Chris Harwood from the city of Queen Creek, Arizona, has loved lowriders most of his life. From the time he was a young kid in high school, he would get a closeup glimpse of his dream cars at the annual Mesa Supershow. He started making his dreams a reality by working on car projects the way most of us learn through trial and error, but all the errors got him a finished project as a newer member of the Society Car Club.
Chris’ journey in becoming a member of Society is an interesting story. His first and most influential car-building mentor was Steve Schmitz, the father of Chris’ good friends, Mike Schmitz. Mike’s dad was an established car builder from the streets of L.A. His family later moved to Mesa, Arizona, and eventually Steve became a member of the club. How ironic that the mentor and student would both fly the same plaque, but this wasn’t entirely a perfect ending.
Steve was able to bring Chris to the club, but did it from an entirely different level. You see, Steve passed way at the time Chris was getting serious with Society. So they never had the chance to share the club lineup on the show floor together, but Chris is so appreciative and remembers his mentor who was first in showing him how to shoot paint. And Steve Schmitz (aka Rug Burns, ’66 Impala LOWRIDER Magazine cover car) will forever be the reason Chris chose this club, and the club chose him as well.
Another person Chris wanted to point out who was an influence in Chris becoming a painter was Efrian “Bugs” Gonzalez. Bugs was also close to Steve and they were the best of friends as well. Though Steve first taught Chris how to shoot paint, Bugs took over in giving him painting tips and their relationship improved when Bugs Auto Art and Chris’ shop became neighbors in the same auto plaza.
Chris never saw this car coming. He was already fully involved on his 1964 Impala project he’d been working on after work from his autobody and paint shop named appropriately “Harwoods Touch.” One day he received a call from a buddy in Arizona. He said he had a ’65 Impala for sale and when he said he only wanted $800, Chris dropped what he was doing, grabbed his trailer, and sped over to Superior to grab it. After seeing the six-five with its three taillights on each side winking at him, he decided to put the ’64 project aside so he could build a clean street cruiser.
Once he started putting more and more effort into the six-five, it went from being a nice street ride to having custom paint, interior, and a fully chromed engine and undercarriage. It didn’t take much to get carried away. Chris did a lot of the build himself with his friends’ help along the way. Tim McYntire of T&S Customs did the engine and transmission work, Tyrone Magdaleno handled the hydraulics install, the custom interior was done by Mikey’s Interiors, Swings Engraving and Metro Plating added the bling and chrome re-finish, and Bugs Auto Art handled the stylish pinstriping and paint consultation.
Chris credits his family in allowing La Chillona (crybaby) to be completed in record time. In the one-year and three-month time frame, Chris managed to do a complete frame-off build with engine, trunk, and undercarriage, including his signature paint and graphics laid on. Married for 14 years with Angelique, Chris’ main focus is enjoying this lowrider lifestyle with his family that includes 22-year-old Destiny, 18-year-old Desiree, 13-year-old Chris Jr., two grandkids Davina, David, and one on the way already named Dayton.
I bet the newest grandchild isn’t named after the city in Ohio, but the entire family backs up Chris and it shows. Recently, Chris needed to slow down so he closed up shop and went out and got a 9 to 5 job managing an autobody shop. He says it brings less stress of owning a business and more family time, which is what it’s all about for him. Future plans call for finishing his son’s ’75 Caprice glasshouse as a father-and-son project, along with his longtime ’64 project in their backyard shop.