Riding slow: Lujano the last low rider in town

Sal Lujano of Newton, left, helps son Zadkiel, 4, use the hydraulics levers on his dad's low rider, a 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

“Low rider drives a little slower
“Low rider is a real goer

“Low rider knows every street, yeah
“Low rider is the one to meet, yeah

“Low rider don’t use no gas now
“Low rider don’t drive too fast.” —“Low Rider” song by War

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

NEWTON—The paint jobs on low rider cars are all about grabbing attention.

That’s according to Sal Lujano, who started a low rider car club chapter of Latino Dreams of Wichita in Newton a few years back.

“I’m the only low rider left in town,” he said.

He pointed out the highly metallic paint on his 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo he keeps covered in his garage. The vehicle roof is in various shades of blue and silver in a geometric design, while the rest of the vehicle is a solid blue. The metal flecks in the paint reflect the light.

“We definitely think low riders are a work of art on wheels,” Lujano said.

Lujano’s vehicle can catch attention other ways, like with the hydraulics that lift the body off the ground at various points and lower it back just as easily.

Lujano said his first low rider was a 1964 Impala, which he used to park in front of his dad’s restaurant, Acapulco.

The low rider culture goes deep in Lujano’s family, as his grandfather brought it from the west coast to Kansas.

“My grandfather, when he came here to Kansas, he helped Davis-Moore (in Wichita) get up and running,” Lujano said, adding his grandfather was in charge of the shop that did upholstery, paint and body work.

Lujano’s grandfather taught his sons, who are Lujano’s uncles, to do that, as well, and after teaching them, he instructed them on custom paintwork.

“That’s what you’ll find on low riders,” the 1997 Newton High School graduate said. “One of the signature things on low riders is signature paint, which uses multiple colors and candy paints. They use all colors—bright and dark. It’s all about catching attention.”

By the time Lujano graduated from high school, he had built two low riders. At the time, Lujano visited his grandfather, Fransisco Rizo, who now resides in Newton, and uncle, Victor Rizo, in Wichita. They lived side by side.

“I would work at my dad’s place during the week and then I’d go to my uncle’s house in Wichita and work out of his garage in the back yard,” Lujano said. “We would help each other on different cars in the car club.”

His uncle decided to start the car club with the idea of teaching young people and keeping them off the streets. Lujano said the club is involved with the city of Wichita and planning events with them.

“They saw what my uncle was doing,” Lujano said, adding the city of Wichita contacted the club to do various events. “Anything to catch the attention of the youth and get them involved.”

Lujano said his uncle and grandpa introduced him to working on low riders and that there was always a car to work on.

“What I did, since I worked for Dad at the restaurant, when I was 15, I decided to save some money and build a low rider, someday,” Lujano said, adding he found a ’64 Impala in someone’s back yard.

He said he did the low rider thing through high school and after that, he sold his vehicle to a cousin and left the scene for a while. With the ’70 Monte Carlo, he involved his family, just like his grandfather and uncle did with him. He showed them all what’s involved with the build, including the paint schemes and hydraulic installation and its function.

They’re constantly working on the vehicle, whether it’s upgrading it or redoing it, making it completely personalized.

“We start the kids on building low rider bicycles, since they’re not the age of driving,” Lujano said, adding they usually use old Schwinn frames.

Some even have stereo systems and hydraulics on the front.

There are some misconceptions about people who like to construct low riders.

“There’s a stereotype when you think of low riders,” Lujano said. “People think of some type of criminal. That’s far from the truth. It’s always been a family thing.”

He said it’s about teaching your kids a trade and creativity, like with the paint scheme.

Lujano said everything’s been rebuilt on his vehicle with chrome parts added to stand out in car shows, and the car’s been completely repainted. He said there are three to four shades of blue with silver to match the chrome.

Another feature of low riders is wire wheels, Lujano said.

“It’s usually a smaller wheel to keep the car lower to the ground,” Lujano said. “My car actually sits on the ground. If you lower it all the way, it lays on the ground.”

With his hydraulics, Lujano has a two-pump setup powered by eight deep-cycle batteries controlled by 10 switches. One switch is for the front, another for the back, one for the left and one for the right side, and other switches control other parts.

There are different kinds of low riders—daily cruisers that use hydraulics when driving and competition cars, which include hoppers, where the car hops as it rises, and dancers, where the driver can make the car dance around. Winners are awarded money, which they put back into their cars.

The next area competition is on Oct. 25 at Century II, Lujano said, adding that when he first built his Impala, he’d get pulled over by police a lot because it wasn’t the norm around the area. Law enforcement didn’t know what it was. Things have changed now, as Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay is involved with a local car club that’s accepted the low rider quite well with the car show, Lujano said.

“I’ve entered the car in quite a few competitions,” Lujano said, adding he’s taken first and second places in ‘70s classes in different car shows. “Also Mayor’s Choice Award in Newton and People’s Choice Award in Newton two times.”

He likes the low rider culture for several reasons.

“What I like about it is the uniqueness of it in the area and the car is a representation of my character and my personality,” he said. “Being able to cruise down Main Street and know that’s Sal’s car because that’s the only one like it.”



Anyone interested in low riders or getting their kids involved can contact Lujano on his Facebook page.

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