September 28, 2016

Lowriders in West Valley

 

Mel Garcia and his grandson Elijah - by Brian Bo

Lowrider Stands for Community.
The immaculate finish, artful paint jobs, hand-sewn upholstery and hydraulic pumps in the trunk that rock the riders….When you think of lowrider cars, Utah suburbs, fundraisers and family barbecues probably aren’t the first things to come to mind. But Mel Garcia, founder and president of the Firme Image Carclub, wants everyone to know that lowriders are not only about the artistry of the car, but they also serve as a beacon for the community, calling out to admirers and artists alike to gather and share in a positive atmosphere.
In Utah, there are eleven lowrider carclubs. Firme Image currently has twelve members with a total of twenty-three cars. Roughly every quarter, the leaders of the carclubs collaborate to put on a family friendly barbecue at which they discuss news or share club standards in their respective car communities. Garcia describes some of Firme Image’s club standards and initiations– every candidate must go through a one-year review, during which time the existing members have the opportunity to learn about the candidate and make sure the prospect is a good fit. Garcia says they’re mostly trying to figure out who the person is during this time and making sure they’re going to have a positive impact on those around them. All members must commit to the club standards of respect for each other and the community, self improvement and humility. Garcia says, “cars represent an image of who you are.”
Firme Image periodically collaborates with West Valley City Police to put on fundraisers as well as puts on their own car washes. They even sponsored two in-need families in their community last year. Garcia is no stranger to such charitable efforts, though – he volunteered at Project 180, a gang prevention program for youth at risk, for several years. Garcia remembers putting together a lowrider bicycle and model cars when he was a kid – a fascination that would later help him in his personal struggle to turn away from gang affiliation. Garcia knows that the greatest challenge the carclubs face is changing the public perception that lowriders are connected with gang violence. The year-long prospect, community fundraisers and standards for mutual respect are just some of the continual efforts to maintain a safe, positive environment for all.
In addition to family BBQs and fundraisers, the club shows cars annually at Victor’s Car Show, a twelve year running lowrider show which Mel Garcia founded. Although Victor’s Car Show will not be taking place this year (Garcia is focusing time on his daughter’s wedding), it usually takes place in the Taylorsville Park after the Cinco de Mayo parade.§

Caption: Members of the Firme Image CarClub [previous page: Garcia family members, Mel, grandson Elijah, and a ‘64 Impala]