Living the lowrider lifestyle
LOS LUNAS—Dancing, bouncing colorful lowrider cars and trucks, trimmed in sparkling chrome are a feature of American car culture, and Arturo “Tury” Romero’s 1993 Chevy Eldorado lowrider truck is a winning combination.
Named “Le Queloune,” French for The Clown, Romero also calls the truck “Lowbot” for short and it has won 68 awards.
What makes Romero’s truck special is what he has designed the vehicle to do.
In addition to the virtually standard front and rear bouncing that lowriders can do, Romero’s truck bed and hood can open up like a book, revealing its unique mechanisms. This feature is made possible by the hydraulics Romero installed to tilt the pickup bed up from the cab end and tilt the whole front end out forward.
“That seems to catch every one by surprise when I do it, even the people who have been in the lowrider scene for a very long time,” Romero said.
The hydraulics are like shock absorbers on steroids and are operated by motors. Romero can make the truck perform while sitting at the wheel inside the cab.
Another unique feature of the truck is the roof of the cab has been removed to transform it into a convertible.
Under the hood, the gleaming engine has been “chromed out,” Romero said.
“The engine is not souped up or anything, it’s just dressed to impress,” he said.
Las Lunas residents Romero and his wife, Laura “Cecy” Romero, are members of the Prestige Car Club that was founded in El Paso, where Romero grew up. He is currently the president of the club.
Winning top awards at car shows all over the region, Romero has also won locally at the Los Lunas Summer Fest and the Albuquerque State Fair.
Last year, the Romeros participated in Lowrider Magazine’s Super Car Show Tour that started in Phoenix, Ariz., at the University of Phoenix Cardinals Stadium, where Romero won first place with his full-custom Chevy pickup and third place in Best of Show out of more than 700 entrants, he said.
The tour continued to Denver, Colo., where Lowbot took second place in Radical Truck and third place in Best of Show.
In Albuquerque, Romero’s truck won second place in the ’90s and newer full custom truck category, and at the finals in Las Vegas, Nev., he won first place in Full Custom Lowrider Truck category.
“I couldn’t believe it — it was a dream come true for me,” Romero said, “I think I blacked out for a second when they announced my name. It took me a few seconds to realize I had just won.”
Le Queloune has won a total of 68 awards since Romero customized it and he plans to reach 100 awards this year if possible, he said.
The husband and wife team both enjoy participating in car shows. Cecy often helps prepare her husband’s cars and trucks for show, cleaning upholstery and polishing chrome, while he handles the mechanical end of things. The couple said they enjoy getting out of town and meeting people who share the same passion for lowriders as they do.
“Usually, every trip that we took to the car shows out of town, the cash money that we won paid for the trip,” Romero said. “Just her shopping is the only …”
Cecy laughs at the innuendo and Romero quickly adds that she’s not too big of a shopper.
In fact, Romero said he is forever grateful to “my beautiful wife” for putting up with him when he works late hours in the garage on the vehicles.
“Cecy is an amazing woman because she has been able to calm me down when I was frustrated with the work of building the lowrider,” he said.
It took five years to complete the truck.
“There were times that I would walk in the house telling her that I was going to give up and that I was never going to finish building my truck,” Romero said.
Cecy would tell him to put it away for a few days and get back into it later.
“That really did help,” Romero said. “Thank you my love, te amo.”
The couple met when they were very young children, and then Romero’s brother, Armando, met and married one of Cecy’s aunts.
“We’ve been boyfriend and girlfriend since their wedding,” Romero said.
The Romeros have two sons, Jose Romero, a U.S. Marine stationed in Yuma, Ariz.; and Manuel, a freshman at Los Lunas High School. When the boys were young, they would go to the car shows, too, but as they got older, their interests changed.
Numerous trophies stand along the floorboards and line the walls of the Romeros’ basement den. It’s a lifelong hobby Romero took up early in life.
Growing up in El Paso, he was impressed by his older brother Armando’s lowrider, Romero said.
Both of his brothers, Armando and Hugo, plus his cousin, Enrique “Kiki” Garibay, were all lowrider enthusiasts.
“I was about 9 years old the first time I saw a car hop its front tires. I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world,” Romero said. “Then the car lifted its front left tire up in the air and was standing on three wheels only — I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was magic.”
When his brothers moved to Albuquerque, Romero often spent his summers working with them. Armando is an architect and Romero said he’d help paint offices or whatever work was needed. Eventually, his whole family moved to New Mexico and Romero has worked for the village of Los Lunas for 11 years.
A 1961 Chevy Impala is Romero’s latest project, and it’s currently down in El Paso undergoing bodywork at Albert’s Custom Paint and Body Shop. The shop owner is a friend and member of the car club.
At one time, Romero had 10 cars he was working on but said when he and his wife moved to Huning Ranch, there wasn’t enough room for that many cars.
Several of the car shows Romero participates raises money for charity, such as Relay for Life and breast cancer awareness, as well as the Tillery Chevrolet car show that helps Los Lunas High School cheerleaders.
The couple also rides in the Los Lunas Fourth of July and Christmas parades.
Building cars is not only a fun hobby but also has therapeutic value, Romero said.
“I would like to thank my Prestige Car Club members, my best friend, Saul Anchondo, and my recently deceased cousin, Enrique “Kiki” Garibay, for all their help and support in helping me build my lowrider truck,” Romero said.