Celebrating New Mexico’s lowrider culture

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For custom painters Rob Vanderslice and Joseph “Blast” Leyba, lowriders are a form of art.

“This is my car,’ Leyba said while revving the engine for our KOB 4 crew in his NE Albuquerque garage. “It’s a 1963 Impala Super Sport, and I drive this thing about every day.”

He gestured to the silver blue metallic paint on the outside of the lowrider while explaining how it matches the interior.

“The owner’s personality, that’s what really makes a lowrider,” Leyba said.

Vanderslice then shared the personal story behind his own lowrider paint pattern.

“One side is oriental blues, cobalt blue, violet, magenta, purples, and it’s kind of my testimony on twelve years clean from crystal meth,” he said. “It’s out of the darkness into the light is kind of the story behind it, and it’s the first car ever to have LED lights inside the paint.”

Both artists say they were born into lowrider culture before the stigmas surrounding it fell away.

“Used to be, you know, the gangbangers drug dealers, all of that,” Vanderslice said. “It literally is a culture, and it’s family.”

Vanderslice and Leyba said they use their combined skills as custom car painters and builders to show how beautiful and unifying lowriders can be, whether that is through their participation in the city’s Lowrider Bike Program or the pattern classes they teach to people from all over the country.

“We had students here from Washington, D.C., from Cincinnati, from Missouri, from Kansas, from Arizona,” Vanderslice said. “People are hungry to learn, you know. It’s just the colors, the candies, the transparent, the flake.”

The Albuquerque Isotopes are hungry to learn too. The baseball team joined the community three years ago by incorporating an annual Mariachi’s Lowrider Night that has since become a fan favorite. Vanderslice and Leyba said they are excited to share a miniature piece of their culture that they specially designed for game-goers next month, a lowrider bobblehead.

“Honestly, this is the coolest thing,” Vanderslice said while seeing the creation he helped design in person for the first time. “An actual bobblehead, a lowrider. If anything should bobble, it should be a lowrider.”

Click here to learn more about the work that went into the collector’s piece, which will be given out to the first 3,000 fans through the gate at the Lab on July 1.