Lenny Ray Smith of National City, California, would always see lowriders cruising around. He was immediately hooked on the lifestyle, but couldn’t afford it at the time. After high school he received a football scholarship to attend Colorado State University. “I actually forfeited that scholarship because they tried to change my position (on the football field). My mother was upset because all I had to do was go to school and perform on the field and it would cover my room and board, but I believed in the skill that the Lord blessed me with that I would be able to get another one.”
He was offered more scholarships, but this time his oldest daughter was going to be born and he wanted to stay close to home. He decided to go to Northern Arizona University. Playing professional football was his dream, but due to an injury, he never made it. Luckily for him he had applied himself during school and earned his Bachelors in Sociology. He currently runs a social service program for Native Americans. “As soon as I had my career and a successful income, I knew I would start building lowriders. I’ve had multiple cars including a ’57 Bel Air and many Impalas. I’ve been blessed.”
Lenny likes finding himself rusted-out Impalas and restoring them. He found this ’61 in L.A. and began a frame-off restoration on it. “I feel you get a better build when you start it from the frame up.” He decided to go with an LS engine in the ’61 because he had one in a previous ’59 Impala and liked how it performed. During the build, his older sister Sandra Williams would help him out by holding the hood or trunk to line it up and a few days before the shoot, they put her to rest, so he would like to dedicate this to her.
He would also like to thank his wife Michelle Smith, daughters Sereena and Leilani, and the rock of his family, his mother Lillian Dismuke. “Whenever I think I have it hard, I always think about how my mother worked two to three jobs just to make sure that we had food on the table and a roof over our heads.”
Vehicle Year/Make/Model: 1961 Chevrolet Impala Convertible
Vehicle Nickname: ’61 Clownin’
Owner: Lenny Ray Smith
City/State: Chula Vista, CA
Engine: Miguel Aguirre of San Diego, CA, installed the 2005 6.0 LS with a 4L60E transmission. A Flowmaster exhaust, Street & Performance serpentine kit, Taylor spark plug wires, and Billet Specialties hood hinges were also added
Body/Paint: Davey Auto Body in San Diego, CA
Interior: Juan Robinettes installed the custom interior kit from Cars1. Also a Dakota Digital dash and custom billet bezel were installed to finish the interior’s look.
Suspension: Bottoms Up Hydraulics in San Diego, CA
Wheels/Tires: LA Wires wrapped in Firestone FR380 185/55R/13