Reno Lowrider’s Art Shines on Magazine Covers at the Automobile Museum | Nevada News
By JENNY KANE, Reno Gazette Journal
RENO, Nevada (AP) – Richard Lopez was in his sophomore year in high school when he got his first car. He traded in his stereo system to get it.
“You’re going to laugh,” Lopez said. “It was a 1971 Datsun 210.”
This little blue box on wheels was just the start. A brief Volkswagen Beetle phase followed, but it wasn’t long before he discovered his true love: 1961 Chevy Impalas.
Some know him as Mr. Lopez, others as Mr. Impala, but almost everyone in the Reno lowrider community knows him best as the guy who can turn a bad car into a bomba. sick. Most recently, his work was the focus of the National Automobile Museum’s exhibition, “Low and Slow,” in Reno.
“I’m not an artist, I just have a vision,” said Lopez, 46, owner of Auto Color Studio in Reno.
Before, it was Lopez who fixed any old junker. He turned rusty drummers into bubbly, bouncy starlets. Velvet seats. Painted hoods. Honeycomb motors.
He’s using more discretion now. His work has been featured several times in Lowrider Magazine, The Ultimate Low Stocking Cannon. Today customers come with a dream and it makes it better. For the most ambitious projects, it can take up to five years.
It took Lopez, a completely self-taught dropout, much longer to make his own dream come true.
Anything Lopez received as a boy, he would tear it apart. By the time he was in high school, he mostly cut cars.
“I wanted a car. I didn’t care what it was. I knew it was a way of getting around and a symbol of success, ”Lopez said.
Lopez read Low Rider magazine at a young age.
“Religiously, I would never miss a magazine,” he said.
When he was 14, Lopez lived with his father after his parents divorced. His father came home one day and told his son that he should find another job and that it was time to live on his own. He already had two jobs, one as a clerk at Albertson, the other as a house painter. He had no choice but to drop out in second year at Sparks High.
“I had to pay the rent, the bills, I was already late at school with the other two jobs. I had to survive, ”Lopez said.
At 19, he met his first wife. At 21, he was a father. Over the years he has done odd jobs, including auto shops, and in the meantime he has fixed doorbell traps in the backyard. On Friday he was going on a cruise in downtown Reno. It was the only night he got to show his work.
“I would paint my car with a primer because I couldn’t afford a real paint job. I changed it every week to feel like I had something new, ”Lopez said.
Over the years, he continued to save his money to buy used cars.
“Each car was a guinea pig. I used all the cars to improve myself, ”he said.
When he started going to low rider competitions, he was shocked when he was immediately recognized as someone to watch. He won competitions. Everytime.
Yet as he started to gain momentum in the lowrider community, he still tried to gain respect at home.
In 1997, Lopez tried his hand at running his own business in Reno, but it didn’t work out well. He opened a lowrider store, but “the city didn’t give us a garage permit at the time because they didn’t want to recognize us as a service,” he said.
Since he was young he had been going to Hot August Nights, hoping to make a name for himself with his bloated rides. He would get stares and comments.
“For a long time, we were insulted, we were told that we did not belong here,” said Lopez.
It was common then for lowrider enthusiasts to fall victim to racism and fear, he said. While many people, including law enforcement, associate lowriders with gangs, Lopez said the communities are entirely separate.
However, the misconceptions are starting to fade. Lopez said it’s because the lowrider community has gone out of its way to teach others about the culture and include other people in it.
“We are a humble, God-fearing people,” Lopez said. “We are educated, we have jobs, we are articulated, we give back. “
The history of the lowrider community dates back to the post-WWII era, when Chicano veterans returned from overseas with immense mechanical knowledge, according to a recent article in the Smithsonian.
As Hollywood and the mainstream media, as well as other cultures around the world, have started to give more recent credibility to lowrider culture, so have local hunting dogs.
Lopez still remembers in 2007 when he received an unexpected pat on the shoulder at Hot August Nights.
“It was John Ascuaga and he was standing there with a big blue ribbon,” said Lopez, who won the “Best in Show” that year when the boss of the Nugget hotel and casino presented him with the award. .
For eight years now, Lopez has owned and operated Auto Color Studio, a 4,200 square foot garage. He has had “hundreds of cars” in his hands, including a hundred that he has owned and sold himself over the past 30 years.
A handful of cars glow in the sun on a hot May day, the pearly paint jobs of the cars catching every ray. There’s “El Uno,” a 1961 cherry red Impala that Lopez gave to one of his sons as a graduation gift.
Next to it, “Egypt,” a 1963 gold and chocolate Impala on which Lopez spent four grueling months in preparation for his wedding. Two voluptuous pin-ups adorn the hood.
Inside the store, he has a handful of cars at different stages. Some are flat painted skeletons whose fates await. Beside them are works in progress, half emptied and half glorious.
“You have to be patient,” said Gio Carcache, a longtime customer and friend.
In his office, Lopez is surrounded by center pages and covers of the cars he built, many of which appear in the magazine he read after school as a child. One of the cars on the wall is that of Carcache.
“I told him my goal was to have a car on the cover of Lowrider Magazine. He said, ‘Okay, we’ll do it,’ ”Carcache said. “It took about 5 years, but we did it. “
Often, Lopez custom mixes colors. He collects the perfect pieces.
“Richard has a vision that I have never been able to see. Should I do blue? Red? ”Tony Daniels said.“ I changed the color of my truck probably 10 to 15 times, and I finally got out and said, ‘You choose.’ “I gave him carte blanche. The result was better than I could have imagined.
Daniels now owns two cars built by Lopez, a copper 1955 Chevrolet pickup truck and a scarlet 1972 Ford Bronco. Daniels is also just one of the law enforcement personnel that Lopez works for, relationships Lopez could not have imagined forming decades ago.
Daniels said he wasn’t a lowrider enthusiast, but he met Lopez in his family about six years ago and realized how talented and generous he was.
“He seemed to me to be someone who cared about me. He’s built two vehicles for me now, and every nut and bolt and grommet is brand new or remanufactured, ”Daniels said.
Her work, however, isn’t the only thing that impresses at Lopez, her clients say.
Lopez is first and foremost a father and father. Besides his four sons, he adopted six stepchildren after marrying his second wife, Leona, four years ago.
His two oldest sons, Ritchie and Carlos Lopez, both have Lopez brothers tattooed on their forearms alongside lowriders. They remember going to school in their father’s last piece of art and being proud to bring cars to school functions, weddings, graduation ceremonies, funerals, etc.
Ritchie Lopez, who creates “black and gray” style illustrations of his father’s work, was a featured artist at the recent exhibition at the National Automobile Museum.
“Hard work. This is what we learned, hard work,” said Carlos Lopez, who is quickly becoming a talented and recognized manufacturer under his father’s tutelage.
The boys and their dad stand around one of their latest projects, a turquoise Impala with teal lenses and a silver motor that has the detail of a thin crown or belt buckle. A winged angel and purple stripes accent the sides.
“This is how we express ourselves,” said Carlos Lopez. “Our car tells our story.”
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