Throughout the vast history of Lowriding, there have been many great men and women who have contributed to the movement in various ways, helping to progress the culture along the way. These legendary contributors comprise a wide spectrum of mechanics, painters, upholsterers, hydraulic installers, or simply car builders and enthusiasts who have helped to build some of the most memorable rides ever featured in the pages of Lowrider Magazine. One of these notable greats would have to be Angelo J. Maisano; the mobile pinstriper whose slogan was simply, “Have brush, will travel.” The tools of his trade were his paint brushes and those who knew Angelo can attest to the fact that he did not go anywhere without them in his car. In traveling from state to state, Angelo left his mark on many Lowriding vehicles, accenting their body lines with his elegant pinstriping and eye-catching leafing. Sadly, on September 6, 2012, Mr. Maisano left this world bound for a better place after losing his battle to cancer.
Angelo was born in 1957, in the same state that many of the cars he pinstriped were produced: the State of Michigan. Working with cars was definitely in his life’s destiny. Once he was old enough to drive, he found a love for dragster race cars by hooking up with like-minded peers at local hangouts and engaging in street racing from time to time. At one point, he got caught racing by a policeman who turned out to be his uncle! Fortunately for Angelo, his uncle let him off with a warning, but made it adamantly clear that if he was caught again, he would be taken to jail. Angelo wanted to stay clear of trouble, so he started looking into racing dragsters legally over at the local racetrack. By the ‘70s, Angelo began racing legitimately, incurring the occasional fender benders on his racecar. He soon started looking into taking on a side job at a local body shop called Department of Corrections, where he received on-the-job training about bodywork and painting. This proved to be financially beneficial to Angelo, as he could then do his own bodywork on his racecar.
One pivotal day in Angelo’s life came when a pinstriper had stopped by the shop to add some striping to a customer’s car. Angelo was fascinated with the striper’s work and was just amazed at how easy he made it seem. The striper was nice enough to give Angelo some pointers, but made it clear that he would have to have a steady hand to achieve the fine lines of pinstriping. Angelo gave it a try and felt a bit embarrassed that his first tries came out very poor. Nevertheless Angelo, a determined individual seeking perfection, vowed that he was going to continue practicing until he had the process down to a science. Once he felt comfortable with his newfound skill, Angelo began offering pinstriping services to local dealerships and they not only hired him, but loved his work as well.
Angelo’s work was received well by the local automotive community, but the heightened fame and income wasn’t enough to keep Angelo located in Michigan. He had this burning desire from within to get out and travel and see the world, with California on his radar. By the late ‘70’s, the time seemed right to hit the road bound for the Golden State, armed with his paint brushes and a dream. After making it to his destination and falling in love with the state, Angelo began striping for Hot Rodders and Bikers, leaving clean lines on their rides and smiles on their faces.
In 1997, Nasario Bastida, the president of the Southern California Lowriding car club Uniques, started up a conversation with Sal Elias, a local airbrush muralist. Nasario was attempting to enlist Sal’s services once again for a Uniques ride when Sal recommended a mobile pinstripe artist he knew that had done some phenomenal work. Nasario got in touch with this pinstriper by phone, and the artist turned out to be Angelo. Nasario was a little hesitant on hiring Angelo when he revealed that he had never striped a Lowrider before, but Nasario decided to take a chance and give him a try. The next day, Angelo came over to Nasario’s house, brushes in hand. Nasario’s Monte Carlo luxury sport was the first ride to be striped up. Once Angelo started doing his work, Nasario was floored! Angelo definitely held an artistic talent that would fit perfectly in the Lowriding genre, and Nesario promised to bring him a lot more work with the fellow Uniques members very soon. Angelo was delighted and excited to start a new chapter with his work.
Nasario started hooking up work for Angelo with other Uniques members throughout Orange County and even with members from out of state. Sometimes Nasario would set him up with six or seven cars at a time in different areas of the country, which was fine with Angelo as he loved driving and travelling in general. Angelo began meeting different members of the Lowriding community, and people took him in as family. Angelo was a lovable guy, which made it easy for them to accommodate his travel lodging at a hotel or even in their own homes, as it was common for him to sleep at a customer’s house the night before a next-day striping job. Angelo was described by many as being an eccentric man, but one who would have you laughing throughout the day with his bold humor. Nasario’s wife, Christina, asked Angelo at one point if he ever got mad. He just did not seem to get upset with anybody or at anything. Angelo seemed to only be critical of his work, if anything at all. While his personality made him a hit everywhere he went, his professionalism was even more endearing, as he was extremely fair in his pricing − often willing to work on a barter deal.
One day, while driving out to Yuma, Arizona, Angelo was planning on striping a car for Armando Rivera, the Yuma Chapter President of Uniques. Just before crossing over the Arizona border, a California Highway Patrol officer, named Albert Contreras, pulled over Angelo for speeding. Upon approaching Angelo’s vehicle, Officer Contreras noticed the brushes in the back of the car. Angelo apologized for speeding but explained he was late for his appointment for striping a car in Yuma. Officer Contreras, a Lowrider guy himself, had heard about Angelo’s arrival and was actually planning on being at Armando’s house for the striping session! Officer Contreras, known to most simply as “Al,” did not ticket Angelo and instead told him he’d see him later on at the session. From that fateful first meeting, Angelo and Al kept in touch and it wasn’t long before Angelo was enlisted to stripe Al’s son’s car and his own “TopDogg ’75,” a rag top ride eventually featured in the November 2009 issue of LRM. Just as with Angelo and Nasario, Angelo and Al also became very close friends. Angelo stayed at Al’s house from time to time and Al even recalls him spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family one year. He was like family to Al, and their friendship spanned well over a decade. Even during those times when Angelo would suddenly get the urge to get up and leave to travel and wouldn’t be seen for months, Angelo would still keep in touch with Al; calling him over the phone from time to time. Al says he saw Angelo like a brother.
Sadly, in mid-2012, Angelo headed on another trip back up to the Sacramento, California area. He had called Al and told him he “wasn’t feeling too good.” Al insisted that Angelo go see a doctor – something that Angelo unfortunately did not do on a regular basis. The next call Al received from Angelo came with bad news: he had cancer in advanced stages and he was given less than 6 months to live. As devastating as the diagnosis was, it was made worse by the fact that the doctor’s life expectancy effort was wrong. Angelo only fought for a couple of months before ultimately losing his battle with cancer.
Al, Nasario, and many, many others across the country who had the chance to meet Angelo or have him stripe their rides took the news pretty hard. His death came without much notice and many just did not have the chance to say their final goodbyes. Angelo’s quirky humor will be missed, but fortunately his friends and clients have their lasting memories, photos, and pinstriping work that he left behind, keeping his legacy alive forever and immortalized as one of the true greats of the Lowrider Culture.