Lifestyle Car Club was founded in 1975 in the Boyle Heights area of Southern California. It was formed by members of other car clubs that joined together with the idea of starting a new kind of club. To be a member you need to have a two door American car with hydraulics, 520 premium sport way tires, and wire wheels – preferably Daytons after the year 1990.
Lifestyle cars go from 1957 to 1983. ‘83 is when they stopped building the Cadillac Coupes, you could have a Cadillac Brougham in the club, but it’s almost considered a new car. There are no four doors, wagons, or trucks. One time there was an exception of a ‘51 Chevy Truck. But it’s not a bomb club, it’s for low riders – Impalas, Lincolns, Rivieras. For twenty-something years there was no vinyl tops allowed in the club. For two decades there was no convertibles allowed in the club. A car is designed as a hard top first, before the designers make it a convertible. Back in the day convertibles were considered to be for lames and old ladies. Now they’re double the price of a hard top, so they are accepted and sought after.
I got introduced to the club in 1991 when I was approached by Joe Ray, president at the time, to do murals on his show car in the works, the Las Vegas car. I was honored at the opportunity to do the murals on this futuristic concept car that would revolutionize custom turntable low riders. Little did I know that a few years later I would become a lifetime member.
In 1993 I bought a 1960 Chevrolet Impala hardtop and made the decision to join the greatest car club in the history of the United States. It wouldn’t be easy though. Lifestyle is not only the best, but the strictest car club. It carries the traditions of the early 70s fraternity of car builders. If you were late to a meeting, or acting stupid in public with colors on, or somehow disrespected the name, there is a sergeant of arms with a wooden paddle to regulate the chosen members. I was actually sergeant of arms for two years, meaning I handed out the swats. I was loved and hated. I didn’t want to swat my homies, but I got swatted, so everyone goes down eventually. Let me tell you, when you get swatted in front of 50 other members not only does your pride and ego hurt, but your ears turn bright red. The club’s not just about getting swatted, it’s about making each member pay attention and have respect. Otherwise you have 50 guys with egos who show up when they want to show up, and do what they want to do, then the whole thing falls apart. If you run the risk of getting your ass swatted by grown men, you’re going to stay more on point.
Lifestyle Car Club is based on paint jobs, paint comes first, it’s all about custom one of a kind paint jobs – pinstripes and murals, and then everything comes after that – interior, chrome, lifts. Shaving your door handles, molding, making the custom dash, custom interiors, old school Bob & Son tuck and roll interiors, D&D pinstriping and wall striping, Mario “Candy Factory” (Rest In Peace) paint jobs, Gary Baka, Mario’s Auto Works. These are the painters and stripers that would paint our cars. A lot of times the members themselves do the work. The benefit of being in a car club is everyone has the same disease you got, all they think about all day is cars. All of our jobs are means to get money to build our cars. We all have some kind of talent when it comes to our cars – one guy can do stereos, one can do hydraulics, one can do paint. That doesn’t mean you can get it for free, but you trade. If my partner helps me paint my car, I will do a mural on his car. A lot of time the homeboys will just come labor-wise, and help you. But with it you got a lot of different personalities, and you don’t always get along with everybody. But you love everybody because of the cars.
We’ve got every walk of life in the club. A lot of times back in the day it was ex-gang members. You can’t be an active gang member and be in the club, because you will bring too much drama to the club. The club has a lot of blue collar construction guys, mechanics, tattoo artists, car painters, there’s everything. We’ve even had police officers. We don’t put it on blast, but the cop needs to know he is going to be around a lot of guys drinking, maybe smoking some weed. That’s not what the club is about, but anybody that is half-way cool – that’s what’s going to be going down. The club’s been around 30 years now, so over 30 years a lot of people come and go. Right now it’s over 70 deep, a bunch of new and old guys, so you get a good combo of people.
If you are lucky enough and get asked to come around a meeting or an event where Lifestyle is at, you won’t hear rap music, you won’t hear Vincente Fernandez coming out the car. You’ll most likely hear Jim Morrison, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, or Neil Young blasting out of these custom painted cars. The reason is the same members who started the club, are still active in the club. That was the music in the 70s, so it’s carried on in a lot of the cars we have. For example, the Pink Floyd car, which is candy pink, the LA Woman car with Jim Morrison murals all over it, and the Moonflower car. My ’62 is called Soul Kitchen. That’s one of the things that makes us different. When people think of East LA and low riders, they think of Hip Hop or Spanish music. They don’t think of Dark Side of the Moon blasting out of the Lincoln Continental.
Lifestyle Car Club is not a hopping car club, its not three wheel motion, its not about entering hop contests, it’s about how low can your car lay. How low can it slam? Another thing that makes us different and old school, when you’re driving down the street, and you get a flat tire, the first thing you do is unscrew your plaque and pull it down. Then you tend to your tire. The last thing we want to see is a broken down car with a plaque in the back.
There’s only one chapter of Lifestyle, it’s located in Los Angeles. People have moved here just to be in the club. The reason we do that is to never confuse or water down the plaque. If you go to Texas, they have different tastes and ideas on how to build cars. You need to let them do that, that’s what makes everyone original and stand out. But if we have a club in Texas, and they let other people in, and we start beefing with our own club, then it all falls apart. That’s the biggest problem with most car clubs, their chapters don’t get along. They have different ideas of what it’s all about.
To me it’s a way of life, that’s why the club is called Lifestyle – from arguing with your old lady, to paying the chrome bill before the phone bill; your woman could get jealous, because your Sancha – your woman on the side, is your car. Your girl is saying can he put that much compassion and no holds barred, do whatever it takes attitude into me? So it causes tension. But you know what? When you’re at the car show, and your car is laying on the floor of the car show, the greatest feeling in the world is to have a Lifestyle plaque in the back window. When you look in that rearview mirror, and it says Lifestyle in gold letters, you know you made it. You know you’re in the history books of low riding.
From Chapter 29: Lost Angel (Summer 2007)