IMPERIAL — Omar Flores of Brawley has been lowriding for years. He grew up around the cars and the culture, like most who took in the customized classics at the 28th annual La Gente Super Show.
“I love working on my lowriders and the satisfaction I get when I take my kids or family cruising, and the smile they have on their face is priceless,” said Flores, there to showing his own 1994 Cadillac Fleetwood, but also gathering to have good time with family and friends in La Gente Del Valle Imperial Car Club.
“I love that we come together as a family/car club to have events and support one another and especially support the community,” added Flores, who has had his own cars for 15 years. “Lowriding is a truly positive lifestyle that is about family, homes, and cars.”
Cruisers, lowriders, muscle cars, all kinds of makes and models — more than 200 cars altogether — gleamed in the sunlight, shined to perfection, showcasing the hundreds of hours that went into getting them show ready on Saturday, Oct. 16, at the Imperial Valley Fairgrounds in Imperial.
La Gente Super Show is one of the oldest and longest-running car shows in California, hosting several car clubs and at one point more than 250 cars, drawing people from all over Southern California and Arizona. This year, the show approached the numbers it put up five years ago, said La Gente member and judge Joel Gonzalez of Brawley, which he said was exciting.
Club president and one of the original members of La Gente Del Valle Imperial, Antonio Camacho, said the community has waiting for something like the Super Show after 19 months living with the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual gathering is almost like a big family reunion for the group, he said.
“We’re all happy, I think we’re all anxious to get out,” Camacho said. “It’s a gathering of the same faces, and that’s what’s great about it: the return of families.”
Those who didn’t have cars entered could be seen admiring the work from afar, while others looked deep into the engine compartments, drawing inspiration for their own cars waiting at home.
El Centro resident and car lover Robert Ramirez was there just to look, but he’s working on his own 1963 Ford Galaxie.
“My dad had an old car, my uncle had old cars. Just growing up as a boy into a man, you just love cars,” Ramirez said. “Just the hands-on working on the inside of the car, the engine, and just the benefits of working on it yourself. … Then getting in it and cruising in it, turning on your music and driving down the road getting the thumbs up from someone for having an old car.”
Others were there to display their pride and joys, vehicles that were brought up from the scrap heap into working, purring beauties.
Alexandra Gamboa of Imperial grew up in the car scene with her brother, watching him work on his car. She has always been a car enthusiast and has been getting into it even more thanks to her boyfriend. Gamboa entered her own car in the competition this year.
“I like adding your own touch to your own car, so it’s different and not like anyone else’s. I think that’s the best part,” Gamboa said. “Just the satisfaction of being different, you look at them and no two cars are the same.”
Many car clubs came down to the Valley on Saturday from Los Angeles, San Diego, and even from Yuma, to participate and show support. Aztlan Car Club President Ruben Aleman of Brawley said his club and La Gente have always supported each other. Aztlan has its own show and charities that all the other clubs come out to participate in, and that’s how the groups help give back to the community.
“The cars kept me out of trouble when I was growing up,” Aleman said. “I started with the lowrider bikes when I was small, and I just got the passion for the cars.”
La Gente got its start in 1975 in Oxnard with a focus on people and family, hence the name “la gente,” or “the people.” La Gente Del Valle Imperial chapter started four years later in 1979 by Camacho and friends who shared a love of cars.
All proceeds raised from this weekend’s Super Show will go toward scholarships and funding for the La Gente Boxing Gym in Brawley, which has been around since 1991 as a free place to train for Imperial Valley youths.
El Centro resident Benji Sumandig, who is a member of Del Valle Car Club, was out with his family showing off his cannoli cream-colored 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Another who has grown up in the car culture, Sumandig was eager to show all the effort and time he has put into creating his masterpiece and talk about what this lifestyle has meant to him.
“I love this culture,” Sumandig said. “The lowriding culture has been 100 percent good. I’ve been a car lover since I was a little kid, always working on my own car, grown up seeing them, and I’ve always wanted one.”