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Car enthusiasts, city leaders work to change image of local motor culture

Caleb James
October 18, 2017 11:10 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Step inside a 1956 Chevy Bel Air with Frank Chavez, and you’ve stepped back in time. It’s almost like Marilyn Monroe or Buddy Holly could be sitting in the backseat.

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And Chavez would say that’s the whole point; to be in a time machine.

“It’s like being in a large fish bowl,” he said. “Everybody’s looking in to see what, how cool that is or what kind of car you’re driving. Constantly looking.”

For Chavez, the drive back in time is something spiritual. His dad, a state trooper, died when he was just nine years old.

In the aftermath, a car club saved his life. As a kid, he walked past a shop and made it his ultimate goal to own a shop of his own someday.

A GOAL FULFILLED

After 25 years of working for the public school system, Chavez has accomplished that goal.

His Duke’s Car Club gave away 6,000 backpacks to schoolkids last year. Right now, he’s in the process of restoring a car for a foster dad of four.

“We came to an agreement where he would bring it to me, I’d finish putting it together, he finishes being the world’s best dad,” Chavez said.

He says that’s just Albuquerque’s car culture. It doesn’t involve street racing; not in its purest form, anyway. Instead, it’s the meticulous artists slowly creeping to show off their rides.

REFINING THE IMAGE OF A CULTURE

Albuquerque City Councilwoman Klarissa Pena agrees, which is why she has drafted legislation proposing to re-write city ordinance that currently calls “cruising” a threat.

Pena’s draft instead acknowledges that “cruising, when done responsibly, is deeply ingrained in the culture of the southwest, and woven into the cultural fabric and heritage of the city.”

She wants a “10-member cruising task force,” which would include three merchant representatives and three car club representatives, as well as city representatives.

Whatever helps change the image, Chavez says, of something that is currently defined broadly in city ordinance as “the repetitive, unnecessary driving of motor vehicles.”

“Bad people don’t have the time to put money like that into cars,” Chavez said. “Go for a ride. You will see a low-rider. Stop and say hi to them; they’re regular people, just like anyone else.”

The task force will have to be approved by committee, and then it will go on before the full city council.

Pena says she is hopeful about the legislation, and she and co-sponsor Isaac Benton are already working with car club members to get the initiative rolling.

 

 

 

 

Credits

Caleb James

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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