The old adage, “Happy wife, happy life,” holds so much weight it’s not even funny. In fact, it’s a golden rule that can lead to lower blood pressure and far less arguments, but in the grand scheme of things it’s an important rule to remember—especially when it comes time to buy or build your lowrider.
Real talk, failing to ignore this rule, could result in you never getting the lowrider you want and the terms of engagement are simple: She wants something, you want something, but you’d better deliver on her wishes first—or sometime soon after she discovers you spent more money on your ride. Seriously, you already know what I’m talking about. But every once in a great while you’ll hear a story about that one lucky guy who’s married to someone who supports his or her lowriding habit. It’s the kind of story that makes the less fortunate cringe, but to make matters worse, this story here is about one woman who not only supports her husband’s passion, but rides with him—and we’re not talking about riding shotgun either.
For most of us, we’d be happy just to have our wives be our biggest cheerleaders sitting on the sidelines, but imagine if your better half went from spectator to player? Imagine her alongside you navigating her own ride and helping during the whole process? Pretty dreamy, right? Well for Mario Camarena, it’s a reality because his wife’s enthusiasm for classic cars has always been strong.
Knowing that his wife, Cynthia, was fond of the 1957 Bel Air, he told her that she’d one day own one. He said it with intent and made a promise to fulfill the request; unbeknownst to his wife, Mario began searching for the perfect canvas. He scoured the Net day in and day out until he found the perfect candidate on eBay. Not wanting to jinx the deal, he kept it on the low until he won the final bid; even after winning it he remained silent. Instead, that same evening, he hooked up the trailer to the truck with Cynthia and her brothers and they took a road trip out to Utah to pick it up. It was a hidden gem that needed a full restoration, but the good part was that it was 90 percent complete.
In need of some serious TLC, the restoration process began with Oscar “El Blocador” Ruelas doing all the necessary bodywork. After straightening the panels and removing any blemishes, the car was ready for paint, but the next hurdle was choosing the correct shade of turquoise. To help make sure they got the right color, Oscar came up with multiple shades of turquoise, and after blending, testing, and spraying sample panels Cynthia found the perfect one. Once she gave the thumbs up, Oscar had a custom Axalta turquoise mix created that he graciously applied to a mirror-like finish. Mike Lamberson then added some of his famed striping while the trunk was shipped to Sal Elias to have a custom commission applied to the trunk.
With the body sitting void of any parts, the bumpers, full exhaust system, continental kit, trim, and other miscellaneous parts were sent to Sam Hurtado to be dipped in chrome. Simultaneously, Jamie Castaneda was engraving the Hoppo’s custom air setup along with the A-arms, axle, and custom plate frames. Moving inside, California Upholstery revamped the interior in a turquoise and white motif, and the final step was to have a custom 283 with all the bells and whistles dropped in by Engine Components & Machine.
After its maiden voyage, it was time to appoint the car a name, and that’s when they came up with “First Lady.” “My husband came up with the name ‘First Lady’ because I am his first lady and it is also the title of one of our favorite funk songs.”
It’s been a minute since the Bel Air has been completed and since then the Camarenas have been road trippin’ in and out of the state. It’s given them an opportunity to make this project car a family affair, and while they’ve got plenty of memories to cherish, one of the most iconic had to have been when Cynthia used her car in the homecoming parade to celebrate her daughter Idalis becoming Homecoming Queen in 2016.
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
283 V-8 with CFR valve covers, water pump, alternator, dress-up kit; Walter Prosper air cleaner; aluminum Matson radiator; Powermaster starter; Edelbrock intake manifold and carburetor; MSD ignition, distributor, and wires; Optima battery
Custom mix of two-stage Axalta turquoise
ABS brakes and master cylinder, custom-built air tanks, two compressors, two slowdown valves, and two batteries
Original pattern with custom white and turquoise color combo with Dakota Digital gauges and CPP chrome tilting steering column
Alpine stereo with Focal amps, speakers, and subwoofers
14×6 Daytons with Zenith knockoffs and 5.20 Premium Sportways