How many of us can say that at 15 years old there was a moment that changed the course of our life forever? For most of us that moment comes much later in life, but for Denver resident Joe Verdugo that’s precisely how it played out. At 15, he met his now wife, Jessica, and her brother, Sergio, at a friend’s house. Immediately Joe was smitten with Jessica and enamored with her brother’s custom lowrider. At 15, he hadn’t been exposed to the lowrider culture so it was a new introduction.

Within a year of dating Joe and Jessica had a child, and although they were young, they made it work. By working and providing for a household, Joe continued to strive to be better for himself and his new family. It took many years for Joe to be able to afford the luxury of owning a custom car. That day came when he purchased a Cutlass from a friend for a good price and started to customize it. He had it painted, added hydraulic suspension, and redid the interior. He had pride in his custom Cutlass and spent time teaching his kids about this culture the best he could.

One day his neighbor negligently took a wide turn coming home and completely totaled the Cutlass as it sat in Joe’s driveway. Luckily his prized car kept the neighbor’s car from going even further and possibly into a home, but regardless it ruined Joe’s further motivation. It took Joe almost two years to get over the mishap and begin to search out another vehicle. Familiar with the G-body frame, Joe found a 1980 Chevy Monte Carlo online for sale. It was already in the right direction, with a semi-custom paintjob, old-school tuck ‘n’ roll interior, and hydraulics, but as most custom cars go it needed to be repaired and updated.

Joe turned to fellow lowrider enthusiast Joe Salazar for the hydraulic replacement, adding new pumps and cylinders along with replacing the batteries. When it came time to update the paint, Joe contacted his brother-in-law who had moved back to Mexico. After some research Sergio found Eduardo Sarabia, the best automotive painter in Juarez, Mexico. To test out the quality, Joe brought a pedal car and some bicycles to him and was blown away by the paint scheme and quality. The next step was bringing the Monte across the border and into the dangerous city.

Once the paint was perfected and completed, Sergio found a good upholstery shop, and since the Monte Carlo was already in town it was brought to Javier Aranda. Aranda reupholstered all the seats and used crocodile material to make it really stand out. Victor Silva was enlisted for all the fiberglass work inside the Chevy. Overall the Monte was in Mexico for over a year making sure all the details were fine-tuned to Joe’s satisfaction. Once the finished product arrived back home, Joe and his friend Joe Salazar added a brand-new Chevy 350 along with a chrome dress-up kit.

Joe wishes to thank his loving and supportive wife, Jessica, and their three children, Arley, Joe Jr., and Damian for all their love and support that helped Joe complete his passion. A special thanks goes to Joe Salazar, Sergio Barron, Lala aka “Juaritos Lowrider,” Victor Silva, and everyone else who played a role in El Bandolero’s success. At 15 it only took one moment for him to find his wife and his passion for lowriders. Every day he gives thanks for everything he has and has been able to accomplish.

1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

El Bandolero

Joe Verdugo

Denver, CO

Out of Control

Chevy 350 V-8, Edelbrock carburetor, Edelbrock intake manifold, mid-length headers, chrome valve covers, chrome air cleaner

House of Kolor Candyapple Red done by Eduardo Sarabia, engraved door handles by Speedy’s in California

Two Showtime pumps, four Deka batteries, 8-inch cylinders in front, 12-inch cylinders in rear, chrome rearend, chrome trailing arms, all done by Joe Salazar

Black crocodile vinyl, red leather seats, fiberglass dashboard, door panels all done by Javier Aranda, steering wheel engraved by Krazy Kutting

Sound System
Jensen head unit, Pioneer components, two 10-inch Sony subwoofers, Sony amplifier

13×7 100-spoke Dayton Wire Wheels, engraved by Krazy Kutting, P155/80R13 Travel Stars