hours upon hours drawing out custom car sketches, something his mom took notice of right away. This was in the era when most of the cars that were being customized were 40’s and 50’s models with chop tops and artilleries. Ralph’s father always had customized Hot Rods himself, although his designs were more subtle than some of his extremist neighbors. One such neighbor had custom Lowrider cars that were lowered close to the ground with chains and bags, and were riding on Supremes. Ralph remembers seeing one of these cars very clearly, as this was the first time he saw a Lowrider car hop and scrape. “I remember while I was cutting the grass at my parents’ house, I noticed a 1970 Chevy Impala that was visiting one of the neighbor girls down the street. The first time it cruised by, it slowly dropped the front end and scraped it. I was in shock; then the second time he drove down the street he was hopping it and that’s when I got bit by the Lowrider bug,” he says with a smile.
The community of Lynwood is considered by many to be the South Side of Los Angeles, since it is located south of Slauson. “Things were different in Lynwood compared to East LA and the Boulevard,” Ralph explains. In the South Side, everything was more laidback, and not as competitive. After Ralph’s dad gave him his first car when he turned 16, he wasted no time turning the ’72 Grand Prix into a Lowrider by lowering it, adding hydraulics, and changing the stock wheels to Supremes. After Ralph started to cruise, he met local legends like Snacks, Michael “Box” Patterson, Ted Wells, and the Tovar bothers. “Our style was different from the East LA Lowriders,” explains Ralph. “We just stayed to ourselves. It’s that dedication inside you that if you are a rider, you don’t care about anything else or worry about what everybody else is doing. I was just having fun.”
This mentality kept Ralph a solo rider for quite awhile, until he found kindred spirits in the Majestic’s Car Club. After joining, he learned about the car club atmosphere and spent time with a group of people that shared his interests in cruising, BBQ’s, and getting together at parks or burger joints. Car shows were not that common back in the 70’s, and it was not until 1979 that he attended a show at the Great Western Forum, where the Majestic’s won the most members/participation award. Around the early 80’s, many Boulevard cruising spots were shut down, so many car clubs dismembered, including the Majestic’s. Since the streets were shut down, Ralph started to attend more car shows, and that is were he met a few of the members of the Imperials. After a few years of showing, he joined the Imperials and realized that his designs and ideas needed to be more progressive. Mixing what he learned from his time in the Majestic’s along with the new aspects of Lowriding he had picked up from his Imperials affiliation, he began to get a great reputation as one of Lowriding’s better riders. In fact, Ralph was one of the few to drive his Lowrider with a full chrome undercarriage. Taking things a step further, he would even hop the car while driving, not caring if it got damaged in the process! His ambition and dedication soon earned him the position of President of Imperials Car Club in 1988, and he held office for the next fifteen years.
Ralph has influenced many people in his life, including his younger brother, Anthony Fuentes, and his kids. Ralph’s kids had the opportunity to work anywhere they wanted, or to go to college, but they decided to work in the Lowrider field. They weren’t forced to follow in their father’s footsteps, Lowriding was just in their blood, and participating in this great lifestyle is what they enjoy doing the most. Ralph is credited to be one of the first ones to chop the top of his ’78 model Monte Carlo, named “Altered Image.” He converted it into a convertible, and locked it up like a spider, being one of the first in the Lowrider sport to do so. After attending many shows, his biggest competition was “Lethal Weapon,” and it was not until attending the LA sports arena and seeing a Trans Am with a tilt front end that he decided on the perfect ammo to go against the “Weapon.” Roger at Concepts took three weeks to do the modification, and Ralph’s conquest was inevitable. The next time he attended a car show, he beat “Lethal Weapon,” and began taking home many more first place trophies as well. His influence was felt, as many more people began chopping the tops and tilting the front ends of their cars in the hopes of achieving Ralph’s look. This made Ralph take a step back and focus on his business with his brother at Homies Hydraulics. Homies Hydraulics started to get busier as the Boulevards attention and the shop’s street credibility was booming. Soon enough, they were doing three hydraulic set ups per day and meeting deadlines for shipping cars to Japan and all over the world.
Ralph continue to influence the Lowrider Movement so much, especially in the Japanese Lowrider market, that our overseas friends have given him the name “Mister Lowrider.” Japan even has a car club that they started in honor of Homies Hydraulics. Ralph never knew that his involvement in the Lowrider Scene would eventually influence Lowriders in Australia, Germany, Guam and even Brazil.
A few years later, Ricardo (Lowrider Magazine publisher at the time) went by Homies and asked Ralph to be the editor of LRM. After a few interviews, Ralph took on the job in May of 2002. Ralph caught on fast by learning the ropes from Ricardo, Steve Warner, and Tom Burghley. Ralph concentrated on the magazine and knew enough people in the industry to have nice cars featured, but all the while, he never forgot about the little guy that did not have the money to build award-winning cars. He chose to continue to feature the stories about these Lowriders building their cars with their families in their garage. After five years as editor for LRM, he is back on the grind doing what he loves the most; building cars.
Ralph explains that everything he has done was for the love of Lowriding, simply because it was in his blood. This explains why his kids got into Lowriders as well. Now with his new niece on the way, the bloodlines of the Fuentes’ and the Tovar’s will mix, so there is probably no way the young child will not be influenced by the Lowrider movement. Nowadays, Ralph just enjoys his days working on cars, being a DJ, and riding until the wheels fall off. This is just the tip of the iceberg for him, and the reason why Ralph Fuentes has been inducted in the Lowrider Hall Of Fame. Congratulations Ralph, we here at Lowrider would like to congratulate you as you receive the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.