A few months back, I went to an event in Oceanside that I was told was a divorce party for a guy, but it ended up being more of a car show, as most of these guys are members of a car club in Vista called Los Peligrosos. The club started in Victorville in 2006. I’m told peligrosos means “dangerous.”
As I pulled into the Japanese Cultural Center parking lot, which they rented out for the bash, I saw the cars on display.
When I arrived, I looked for Dave, who calls himself “the Pastor.” The band Pachuco Jose was on stage. They were loud, which made it difficult to talk to people.
I grabbed a Dr Pepper and went back outside to check out the cars, most of which were lowriders.
A landscaper I met had a green ‘51 Mercury. He told me that when the fires hit his North County property last year, everything burned down but the barn he was storing his car in. It took weeks for him to get back into the area to find out. He assumed the car was gone.
I asked the landscaper how he got into cars. “My neighbor, a Mexican guy, had a ‘57 truck when I was 12. I loved it. Then, 15 years later, I had a new house and a new neighbor. He had the exact same truck. His dad bought it for him. We ended up buying it.”
A woman with a Bettie Page look pulled up in her red Nash Rambler. I started talking to her as she gathered her stuff off of the passenger seat.
She told me that someone recently keyed her classic car and flattened two tires. She thinks she knows the woman who did it. I asked if she gets a lot of comments at stoplights. “Yeah, mostly from old guys. They tell me it’s the perfect make-out car because the seats go all out.”
As she was telling me that her dream car is a ‘58 Impala, a black ‘58 Impala pulled into the lot. I pointed it out and she laughed. She said, “Well, any Impala between ‘58 and ‘64 I’d love. It’s a beautiful car.”
I talked to the owner of the Impala, who told me that he was in the Cruisin’ Grand car show in Escondido the week before. I asked him where he bought his ride. “I went up to Fresno to buy it. It was $15,000. I eventually put another six grand into it.”
I overheard another person saying their car had been keyed, and I said, “Does your car have to be keyed to get into this car club? It’s like gang initiations where they jump you.”
I met the guy getting divorced, and he seemed as if he was in good spirits. He told me that he doesn’t care for lowrider shows but was quick to add, “I don’t want to sound like I’m dissing, but all the hydraulics and stuff...it ends up all looking the same after a while.”
I agreed and debated whether to ask him about his divorce. I ended up asking one of his friends, who jokingly said, “We spend too much time with our cars and our car friends. That’s probably a problem in a lot of our marriages.”
I walked inside and saw a girl walking around selling raffle tickets. I bought three before asking, “Is this for one of those cars outside?” She just smiled and walked away. I saw gift baskets on a table and assumed those were the prizes.
I asked a guy named Junior about the car club. He told me that they had 15 members, but I saw at least 20 cool cars in the lot.
I lit a cigar and went back outside, but I made sure I stood far away from the cars that had their windows open, showing off all the improvements that were made to the interior — there were three cars that looked great on the outside but as if a bomb went off on the inside.
I glanced at the posters for upcoming events at the Japanese Cultural Center. One math-club flyer read, “Be a Math Wizard,” and I wondered if it would be in bad taste to make a joke about Asians being good at math to the smokers nearby. I refrained.
I met Pastor Dave, whose car is dedicated to Freddie Fender, a musician who passed away two years ago. I said, “Most musicians probably think of his name as sounding like a guitar, while car guys probably think of ‘fender’ as a car part.”
As Dave was showing me his car, I realized that he was sporting the Freddie Fender mustache.
He had the famous Johnny Cash photo where he’s flipping off the camera. I noticed that a few of the guys had these and told them that later that evening I was going to see the Cash tribute band Cash’d Out at the Belly Up Tavern.
I talked with one guy who went into detail about a 283 motor and a ‘69 Firebird front end. It got technical and way over my head. I told him that I didn’t care for all the pinstripes on the lowriders. He said, “It’s Von Dutch that made that so popular. Do you know who that is?”
I told him that I know a little about his artwork in the ‘60s, such as the flying eyeball. He agreed that some people go overboard with the stripes.
One of the few Caucasian couples I saw pulled up in a ‘65 Merc. The guy, who looked to be in his late 20s, was excited as he talked about his car. He recently bought it for five grand and told me it only had 65,000 original miles.
We both wondered why more people didn’t go out and buy classic cars for under $10,000. A guy overheard this and said, “Well, with this economy, that’s not possible for everyone to do. Plus, a lot of people just don’t care for the old cars the way we do.” His wife added, “And for $10,000, you won’t be able to get much. You could find something nice, but it’d probably be a project that you’d end up putting a lot more money into.”
As the owner of a ‘69 Jaguar, I responded, “True, that is” — my way of saying, “Tru dat.”