In 1968, the Leal family moved from the coastal gulf city of Corpus Christi to the West Texas town of Odessa. As the seven Leal brothers reached their teens, the Jefe instilled in them a stern work ethic and a trade – auto refinishing and repair. This trade would help define one son, David Leal, as a Lowrider legend decades later.
At 15, after working all summer at Montgomery Wards, David bought his first car, a 1962 Chevy Impala Hardtop; a great deal at $150. “The first things I bought for the ’62 were some 14-inch Rocket wheels, and I hit the cruising scene,” reminisces Mr. Leal. “While cruising Clements Blvd. with my brother, Abel, we met Nick Hernandez (2006 Hall of Fame) and Tony “Brodita” Garcia.” As the four homies cruised the West Texas Boulevard, it soon became apparent that it was time for them to start a car club. With no established car clubs East of El Paso, it was difficult to set the standard. “I remember watching Gypsy Rose on the opening credits of Chico and the Man. I thought, ‘who better to ask for advice than (2007 Hall of Fame Inductee) Jesse Valadez.'” David wrote a letter to the Imperials C.C. president asking for advice in starting a club, but did not expect a reply. To David’s surprise, Mr. Valadez not only replied, he passed down a lesson in Car Club 101. With that greatly appreciated knowledge, and a few trial namesakes, Taste of Latin Car Club was established in 1972. It was no longer a couple of cars cruising the South Barrio streets; there was now a car club caravanning down the Blvd. in a united style.
To the local “good ole boy” police, these lowered vehicles “were not looked upon too kindly,” and were subjected to continuous harassment and fines, dampening the spirit of the blossoming club. Things got so bad that in 1975, when officials while in isolation at the local jail beat a local Chicano to death, members of the community began a movement for change and justice. The community was outraged over the incident, especially the Taste of Latin members, motivating the club to unite with the Brown Berets. “I remember marching the streets of Odessa and its surrounding cities, protesting for our civil rights as Chicanos,” recalls Leal. These civil rallies educated and motivated the car club into becoming more than just a group of homies wanting to cruise. “We had a voice! We also had an opportunity to educate La Gente of their rights and the importance of community involvement,” he says with pride.
In 1978, the young Leal family moved to Corpus Christi. It wasn’t long before David was missing the club activity of “Sabor” (the Taste). With Nick’s endorsement, Taste of Latin Chapter II was established and David presided over the club for 22 years. In fact, this chapter was featured in the pages of LRM back in July 1980. With this city’s diversity, Lowriders were accepted in a more positive light. And like its predecessor, this chapter continued its active role in political and community issues. “If there was a neighborhood or cultural need, it was certain that Taste of Latin would be out fundraising for it,” David says. As was the club, David’s 1976 Caprice Classic was synonymous within the coastal city cruising scene during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Although the Glasshouse went through different looks over that period, the ride is best remembered as “Cherry Blend” with its Brandywine paint schemes. During that time, David had the pleasure in meeting LRM publisher, Sonny Madrid in San Antonio. In those days, the river city was the hub for the magazine’s statewide distribution. “So who better to distribute to the South Texas Gente?” David says with a smile.
In 1990, the family moved back to Odessa, where this veterano’s Lowrider legacy began; and still continues today as he is an active member in the car club, decades after its inception. Even more, David and Nick have continued a brotherhood that has held the test of time for nearly forty years. “Nick Hernandez has always been an influence in my life and I’m privileged in working alongside him with Taste of Latin and Texas Tours Entertainment.” As a significant part of these two entities, this legend has been fortunate in meeting some notable individuals.
These individuals range from promoters George Gutierrez, Lorenzo Gonzales and Johnny Lozoya; from Selena to Ludacris and every musical artist and genre in between; and even those significant throughout Lowriding’s progression; many of which, “have become lifelong friends.”
Anyone that knows David is familiar with his unrelenting “love for the onda.” Today, along with his son, David “Big Child” Jr., the Leals continue to bust out the custom rides at Central Collision & Paint. Along with David’s 1979 DeVille “Caddberry,” some of his recent creations include a 1951 GMC, “La Patrona,” a 1976 Impala, “Unique Pleasure,” a 1976 Caprice, “Big Bully,” a 1986 Caprice, “Tejano Sunrise,” a 1963 Impala, “Puro Sabor,” a 1973 Caprice, “Blue Diamond,” and a 1973 Impala, “Magentalicious” (Lowrider of the Month, Dec.2006). Mr. Leal believes that his legacy was not bound by chance, but became possible through the guidance of Jesus Christ and the support from his wife of 36 years, Connie, and their children, Johnny, David Jr., Angela, and Stephanie. He also cites inspiration and motivation from his love for his wonderful grandchildren, Alexis, Jordyn, Branden, Sean, Jaelyn, and Sarai.
Mr. Leal, any final comments?
“Lowriding began as a way to express myself as a young man cruising the barrio streets. Along the way, it became a lifestyle and helped define who I am today; a loving husband and father, a custom painter, a community activist, a LOWRIDER.” Paz, Tejas.