Three Wheel Motion

Jess “Cookie” Juarez stands by his 1966 Chevy Impala SS on Alabama Street in Canoga Park, Calif., on April 17, 2024. Photo by Myraneli Fabian

Jess “Cookie” Juarez opens the suicide door of Crystal Blue Persuasion, his 1966 Chevy Impala SS with shaved handles and 13 different hues of candy blue and pearl. Fascinated kids jump beside him to get a look at the many switches on Crystal’s hydraulics “air carf” setup, “oohing” and “ahhing” at everything they see. 

After gathering sprays, deep cleaning each tip, and taping down sections of the lowrider, Alejandro “Chino” Vega, owner of C&L Customs located in Sylmar, California, touched up the paint on Crystal a few days before the City of STEM and Los Angeles Maker Faire showcase. 

“I owned a 1964 Chevy Impala and that’s when I started to learn how to paint and do body work in 1996” Chino said. “My lowriders have been around the world. The lowrider champion, ‘Orgullo Mexicano,’ was displayed at the Louvre Museum.”

Denise Sandoval, a professor for Chicana/o studies at California State University Northridge, has researched and been involved with lowrider culture for nearly three decades.

“California is one of the most expensive places to customize… that doesn’t even include buying the car because a lot of these cars are even fully dismantled. Certain models are really expensive like ‘64 Impala, ‘63 Impala, ‘58, ‘59 Impala,” Sandoval said. “Convertibles are expensive, so even fully dismantled could be anywhere between like $30,000-70,000. That’s just buying the old cars.”

The lowrider label was created by the police department around the 1965 Watts riots to describe the car, according to Sandoval. They were also part of a car culture that emerged around World War II. 

“In the Chicano culture, they were called ‘pachuco cars,’” Sandoval said.

Juarez was invited by Christina Romero from the Los Angeles Lowrider Alliance to display Crystal at the City of Stem & Los Angeles Maker Faire showcase at the L.A. State Historic Park on April 6, 2024.

“I felt honored and my hard work paid off,” Juarez said. 

Cookie’s wife Alicia Juarez said she is so proud of how much he has accomplished. 

“I’m really proud and happy he made it this far. He loves what he does so this is what makes him happy, going to events for the community.” Alicia said.

Cookie is the third generation and has lived in Canoga Park his whole life. He entered the car scene as a kid at the Catholic Charities Guadalupe Community Center and his first car show at 8 years old. 

“We used to do a lot of fundraising just so we could go on field trips, and that’s how I started being in the car scene, besides being in it with my family,” Cookie said. 

His father, Jess Juarez Jr., was the one that got Cookie involved in the lowrider scene and originally owned the 1966 Chevy Impala SS. 

“All the body work and stuff like that was all his ideas,” Cookie added. “My idea was just the paint job and whatever else I got to do.” 

Cookie works every day to give back to the community in Canoga Park by hosting car club events for the kids like the Easter basket drive, trunk-or-treats, and toy drives for Christmas. “We have some of the club members dressed up as Easter bunny or Santa Claus,” Cookie said “It’s more for the kids in the community.” 

His goal is to try to park everybody the right way to have enough room for cars to come in and make sure all the vendors get in before the cars do. However, if the vendors arrive at the same time as the cars, Cookie tries to have them set up quickly to allow more access for the cars, many of which do full displays.

One challenge Cookie has faced within the lowrider industry is judging at competitions and award shows. There’s a lot of details to consider, such as the engraving, chrome undercarriage, chrome A-arms, and all the different wheels. Back in the old days, Cookie saw nothing but candy paint jobs, fadeaways, and candy pearls. Now, it’s pattern after pattern.

The first award that Cookie won with his car was from Imperial’s Car Show. 

“I had won the last award because the person that gave out this award had passed away from cancer, which was called the Gypsy Rose Award.” Cookie said. “ Very few people have won that award and we were the last ones to get it before he passed away.”

That was a good welcoming opening for him and Crystal when the car got painted. The second award he got was from Budweiser for Best of Paint. 

“We had got another one that was from P. Meadows Picnic, that was for Best of Paint also and then also at the Imperial Show, we won first place for ‘60s and Customs.” Cookie said. “I also got recognized in San Fernando from the oldest car club for all the years of doing photography and doing car shows and stuff like that. I had won an award for that, which there I had won second place with the car. I also won first place at a show in Oxnard.” 

Cookie added that he also took first place in the Chatsworth Christmas Parade.

“I like to do everything,” Cookie said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re planning, organizing, or you’re doing the footwork. I just give my best to everything that I do regardless of an event or a fundraiser. I just try to focus on everything, make sure everything goes well.”