American culture in the 1970’s is often described as the “Me Generation.” The era was all about individuality, and cultures like the Lowriding culture which offered an outlet for people to express their own sense of who they were, and what they were about. Although the initial reaction was focused on the vehicle itself, it became clear that the build eventually represented the style and substance of the individual who owned the vehicle.
In the mid-1970’s, Andy Rivera was a young man growing up in Baldwin Park, California. He had seen some of the guys in his neighborhood cruising around in Chevy Caprices, Impalas, and Bel Airs, and, of course, all of the cars were also riding on the popular Cragar wheels and 5.20 tire combinations. It was a great time for Andy, as the Lowriding trend was alive and well in Baldwin Park. The unique look of the cars and the pride of the car owners became an instant attraction to Andy and the rest, as they say, is history.
After graduating from high school in 1980, Andy’s father bought him a 1965 Chevy Malibu SS. As soon as the car was home, Andy and his brother, Gary, rebuilt the motor and refreshed the transmission. The stock 283 was running perfectly after the Rivera brothers were finished. Rachel, Andy’s high school sweetheart who would later become his wife, helped him hunt for the parts he needed to get the Malibu ready for paint. In 1981, Andy had the car painted and re-did the interior. Andy and his brother-in-law, Aaron Garcia, handled the hydraulic installation. With the car in tip-top shape and looking Boulevard-ready, Andy joined Reality Car Club.
During the 1980’s, Andy and the Malibu were representing Reality Car Cluband attending car shows from San Diego to Santa Barbara, collecting a significant amount of trophies in the process. When Andy was not at a show, he spent many nights and afternoons cruising down Whittier Boulevard, and hanging out at the drive-in theater with the club. The dances and softball games produced by various car clubs were very popular during this time as well, and Andy and Reality Car Club participated in many of these historic events. Club membership was at an all time high, and Reality Car Club was producing events to help the communities of the San Gabriel Valley.
Having spent over 30 years in the Lowrider Movement, Andy has been through the ups and downs of the culture, and witnessed the trials and tribulations of Reality Car Club. Andy has endured the violence that plagued the Lowrider scene for a time, and also survived through the police crack downs. In the early ’90’s, Reality Car Club was down to five members, and there was actually talk of ending the club. Determined, Andy and the remaining members banded together and kept the club going despite the slump.
Throughout the years, the Malibu has garnered quite a bit of attention. Not only is it a well-executed build by Andy, it is also a rare model, as Malibus are not often seen within the context of Lowriding. Although the car itself is the same, the paint and interior of the Malibu has been re-done a number of times. In 1997, Andy had Dynamic Auto Body paint the car a Sour Apple Green with a Gold Pearl. Jorge’s Auto Upholstery covered the interior in a Grey Tweed and Grey Velour mixture. Carlos at Gator Graphics in Montebello, California added the latest addition to the car, a beautiful trunk mural, which he finished in 2005. In fact, the current incarnation of the car, as you see it here, has been seen on the streets since then.
The Malibu has also had some time in the limelight in recent years. Pop star Gwen Stefani chose the car to be used as the stage backdrop when she performed her song “Crash” at live concerts. It is also featured in Gwen’s live DVD called “Harajuku Lovers Live.” Not many car owners can say that their car went on tour with a major pop star!
Andy is now building a new car for himself. He is working on a 1972 Chevy Impala that will debut in 2010, and will fly the Reality Car Club plaque, just like the Malibu did. Andy’s son, Jacob, will help with the driving duties once the car is complete. Andy’s wife Rachel will also be by his side, just as she has been for all of these years.
Throughout his time in Lowriding, Andy has been fortunate enough to have the support of his family. In fact, they all enjoy the Lowrider culture. The family enjoys going to car shows, cruise nights, and on occasion, they will make the early Sunday morning trek to the Pomona Swap Meet to hang out. Andy’s son is now of the age where he enjoys cruising in the Malibu, and with the encouragement of the guys in the club, he will hit the switches when Andy’s not looking. The family also participates in all of the Reality Car Club events, and willingly lends Andy a helping hand with the car whenever it’s time for a show. Andy also considers his relationships with his fellow club members as more than just friends; they are like brothers and are part of his family.
I asked Andy to share his thoughts on the Lowriding culture today, and this is what he had to say:
“In my opinion, the Lowriding culture today has taken a lot of strides. In these hard economic times, our schools need help, and our families need help. It is great to see car clubs step up and help to make a difference by supporting community events. I believe this helps change public opinion on car clubs and Lowriding over all.”
With as many years as Andy has spent in Lowriding, he has experienced both the positive and negative public perception of Lowriders and the Lowriding culture, so he certainly speaks from a knowledgeable standpoint. He also shows no signs of slowing down, and has no plans of retiring from Lowriding. He will only be busier with two cars to prep for shows. He commented that he’ll be Lowriding “until the Department of Motor Vehicles takes my license away.” If our calculations are correct, that means that Andy easily has another 30 years of Lowriding left in him. Ride on, Andy!