SCOTTSBLUFF — Growing up in Scottsbluff, Rich Montanez, 54, discovered his passion for cars, specifically lowriders. As he flipped through the pages of Lowrider Magazine, his dream would become a lifelong passion for the lowrider culture.
One day, he hoped to own a lowrider similar to those in the magazine and he was given that opportunity when his aunt decided to sell her 1966 Chevrolet Impala.
“When she told my mom she wanted to sell it, she said she didn’t want to lose it,” he said. “So, I brought it home.”
It was 1983 and Rich had just graduated from high school when he heard his aunt was selling the Impala.
“I bought it in 1983 when I graduated for $150,” he said. I "wanted the car and I wanted to redo it.”
As Rich repainted the Impala and began fulfilling his passion for lowriders, he decided to call the car Sueños, which is the Spanish word for dreams. The car, powered by a 283-c.i.d. small block, has been repainted four time and reupholstered since Rich bought it, but Sueños still serves as a reminder of fond family memories.
“My aunt use to haul her kids to school in it,” Rich said. “It’s a car that has a lot of sentimental value from where it’s been to where it’s at now.”
The car’s top was also cut, creating a long moon roof over the passengers’ heads. But when Rich decided to cut out the top, he had to be careful not to compromise the body’s strength.
“I saw a picture on a row of magazines and said, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
His plan was to cut the top a couple inches back from the front window to the back window, but his friends encouraged him not to do that because his frame would twist and his doors would not shut. To maintain the major support structure, he decided to cut the center of the roof out, leaving more of the frame intact. A custom piece of glass was made to fit into the roof.
After customizing Sueños with gold paint, also called moon dust, and marbelizer paint, the details continue to draw people to the vehicle. Hidden within the paint are white Impalas that are visible only from certain angles.
“I’ve always dreamed of having a nice car that catches people’s attention,” Rich said. “I’ve always loved cars and I’ve had a bunch on them, but this one just stuck out.”
While his Impala represent his dreams, Rich had interests in other cars and was looking for a Fleetline, also called a bomb.
“One of my buddy’s in the car club called me up one day and said, ‘Rich, don’t tell me you didn’t see this car.’”
After emailing him the link, Rich discovered there was a Fleetline under a car port in Scottsbluff.
“It was by the library in an alley and he gave it to me for $2,500,” he said. “It was right in my back door and I had looked everywhere.”
His plan is to paint the body off the frame and put in an air ride system to get the car sitting on the frame, low to the ground. The Fleetline body style and mechanics will remain original.
Throughout his involvement in the lowrider culture, Rich has shown Sueños in car shows in Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming and Nebraska. He will bring Sueños out for the High Plains Riot car show Aug. 16-18 at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds in Mitchell.
With the High Plains Riot a week away, Rich is excited about catching up with friends.
“It’s about the people and how they treat you,” he said. “We love the event because it’s all about family and I want more people to come and see it.”
His love of cars and cruising continues to foster memories for Rich in a car he read about in magazines as a boy. With a ride smoother than a Cadillac, Sueños floats down the highway with Rich behind the wheel showcasing the artistry of lowriders and a dream fulfilled.
“It’s just pure enjoyment,” he said. “This is what I love to do, build lowriders.”