Lowrider car club gets 'first of its kind' Chicano Park mural

Lowrider car club gets ‘first of its kind’ Chicano Park mural

Among the various murals adorning the Interstate 5 underpass at Chicano Park in Barrio Logan is a new showpiece taking shape with special significance to the community.

A group of eight artists is seeking to bring to life the local history of lowriders and car clubs from the 1970s and ‘80s, especially the Logan Heights’ car club, Brown Image. They’re using the same airbrushing techniques and some of the same materials that are used to paint lowrider cars, such as gold metal flakes and a paint called candy root beer.

Brown Image was one of the first car clubs formed in San Diego in 1970 and it was integral to the community, said Henry Rodriguez, its president.

In fact, the artists are copying from photos in his photo albums for the five-story mural.

“It shows our history,” he said.

A scaffold surrounds a five-story mural being painted on a pillar in Chicano Park that features images from car clubs.

A five-story mural called “Brown Image” is being painted on a pillar in Chicano Park in San Diego. It features images from car clubs from the 1970s. Eight artists are airbrushing the piece and using techniques that would typically be used to paint a lowrider car.

The artists are airbrushing onto the pillar images of the park “takeovers,” including the crowds of people and colorful cars that frequented them, and some familiar neighborhood buildings, including the Brown Image clubhouse on Logan Avenue, where many of the cars depicted in the mural were painted.

“This really shows you everything — the people, the passion and look — in that moment in time,” said Roberto Pozos, one of the airbrush artists.

The Brown Image mural will celebrate not only the car club’s contributions to Chicano Park but the vibrancy of the lowrider culture, which often fills the surrounding community with cars sporting bright paint jobs, bouncy hydraulics, and other expressions of cultural identity.

“To see the preservation of our history through the context of the part that unifies all of us in different ways, it’s just wonderful,” Pozos added.

Roberto Pozos and Victor Ochoa paint opposite sides of a five-story mural called "Brown Image" in Chicano Park.

Roberto R. Pozos, 59, left, and Victor Ochoa , 73, help paint a five-story mural called “Brown Image” on a pillar in Chicano Park that features images from car clubs on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022 in San Diego. Eight artists are airbrushing the piece and are using techniques that would typically be used to paint a lowrider car. The pillar is being painted a candy apple root beer color mixed with 30 pounds of metal flake.

In the beginning, car clubs from different neighborhoods didn’t always get along, Rodriguez said. However, those clubs eventually were able to break down barriers and bring together communities from diverse backgrounds with a common interest, he said.

“Your cars are a way to express yourself — it’s artwork — and when you have a car club, then you have a group of people that are interested in the same thing and willing to help each other, no matter what,” he added.

A poster of the inaugural Day at the Park from 1979 is among those highlighted in the mural, to commemorate one of the first times car clubs from different neighborhoods came together.

“They got to know each other,” Rodriguez said. “It was a time for us to get together and have a good time.”

Over time those bonds continued to grow. The San Diego Lowrider Council, which formed to promote strength through the unity between all the local car clubs and barrios, is still active today.

The partly completed mural already has used 30 pounds of gold metal flake and was airbrushed with candy root beer. The idea is to mirror a lowrider’s glossy finish, said lead muralist Victor Ochoa.

He got the idea while looking at Rodriguez’s photo albums of Brown Image, he said.

“I noticed what huge transformations the neighborhood had had, and of course, the cars,” Ochoa recalled. “One of my big efforts in painting murals is to try to document the history of our community.”

VZAR, 24, left, and Semilla Luna, 21, use a projector to trace an image. (Ana Ramirez / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

VZAR, 24, left, and Semilla Luna, 21, use a projector to trace an image. (Ana Ramirez / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Christina Bambino, 43, wears a headlight as she finishes airbrushing an image on the mural.

Christina Bambino, 43, wears a headlight as she finishes airbrushing an image on the mural.

Ochoa grew up watching his dad paint lowriders, which shaped how he would create his artwork.

“I was always messing around with the air compressor … and used to paint my bike with candy apple red,” he said.

Ochoa figured that the detailed photographs would best be depicted with airbrushing. Why not paint it like you would a lowrider car, he thought.

“It’ll look like nothing else,” Ochoa said. “In fact, I think we’re the only metal-flake-and-candy-apple mural in the world. And it’s five stories high, so I think we might be the biggest one.”

While mainly consisting of gold flake, part of the mural surrounds the club’s original “Brown Image” graffiti tag that some club members sprayed on the pillar back in the early 1970s.

“We were kids back then … so we got on each other’s shoulders and my brother wrote that up on top,” Rodriguez said of the white graffiti tag that stands two stories high. “We had several people on shoulders, and it was pretty heavy, but we did it.”

The Brown Image “plaque” is now a part of the mural, a symbol of the club’s place in the community, the artists said.

Although the mural is being funded by Rodriguez and his wife Janine, the community is helping to support the volunteer artists with a fundraiser on Feb. 5, which will feature live music, vendors, and food.

The mural is expected to be completed next month.

Cindy Rocha, 38, watches the sunset before heading back to set up a projector to outline an image on the mural.

Cindy Rocha, 38, watches the sunset before heading back to set up a projector to outline an image on the mural.

To learn more about the Brown Image mural project, visit instagram.com/brownimagechicanoparkproject.