Sometimes the hobbies and lifestyles people get into are influenced by age, race, and/or creed. With the roots of Lowriding, it’s generally agreed that it started decades ago in the barrios of California among Latinos, particularly the pachucos. As the Lowrider culture evolved, it continued to remain most popular in California among African-American and Latino individuals and car clubs, but the excitement and dedication involved with it expanded throughout the nation and soon thereafter, throughout the rest of the world. Maybe in and around the city of Los Angeles where Lowriding was very deep-rooted, one would think that maybe the racial ties among enthusiasts would continue to be strong. That said, how would someone like an Armenian immigrant fit in and still enjoy living the “low life?”
Such was the case for an individual known as “Smiley,” currently living in Panorama City, California. He was born in the country of Armenia but he and his family moved to the United States when he was just four years old. They ultimately found their way to Hollywood, California, and Smiley, now 40, says he loves the Los Angeles area and will probably never leave. “There’s just no place like it,” he explains with a smile. This city has such a diverse range of ethnicities; it’s no wonder Smiley actually fits right in.
As a youngster, Smiley was always fascinated with cars, especially the custom ones. Smiley got his first vehicle at the early age of 14 ― a good two to three years before his peers and classmates would typically get their first ride! This gave Smiley plenty of time to start planning the customizations on his Nissan mini truck. By the time he had his driver’s license and was ready to hit the cruise strip in Hollywood, his ride was rolling on the highly desired KMC custom rims (Remember those back in the day?)
Smiley eventually transitioned from mini trucks to traditional style Lowriders, obtaining a 1970 Chevy Monte Carlo. This rolled on the classic Lowrider rim and tire combo of choice; the chrome Tru-Spoke rims and white wall tires. Over the following few years, Smiley got more and more into Lowriding and it simply became his passion. In the year 2000, he joined the multi-cultural Majestics car club. Regardless of race, Majestics welcomed him with open arms and embraced him as a brother. Today, Smiley reigns as the L.A. chapter’s Vice President.
Smiley turned out to be quite an asset for the club, as he owns his own automobile junkyard and has many connections to companies who sell and trade car parts and accessories. In fact, it was his junkyard that became ground zero for building up his famous “Undertaker” Cadillac ― a stock coupe he initially bought at an auto auction for a mere $200.00. The Caddy went on to be transformed into one of the baddest and most recognizable ‘80s-style Cadillacs rolling in the Lowrider scene to this day. He does give big thanks to both of his brothers and to his father for their help and support in building up “The Undertaker.”
Smiley says that he’s the only one in the immediate family who Lowrides and while he admits that the members of his family may be a bit square, it does look as though his young nephew will be the next local Lowriding Armenian-American. Smiley says that future plans may just include giving his nephew “The Undertaker!” Who could say no to a present like that from Uncle Smiley?
It may be hard to imagine a world where Smiley is not with his Cadillac, but he says the next chapters of his life story are already in the works. Both a ’58 Impala hardtop and a ’60 Impala ragtop are already getting their full frame-off restorations done and he says it won’t be much longer before people will see these classic cars on display at the upcoming car shows. Smiley’s already looking beyond these two upcoming rides and has a ’57 Chevy convertible on his radar for the next project.
In the meantime, chances are that you’ll find Smiley cruising “The Undertaker” on the Los Angeles County streets ― he’s out there driving any chance he gets. You may also catch Smiley as a judge at many car shows in the Lowriding circuit. He has been judging three years now with Sic Productions, with 16 shows already under his belt at the time of this writing in mid-2012. Still young and full of ideas and energy, Smiley will definitely continue to be an all-star member of the Lowriding genre. He already has a plethora of fans that have followed his buildup of “The Undertaker.” We’ll be anxiously waiting to follow his next steps!