The cars are the stars

The cars are the stars

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Article and photos by Carlos Rene Castro

For Ruben Cortez, turning his 1959 Impala convertible into a lowrider work of art is a family affair.

He bought the sleek classic automobile known for its flashy rear fins 14 years ago. “The car just had a shell and no motor,” Cortez said last week while attending the Tavares Family Car Club Mega Show at the Salinas Airport. “All the floors were rusted out, and it had bullet holes in it. My wife was like, man, what’s going on with this? She was pretty upset.”

Cortez said he has been around lowriders all his life. His older brother Mario Cardova was into lowriding and used to own a 1979 Ford Thunderbird. Cortez was hooked as a youngster and followed in his brother’s footsteps. He is now the president of the Santa Cruz chapter of the Impala Car Club.

Cortez said he thinks of his Impala as a masterpiece, and he credits his family for helping him in the process.

“It’s a family thing. Like right now, I am building a 1959 Impala convertible, and my whole family’s involved in it. It’s a great outlet,” said Cortez.

Thousands of other enthusiasts from car clubs all over the state jammed the airport tarmac to show off their own masterpieces and to admire the tricked-out lowriders, semi trucks and lowrider bicycles at the Mega Show on Saturday. The bicycles were cool — and the huge and bright shiny semis inspired the crowd.

In addition to the vehicles on display, the Tavares show included a car-hopping contest that tested the hydraulic spring of participating vehicles. The extra batteries to power the hydraulic pumps are stashed away in lowriders’ trunks and the vehicles’ owners control their leaps by remote control. The principle is simple: the car that jumps the highest wins. Better yet, everyone was a winner; all car-hopping participants shared a $5,000 giveaway.

The Tavares Mega Show is among the largest lowrider club gatherings in the country. Rides Collective, an online news site for car enthusiasts, called Tavares one of the five “most anticipated lowrider shows for 2022.” The event drew 565 registered vehicles and bicycles — and over 5,000 people.

With its success, the city of Salinas will acknowledge the Tavares Family Car Club at a City Council meeting on Aug. 23. Tavares said at least one city official told Pete Tavares, the event organizer, that the show was among the top three community events held in the city this year.

The Mega Show is an outgrowth of Tavares’ first show in 2019, when the family car club hosted a show co-sponsored by Lowrider magazine, the iconic car-culture publication that ceased operation several months later. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, members of the car club regrouped earlier this year to brainstorm ideas for a comeback.

“We sat down with our club members and said what can we do to bring something into our community and bring people out of their homes,” said Tavares, president of Tavares Family Car Club. “We will have trucks, the boxing, the Lucha libre, we will have the cars, we will have the vendors and the concert.”

For added drama, the Tavares Mega Show also included amateur boxing matches that drew hundreds of fight fans to the Salinas Airport tarmac. The crowd of fans cheering on the young fighters were a couple of professional boxing stars from Salinas, including Ruben “Dracula” Villa and Justin “The Stallion” Corona. Not far from the boxing ring, Lucha Libre wrestlers flew from the ropes and body slammed their opponents in a fast-paced show.

At the north end of the airport, legendary Mexican Norteño band Los Cadetes de Linares played hit songs like “El Palomino,” “Los Dos Amigos” and “Las Tres Tumbas” while attendees danced. Also playing groovy tunes on the stage was The Gap Band, a funk group that first rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Mega Show is the big event for the Tavares Family Car Club Foundation. The nonprofit was created in 2019 to raise funds for about a dozen charities, ranging from the Salinas Police Activities League to Dorothy’s Kitchen to Fallen Heroes of America.

The club donated $20,000 to local organizations after the show in 2019. This year, the plan is to donate 75% of sales from the Mega Show and split the wealth to various local nonprofit organizations, Tavares said.

But the cars were the stars at the airport on Saturday.

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