Car show embraces Chicano hot rod culture

Francisco and Viviana Perez look over a mint 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme lifted in the air by hydraulics at the Pomona Swap Meet and Classic Car Show on Sunday at the Fairplex in Pomona. The Swap Meet and Car Show also included vendors selling old car parts and automotive memorabilia. / photo by Nathan Driscoll
Francisco and Viviana Perez look over a mint 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme lifted in the air by hydraulics at the Pomona Swap Meet and Classic Car Show on Sunday at the Fairplex in Pomona. The Swap Meet and Car Show also included vendors selling old car parts and automotive memorabilia. / photo by Nathan Driscoll

Vincent M. Franco
Staff Writer

The Fairplex in Pomona was filled with hundreds of classic cars and vendors selling a variety of items like hard to find car parts, old antique items, and everything in between at the Pomona Swap Meet and Classic Car Show on Sunday.

This is like any other swap meet but on a much larger scale, along with a classic car show incorporating different car clubs from neighboring cities.

The grounds of the Fairplex were bustling. As soon as visitors walked in, they were greeted by the smell of barbecue and the sounds of oldies being pumped out of classic cars as they cruise to their spots. The variety of the music played throughout the day was diverse, but oldies dominated the speakers of the vendors and in cars.

Though it was promoted as the place for old car parts and automobilia, it was not limited to these items. Weaved between the rusted metals and chrome plated car accessories were vendors selling vintage clothes, vinyl records, candy painted beach cruisers, and even skateboards from the 1980s and 1990s. 

“People are coming here to look for vintage things that you really can’t find anywhere else, people like us who come out, people like car collectors come out,” said first-time vendor George Miller Jr. “It gives us the opportunity to share and exchange the rare products that we have.”

Miller is a vinyl collector, who finds old, rare soul records released on 45 RPM records from the 1950s and 1960s. He then compiles them onto one 12 inch pressing and sells them through his label Gangster Soul Harmony.

The sounds, including Doowop, soul and R&B, Miller is selling is what is thought to be the essential soundtrack for Chicano car culture, a culture that was very prominent at the swap meet.

To the left side of the vendors were a sea of classic cars all glimmering in the sunlight from their fresh wax jobs. Some owners were rolling solo but others came in droves with their car clubs. Rocking their car club names on shirts, lettermen or Dickies jackets, like Viejitos Car Club, Bomb Life Car Club, or C10 Compas. 

“Compas” is Spanish slang for “friend,” derived from the word “compañiera” or “compañeiro,” and that is exactly what this car club was all about. 

“For us, you know, it’s bringing out the trucks, showing out, barbecuing, shaking a hand making a friend,” said David “Ocho” Gutierrez, a member of the C10 Compas car club, a club consisting of a bunch of friends all sharing their interest in old C10 Chevy trucks.

Attendees at the swap meet came from all over the Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley  as well as from all ocer the Los Angeles area, and some even drove  up from San Diego.

Ray Flores, a longtime Pomona Swap Meet participant and photographer from San Diego, makes his way to these events as often as possible. A true admirer of Car Culture, he aims to capture its scene with photographs. 

“The culture, the car culture, the people culture, the Chicano culture, Chicano movement, cars were a big part of that movement,” Flores said. “So being able to see that here represented in so many different ways, through cars, is important” 

The atmosphere of the entire swap meet felt as if it was one big family party. Everyone was friendly, offering food off their grills and cold drinks out of the cooler.

Long time Pomona Swap Meet goers Christina and Danny Mercado finally got to live their dream of owning their own van and spending the night there on the fairgrounds. They said being able to do so and to do it comfortably was one of their favorite things about it.

“The car hot rod camaraderie, everyone’s just kind of on the same boat, they come here for the same things,” Danny Mercado said. 

Vincent M. Franco can be reached at vincent.franco@laverne.edu.

Vincent Matthew Franco is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. He has been involved in journalism and print media in high school, community college and is now at the social media editor of the Campus Times and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine. He previously served as arts editor.

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