Julio Ochoa Ruelas, a co-founder and first president of Dukes So. Cal, the oldest lowrider car club in continuous existence in the world, died of heart failure Jan. 21 at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He was 62.
The history of the lowrider has been written by men like the Ruelas brothers, who lived the lowrider life and promoted the best of it, even when time seemed to have passed it by. From their base in South Los Angeles, the brothers spent 40 years heading a car club that now has 29 chapters, including one in Japan, and restoring cars in the lowrider style that turn heads even in L.A., a city with more than its share of car connoisseurs.
"Every discipline, no matter what it is, needs some icon to be the one everyone turns to," said Dick Messer, director of the Petersen Automotive Museum. "In hot rodding it's Wally Parks. In NASCAR it's Tony Stewart, and in lowriding it's the Ruelas brothers…. They were the godfathers of lowriding."
The rest of the obit is inspiring. I like this next part:
By the early 1970s, the brothers had returned (from Vietnam - G.) and Fernando had opened Ruelas Custom, which specialized in building lowriders and a variety of other customized work. Julio ran the grocery store and on the side began searching out hard-to-find parts for old cars and supplying them to owners, a task he continued until his death.
"Used to be those guys who worked on the telephone lines or inspectors could see into backyards, they'd let me know what people had stashed … in their backyards or garages," Julio Ruelas once told a Times reporter. "Then I'd go pay them a visit."
By the front door in broad daylight, I am sure.
I'd like to be able to see into barns and garages for old motorbikes as well.
I'm not a lowered-car person, but I appreciate the time, effort, and expense that goes into lowriders. It is said that the "height gauge" used to tell if the car is low enough is a pack of Marlboros, fresh out of someone's T-shirt sleeve: if the car doesn't knock it over, it needs to be lowered until it does.
It's always gives pause when pioneers pass, especially when they're my own age.