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Sparks-based auto shop restores classic cars for lowriding while aiming to help the community

Two men standing outside an auto shop are looking toward the camera while holding up peace signs, or V signs.
Zoe Malen
KUNR Public Radio
George Luna (left) and Felipe Rodriguez stand in front of their car shop where they restore classic cars in Sparks, Nev., on Nov. 10, 2023.

Crazy Custom Classics is run by George Luna, who founded the Viejitos Car Club – which has chapters around the world.

On the busy corner of Prater and 14th streets in Sparks, George Luna – known as “Crazy George” – demonstrated the hydraulics on his 1936 Buick. His partner in cars, Felipe Rodriguez, explained how the system works. Opening the trunk of a work in progress, he pointed to the eight batteries and two hydraulic pumps.

“So each one of these batteries carries a 12-volt power out of it, so you combine all this power to make the weight of the car motor transmission go up and down, actually hop off the floor, which you guys have seen going down the street,” he said.

Luna and Rodriguez’s shop is Crazy Custom Classics, and their business is completely restoring classic cars for lowriding. According to Luna, these classic cars are referred to as bombs.

“The newer cars, it’s called traditional, anything on the old ones is called, you know, bombs. Lowrider bombs. Why we call them bombs is because they’re real bombastic,” Luna said.

Luna is known for his boisterous personality, the tricks he performs with cars like his Buick, and the work his shop does. Rodriguez’s paint jobs are incredibly detailed and long-lasting. The paint on Luna’s Buick looks brand new, but it’s not.

“This car has been painted for 20 years. See when you do something from scratch, you know, if you want to make sure it lasts, you spend the money, do it right the first time,” Luna said.

Luna and Rodriguez perform complete restorations, stripping everything down to the frame and building it back up from scratch. They also do partial restorations.

“When you’re doing a frame up restoration, everything starts from underneath the car. Every single nut, bolt has to come up, every screw. You turn around and you remove all these and re-chrome them, refabricate them, redo them,” Rodriguez said. “So there’s a process of taking it off, putting it together, over and over till you get your better result as you go.”

The restorations at Crazy Custom Classics can take up to two years as they wait on hard-to-get or customized parts. And the price for restorations in the classic car community can go as high as $250,000 depending on the car and how difficult it is to obtain parts for it.

“The most expensive restoration has been about a $100,000 car. They’re basically all gonna run close to that if you completely restore a car, and chrome everything out. Show cars, low riding community, we do a lot of show cars,” Rodriguez said.

The two have been working with cars since they were young. Originally from Mexico, Luna grew up in South Central LA. He said lowriding changed his life for the better.

“You know, I came out with four bullet holes. I got shot, that’s that. I’m here so I’m not gonna waste my life on doing things that I shouldn’t be doing. So this is what keeps me straight; low riding changed my life,” he said.

Rodriguez, who grew up in New Mexico with a similar background, said they both worked on cars from a young age and had to learn most of what they know themselves.

“I grew up doing it and like he said, from poverty, you learn how to do it yourself,” he said. “There were no role models to get you into it. Back then it was harder. So yeah, we just grew up in it and changed the lifestyle from being in trouble, getting into cars, putting our time and energy into them.”

Luna also founded a car club called the Viejitos, which means “old men” in Spanish. The club, which is approaching its 40th anniversary, makes unique license plate memorabilia to commemorate each decade. To signify the club, members will hold up a V sign.

“Our car club starts with a V. It’s called Viejitos Car Club. So we always have this as a V, signifies the peace, the V,” Rodriguez said.

They also have a nonprofit called Crazy Cruise Foundation, which hosts cruise drives to support different charities. The next drive they plan on doing will be from Las Vegas to San Diego to raise money to help people battling cancer.

“Our vision is to have at least 200 cars proceed from Vegas to San Diego to raise money and to help somebody that needs it,” Luna said.

Through their work with Viejitos, Crazy Cruise Foundation, and Crazy Custom Classics, Luna and Rodriguez hope to give back to their community and also encourage young people to get involved with classic cars. According to Luna, they see a bright future for the shop.

“We see us growing pretty big over here in the next couple of years,” he said. “We’re looking for a bigger location and looking better every day.”

KUNR's Sophia Holm is a student at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

Sophia Holm (she/her) is a Lake Tahoe resident with a deep passion for nature and an even stronger love for storytelling. She strives to provide KUNR’s listening region with strong stories about climate news, issues, and solutions as the station’s Summer 2023 Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D., Project for Visualizing Science Intern.