Anybody who truly knows about the history of Lowriding can’t deny the mini-truck era from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. In the early ‘80’s, Lowriding was made up mostly of old school bombs and traditional Chevys and Fords when a new genre formed within the scene. The mini-trucking phase really blew up across the nation over the next decade and featured lowered Nissan, Datsun, Mazda, Chevy, and Mitsubishi trucks sitting on deep dish 15-inch billet or star shaped rims. The young Lowrider-at-heart men and women wanted to catch on to this new mini-trucking wave, but not without adding the artistic and traditional Lowriding flavor. Mini-trucks were soon featured among the pages of LRM with customizations like hydraulically controlled suspensions and tilting beds, plush interiors, spoke rims, super shells, and airbrushed murals. The mini-trucks may be credited to what ultimately led to the next chapter of Lowriding in the 90s: the Euros.
Although mini-trucking as a whole mostly died out in the late ‘90’s, some die-hard truckers remain to this day, and they proudly display their old school rides at the local car shows. One of those guys is Ernie Gonzalez of Uniques Car Club. He not only hopes to keep the tradition going, but is optimistic that his ’87 Nissan Hardbody may be what brings the phase back to popularity. There is a common belief that things come and go in circles, like in fashion, so this could be a reality one day soon again.
Back in the day when mini-trucking was still popular, Ernie’s sister actually purchased this Nissan brand new from the dealership. She owned the truck for about five years. She ended up selling it to Ernie, who was 17 years old at the time, for a mere two thousand dollars. Given Ernie’s fascination with Lowrider vehicles, there was no time wasted in customizing as he immediately put on a set of wire wheels. It also helped that Ernie assisted his older brother, Jose, from time to time. Jose was a Lowrider upholsterer. The truck, of course, received the plush interior treatment. Ernie’s good friend, Jaime Valdez, was an outstanding painter and the two collaborated on ideas of taking the truck’s appearance to a new level. They decided to step it up and took the truck apart, down to the frame. The cab and bed went to Jaime for body modifications and paint. The frame went for powder coating and the suspension went to the chrome shop. All the parts of the truck eventually came back to Ernie and were ready for assembly.
The operation on the truck came to a sudden standstill at one point due to work obligations and a new family. As it stood collecting dust over the next ten years, the question came to mind: keep it or junk it? Ernie was inclined to junking it, but it was difficult for him to see so much time and effort go to waste. With Jaime’s ongoing commitment to the truck and the support of Ernie’s wife, a decision was made to keep it and go at it again – full throttle!
Although time and fads had passed, Ernie wanted to build the truck with nothing less than a traditional Lowrider style. He assembled the truck with the help of Rudy Rodriguez, a neighbor and friend. “Crown Royal,” was the new name of the truck, derived by the majestic interior colors and the Uniques Car Club logo. Nasario Bastida, President of Uniques, was of great assistance to Ernie, securing parts and networking talented people for the completion of the truck. Jaime Castañeda in Ontario, California did the engraving and Rudy in Mira Loma, California did the etching work.
Ernie sends out big thanks to his wife, Mayra, and his two little boys, David and Daniel. Thanks also go to his friend, Jaime, and everyone else who played a role in the construction of Crown Royal. Ernie says he receives compliments everywhere he takes the truck and he has been told that this truck inspires others to follow suit and build mini-trucks of their own. This truck is his pride and joy, and he is so elated to have finally accomplished this project.
Owner: Ernie Gonzalez
Vehicle: 1987 Nissan Hardbody
City/State: Orange, California
Club: Uniques Car Club
Engine: Stock 4-cylinder
Body/Paint: Modifications include a chopped off roof with a walkthrough interior, cab to bed. The tailgate, taillights, gas door, and door handles were shaved. A roadster style windshield replaced the stock. Jaime Valdez of Unique Auto in Hesperia, California handled the bodywork before laying down a candy black/purple color with an intricate array of multi-colored patterns. Angelo Maisano and Brad King added pinstripes before Danny of DSG Graphics in Irvine, California added an airbrushed mural under the hood. Robert Garcia of Altered Image in Hesperia added his murals on and around the truck’s body, depicting scenes of Mardi Gras showgirls and elements of a Las Vegas casino.
Interior: Ernie took on the custom interior himself. Purple tuck and roll biscuit patterns cover the seats and bed. Other interior goodies include swivel seats, a rear love seat, recessed door panels, a special center console, and custom-cut mirrors that cover the unique dashboard.
Sounds: An Alpine head unit with Audiobahn amplifiers pushes the sounds out to a variety of mid-range speakers.
Setup: Tomas Ruelas of Tommy’s Customs in Santa Ana, California installed two Uniques Series pumps that control the front and back suspension at the quick flip of one of the two switches. Chrome hardlines flow the hydraulic fluid from the pumps to the cylinders.
Tires: 155/80/13R Firestone Whitewalls.
Wheels: 13-inch Unique Series gold-plated 100-spoke.