Article and photos by Carlos Rene Castro
For Ruben Cortez, turning his 1959 Impala convertible into a piece of lowriding art is a family affair.
He bought the elegant classic car known for its shiny rear fins 14 years ago. “The car just had a shell and no engine,” Cortez said last week while attending the Tavares Family Car Club Mega Show at the Salinas Airport. “All the floors were rusted and there were bullet holes. My wife said, man, what’s up with this? She was quite upset.
Cortez said he’s been around lowriders all his life. His older brother, Mario Cardova, was into lowriding and owned a 1979 Ford Thunderbird. Cortez was hooked as a youth and followed in his brother’s footsteps. He is now president of the Santa Cruz branch of the Impala Car Club.
Cortes said he thinks of his Impala as a masterpiece and credits his family with helping him through the process.
“It’s a family business. Right now I’m building a 1959 Impala convertible and my whole family is involved. It’s a great outlet,” Cortes said.
Thousands of other enthusiasts from car clubs across the state jammed the tarmac at the airport to show off their own masterpieces and marvel at the tricked-out lowriders, semi-trucks and lowrider bikes at Saturday’s Mega Show. The bikes were awesome—and the huge, bright, shiny semis inspired the crowd.
In addition to the vehicles on display, the Tavares show featured a car jumping competition that tested the hydraulic spring of participating vehicles. Additional batteries to power the hydraulic pumps are hidden in the trunks of the lowriders, and vehicle owners control their jumps by remote control. The principle is simple: the car that jumps the highest wins. Even better, everyone was a winner; all participants in the car jump shared a gift of $5,000.
The Tavares Mega Show is among the largest gatherings of lowriding clubs in the country. Rides Collective, an online news site for automotive enthusiasts, named Tavares one of the five “Most Anticipated Lowrider Shows of 2022.” The event attracted 565 registered vehicles and bikes — and more than 5,000 people.
With its success, the City of Salinas will recognize the Tavares Family Car Club at the August 23 City Council meeting. Tavares said at least one city official told Pete Tavares, the event’s 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 went out of business a few months later. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, car club members 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 get people out of their homes,” said Tavares, president of the Tavares Family Car Club. “We’ll have trucks, boxing, Lucha libre, we’ll have cars, we’ll have vendors and a concert.”
For added drama, the Tavares Mega Show also featured amateur boxing matches that drew hundreds of fight fans to the Salinas Airport track. The crowd of fans cheering on the young fighters were several professional boxing stars from Salinas, including Ruben “Dracula” Villa and Justin “The Stallion” Corona. Not far from the boxing ring, Lucha Libre fighters flew off the ropes and body slammed their opponents in a fast-paced show.
At the north end of the airport, legendary Norteño Mexican band Los Cadetes de Linares played hits like “El Palomino,” “Los Dos Amigos” and “Las Tres Tumbas” as attendees danced. Also playing upbeat tunes on stage were The Gap Band, a funk group that first came to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Mega Show is the big event for the Tavares Family Car Club Foundation. The nonprofit was formed in 2019 to raise funds for about a dozen charities, ranging from the Salinas Police Action League to Dorothy’s Kitchen to America’s Fallen Heroes.
The club donated $20,000 to local organizations after the show in 2019. This year, the plan is to donate 75 percent of sales from the Mega Show and split the wealth among various local nonprofits, Tavares said.
But the cars were the stars of the airport on Saturday.
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