An air of optimism blew through downtown Long Beach, California, as esteemed car club members traded their garage-stained threads for suits and cruised through the city to attend the ’08 Lowrider Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Event coordinators and participants focused on the great strive of the lowriding culture throughout the decades. They touted the evolution from adversarial competitions to united showcases, and congratulated the trailblazers for progressing the movement.
Long before Lowrider magazine started printing, and long before lowriding evolved into a commercialized automotive sport, the lowriding culture was ever-present in the streets. Lowriders were cruising for club pride, bragging rights, and the sheer gratification of being seen in a piece of automotive art. It was a way of life created from the passion and determination of the artists, despite many misconceptions.
The objective of the Lowrider Hall of Fame is to reintroduce and educate today’s enthusiasts of the history and sophistication of the sport. Today the culture is widespread and highly publicized. There are international car clubs and mainstream enthusiasts. But who started the movement? Who inspired today’s automotive artists and leaders? Answer: The inductees of the fourth annual Lowrider Hall of Fame. No, there is no Hall of Fame memorial or plaques or concrete monuments in which the inductees’ names are imprinted, however, the pride of placement in the Hall of Fame is etched in the hearts of all who hold the lowriding culture dear. “It’s not a hallway and it’s not a building. It exists in our hearts,” Joe Ray said. “This is everybody’s Hall of Fame. This is who we are.”
Long Beach Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga presented the crowd with a proclamation from the mayor and welcomed the various car clubs-both large and small-to the city. Uranga noted the positive influences of the lowriding culture and encouraged its members to return.
Ray, a past inductee in the Hall of Fame, emphasized the positive progress of the sport. Over the past few decades lowriding has evolved from the street level to the mainstream. Car clubs that used to rival one another are now united and seated next to each other at the induction dinner. “Here, everyone is part of one car club,” Ray said.
Kita Siliva Lealoa, who garnered the coveted Leadership Honor, exemplifies the spirit of unity. Lowrider magazine recognized him as a leader who directly created a positive influence on the sport. The strapping Samoan spoke of love and unity regarding the lowriding movement. Lealoa, who founded the Uso Car Club, named it that because it means “Blood Brother” in Samoan. Although Lealoa’s island kin don’t understand why he would rather be on the boulevard instead of on the beach, Lealoa continues to show them the encouraging aspects of his chosen lifestyle, which is slowly being appreciated. He said he never thought he would be inducted into the Lowrider Hall of Fame and said that his main concern was to just be loving. “Just be a good person and be yourself and all good things will come to you,” Lealoa said. He looked around the room and acknowledged all the legends of the industry. Lealoa gave credit to the pioneers and encouraged the up-and-comers. He said he took strength from all the powers in the room and hoped the positive energy would continue to drive the lowrider culture. “Love is the most positive thing you can do to keeping our movement alive,” he said. “God bless. I love each and every one of you guys.”
The Memorial Honor went to Gary May, the “wizard” of pumps, dumps, and switches. The award is designed to recognize a deceased individual who demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the lowriding lifestyle in regards to both leadership and craftsmanship. May, the famed hydraulic pioneer from Compton, California, showed true sportsmanship and ingenuity in his craft, building cars from the ground up, and higher. The hopping power of his creations is still unrivaled, since he mastered the magic of lifting cars. Betty May accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. She told stories of her husband’s love of lowriding and how nothing could deter him from building his masterpieces. May recalled later in life, when Gary’s health had begun to fail, how his remedy for his illness was working on cars, and when he didn’t have the strength to gather the necessary parts she would step in. May said she ran errands for him, gathered parts for him, and ultimately helped with the mechanics of his hydraulic creations. She saw firsthand his love for the sport and understood his strong bond with those who shared his passion. She marveled at the amount of people who came to recognize him. She brought her family to the award ceremony to take part in the prestigious recognition of Gary’s lifetime love. “I brought my family, but I look out in this room and this is Gary’s family,” she said, which was met with thunderous applause.
The Lifetime Contributor Honor was awarded to Fernando Ruelas, president of the Dukes Car Club. Ruelas was acknowledged by the magazine as a community leader with a lifelong dedication of time, resources, and a heart in contributing to-and investing in-the lowrider community. Ruelas is a pioneer who prioritized his life and sport by putting family first and creating a car club based on those values. Ruelas established Dukes Car Club in 1962. It grew from blood bonds but extended its sense of kin to others. He funneled the energy of neighborhood youth and refocused their resolve from gangbanging to lowriding. Dukes members show the allegiance and pride of a strong and unified family, a relationship promoted by Ruelas himself. “These are not just friends, they are uncles and brothers,” Ruelas said. “This is a family thing.” He stayed true to form, first thanking his mother, wife, sons, and brother, then he called his family to the stage to give them proper recognition, noting that none of his success would have been possible without them, and the feelings were reciprocated. “My brother is well-deserving for his awareness and hard work,” said Ernie Ruelas, co-founder of the Dukes Car Club. “I am very proud to be a Dukes member.”
Lowrider magazine recognized Ruben “Buggs” Ochoa for the Craftsmanship Honor, an award designated for designers, builders, and artists who have created and exhibited outstanding vehicles for a consistent period of time. Ochoa spoke of the golden era of lowriding-the ’70s. He spoke of cruising the boulevard and learning from mentors, calling it the best decade in lowriding history. The ’70s were also harsh, however, and included heated rivalries that sometimes turned violent. Ochoa commented on how the sport has come a long way. “We’ve now formed a unity; a unity that has evolved,” Ochoa said. “Instead of fighting each other, we’ve decided to end it … It’s all about showing and participating together. We are all a part of lowriding and making it last. We have to continue in positivity.”
Xavier ”Mr. X” RaveloA San Diego Lowrider Leaves His Mark On Many HeartsDuring the course of doing our job at Lowrider magazine we often come in contact with people who touch our lives in a special way. While putting together the Military special of Lowrider Readers’ Rides I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Xavier Ravelo.
When I interviewed Xavier he had just been released from the hospital hours earlier. Still weak from his stay, his voice was barely a whisper, but his enthusiasm for the sport of lowriding shined through as he and his buddy of 35 years, Martinez, shared their exploits. Even through the haze of having suffered, among other things, a massive heart attack weeks before, his eyes seemed to light up as Martinez told stories of cruising the San Diego hot spots.
Xavier was born Nov. 21, 1953, and moved to National City, California, with his family when he was only 6 years old, which is where he spent the rest of his life. Xavier joined the Marines in 1975 and later married Anita Carrasco. As a magnetic local DJ, he was known as Mr. X, a name that followed him the rest of his life. His passion for being a DJ was passed on to his son Xavier Ravelo Jr. Xavier was a proud member of The Crowd Car Club for over 15 years.
It’s with a heavy heart we announce that on Aug. 25, 2008, Mr. X lost his battle with cancer. Not forgotten by his friends, car club members, or the military, he was buried with full military honors. The San Diego lowriding community showed up in full force, a fitting tribute for a man who attended every lowrider function possible. From the family here at LRM, our condolences go out to his family and friends. We were all lucky to have him touch our lives.