Cornell Charilla, from Kansas, installed hydraulics on my Cad at the first LEAD EAST in New Jersey in '83. I added dingle balls and obnoxious La Cucaraccia air horns. Some people saw the humor and understood I was having fun with my car. Many didn't. Those who thought I was making fun of Mexicans were wrong. I was making fun of square Anglos with no soul. I think all cars and trucks look better when lowered. The lower the better. I mean, I want to get a backhoe and dig a perfectly designed trench about 5 inches deep at a big Rod Run like York or WOTSRA's so I can park my present '41 Buick (formerly Lee Pratt's) Lowrider in it!
I had a great deal of fun with my car, but on several occasions it tried to kill me. When the hydraulics were first installed on my Cad I'd drop the front end and "BWANG", pop the spokes out of the 15 inch Riviera wire wheels. The tires were planted and I was torquing the spindle so hard when I'd drop the hydraulics, something had to give. Something else that let go was the bolts hoding the lower control arms to the frame. On at least four occasions I'd be on a country road and suddenly the car would lurch across the center line and drop, making a horrible scraping noise of metal against asphalt. I'd replace the bolts with case hardened bolts and it still didn't solve the problem. When I switched to 14 inch wheels (to lower the car more) it solved the problem because now the K-member would crash against the ground when I dropped the hydraulics.
When the car was built in California it got about 30 coats of Candy base coat, toner and clear. The first Jersey winter the paint checked, cracked and crazed like gangbusters. Big souvenir chunks of paint flaked off. It was time to take the car down to bare Bondo and do it over, along with some bumper rechroming. I had the Pontiac Gran Prix door handles shaved and had a set of 6 1/2 foot bubble skirts hammered out of metal. The car was painted the same dark burgundy, but in bulletproof enamel. The personalized plate LO LIFE and MANHATTAN LOWRIDERS (a fictional club I started) plaque in the rear window completed the picture. It was the ultimate Mexican Pimpmobile.
Another swell memory of the car occurred when the car was going from the shop where the fender skirts were being made to the body shop. Someone thoughtlessly tossed the stainless side speares in the trunk, arcing across the batteries. Fortunately the guy driving the rollback had a fire extinguisher and was able to put out the blazing inferno in the trunk that resulted, on the side of I-80. Like I said, it ain't a real hot rod if it don't catch fire! This is a good lesson on why you use battery boxes . . . and don't carry cans of gas in the trunk!
Another bad experience began when cruising the fairgrounds at Larry Kramer's HOT LEAD AND OTHER BAD METAL event in Ohio. I had the hydraulics down as low as possible while moving and when we encountered a change in the pavement height the car emitted a loud BLANG! We laughed it off and foolishly drove off to Minnesota and THE 50'S NATIONALS. But enroute to the Columbus STREET ROD NATS (after putting a center driveshaft bearing in the car in Minnesota) I had another, more convincing "MY CADDY IS TRYING TO KILL ME" episode.
The idler arm bracket that we had cracked in Ohio finally let go in Wisconsin- at 65MPH on the freeway. It was a religious experience. The front tires suddenly towed-in radically, there was a partial loss of steering control, and the steering cross-link was digging a groove in I-94. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a cloud of black asphalt grindings spewing from my ill-fated Lowrider. I guided the wounded Caddy to the side of the road like belly-landing a B-29 with no nose wheel, getting it off the highway without hitting the guard rail or any other vehicles. All the while there was this unforgettable sound of chassis component digging Wisconsin asphalt. As I sat there by the side of the road, saying a prayer for still being in one piece, dozens of Street Rods whizzed by enroute to Columbus and the Nats. But the adventure had just begun.