On a cool Sunday afternoon, a line of bomber lowriders sit in the parking lot of Hart Park in Orange. Members of car clubs Viejitos Original O.C. and Pistoleros stand talking and laughing as their kids run around and their wives sit and talk. Despite being from different cities and car clubs, they respect one another enough that they bring their families and come together over barbecue to plan their annual Doing It For The Kids Benefit Car & Bike Show June 10 at Original Mikes to raise money for the Orangewood Children's Home.
62-year-old Joe "Big Joe" Trillo cruises into the parking lot low-and-slow in his bomber. With a smile on his face, and wife in the passenger, he blasts the signature Viejitos siren to let everyone know which car club is rolling through. Trillo has been lowriding since the late '60s, and he says while the love of classic cars unites them, there's something bigger at the heart of lowriding.
"It's a family thing, man." Trillo says. "I've always gotten my family involved in it. My kids are involved. My grandkids are involved. Next weekend, I'm chauffeuring my granddaughter to her prom in my car...we're family-oriented, they bring all the kids and even the kids wear the T-shirts. That's actually what it's all about."
Viejitos O.O.C. is a 27-year-old branch of the international Viejitos Car Club, with 137 chapters and 1,800 members worldwide in countries like Japan and Australia. There's 12 active members in Viejitos O.O.C. chapter, and they've been doing charity events for a decade. Three years ago, they teamed up with Pistoleros to start the Orangewood charity event.
"They're the youth; that's your futura right there." says Viejitos O.O.C. president Moochie Trillo. "You have to start with them young then bring them up to adults, make sure they're provided for and hopefully they learn the same values we learned as kids."
Such acts also help them in the bigger struggle to destigmatize their lifestyle. "We do things for the community more than anything, and that's the thing that people don't see," says Tony Estrada of Pistoleros. "They see the bad side of it, and lowriding is more than gangbanging, and all the stuff the media show and most people think."
While many members grew up in the barrio, they're no longer active in their neighborhood, and lowriding set them straight. "We're too old for that shit man," Jose Orellana of Viejitos says. "We got over all the BS a long time ago and realized we should've taken this more seriously when we were younger, when our parents used to be the ones cruising. Your mindset's different at that time. You want to be what you want to be but this never changed. We just steered away from it."
You have to work to put money in your car, and you can't endanger your kids in the back seat. They didn't buy a finished ride and start driving it; they built them from the frame up themselves. Not only are they continuing a tradition their elders started but they're making sure the next generation of kids keep lowriding alive.
"It's not the bomb that makes the man," says Viejitos O.O.C president Moochie Trillo. "It's the man who makes the bomb."
As clubs, they're together every week, help each other work on cars, and their families are friends as well. The vibe alone from their clubs is welcoming, and you can see their hearts are bigger than the cars they drive. Besides building up their rides, members encourage any kids interested in lowriding to reach out to them. They point out that lowriding culture teaches values such as commitment, dedication, and pride in accomplishments. That's why they have a kid's wing, where they work on bikes and eventually graduate onto cars, thereby keeping them busy and off the streets.
"I want to get something going where I can work with some kids that don't have nothing," says Pistoleros president Rick Bañuelos, "and I want to start showing them so they can pick something up and take off with it. Lots of times, youngsters don't have the opportunities. If we're in a position where we can provide one, I would like to do that."
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Which leads back to their June 10 charity event. Pistoleros plans on reaching out more to the youth and Viejitos O.O.C. plans on creating more events. They firmly believe lowriding will never die and "no one will ever get rid of these old cars." Finally, they encourage you and your family to come out to support the Orangewood kids and enjoy the nice cars, bands, vendors,food, DJs, contests and facepainting for the kids.
"This is what we do on a daily basis." says Moochie Trillo. "We're here to let people know it's a culture. It's a lifestyle. It's something we were born into, I get chills on the back of my neck just thinking about it."