Lil John's 1966 Chevrolet
1966 Chevrolet Caprice owned and designed by Majestics member John "Lil John" Giovanni Bertoldi of La Mirada, California. Lil John is the founder and first President of the famous Majestics Lowrider car club mother chapter of Southern California. Established in 1973, the club has become a phenomenon that has made their footprint all over the world presently and place in Lowrider history. Lil John's list of Lowrider show cars representing the Lowrider Majestics Car Club helped set the standards in the 1970s and they each were ahead of their time in paint design, patterns, and murals. It was risky in those days but proved to be the future and is replicated in one form or another in so many Lowriders on the show Circuit today. This 66 Caprice featured here is a perfect example of the style that set the Lowrider trend in crazy and wild paint Jobs.
"Not a Pretty Sight!"
Lil John was co-owner of the shop "Best in West." Ed Mancini was Lil John’s partner in the shop, and it was he who gave the car the wild paint job. Ed, who was a very talented painter, started his career painting for Vini Bergman at Kolor Me Kustom, and according to Lil John “The paint job was like no other! Murals, Candies and Flakes. Believe it or not, but I told Ed to get it painted, and I wanted it to look different and wild, with color and Murals and designs like no other. I did not want it to look traditional. Before the Caprice, I had a famous show car called "The Candy Girl". "The Candy Girl" was a well known Candy Red 1965 Chevrolet Impala which was the Majestics car club's first show car on the circuit, winning many awards for stock custom. The car gained Lowrider attention and reputation for the Majestics in the beginning years until it was sold to an individual in Northern California. I did not expect the Caprice to come out so well since I wanted it just to drive on the streets. In my mind, I was going to build another show winner, which I did soon later called "The Italian Stallion."”
The lifts on the Caprice were installed by Louie Vasquez of Santa Fe Springs, California. Louie is one of the first members that joined the Majestics in 1973, and he and Lil John are still friends 45 years later. The build was done in less than 8 weeks, “We hurried the build to get it ready for shows so we could show it off and see if it would get attention with a wild looking crazy paint job that you normally would not see on Lowriders. You always saw Lowriders with straight color Metalflakes, Colored Pearls, or Candy Paint jobs only, like my first show cars. The Caprice was way ahead of its time, and it really grabbed attention.” It was lifted on all four corners, and the buttons that operated the lifts were placed underneath the dashboard. The system was installed so that Lil John could either raise the front or the back of the car. A 48-volt battery pack for the hydraulic pumps were installed in the trunk. The front and rear springs were radically cut so the body could rest on the ground when it was parked. The hydraulic cylinders were mounted above the cut-down springs. It ran on 6 x 14 inch Truespoke wheels fit with VW 5.60 x 14 tires. Power came from a stock 327 cu. inch small block Chevrolet engine.
Inside, the Caprice was upholstered in purple plush. The stock steering wheel was replaced with a small chain steering wheel.
Sold to Joey Viramontez
Shortly after the build was completed, John sold the Caprice to a fellow Majestics member Joey Viramontez. “I sold the 66 because I came out with "The Italian Stallion."” Joey sold the car to a broker on the East Coast. He had been told that he would get better money for the car on the East Coast, so he shipped it across the country the country. That was not the case, so the car wound up at an auction in West Palm Beach, Florida circa 1978 - 1979. Bernard Lavén purchased the car at the auction. Bernard ran a car dealership, and he didn't keep the car for a long time before it was sold to Lelle Gran at Automotive Trade Co in Stockholm, Sweden.
Lelle's Caprice was most likely the first hydraulic lifted car in Sweden, and maybe even Scandinavia and Europe. After it arrived it in Sweden, the Caprice was featured on the cover of Colorod Nr 10 1979. As Bernard had bought the car at an auction, Lelle didn't know a whole lot about the history of the car, but according to the featured story in Colorod the Caprice had been owned by some members of the Majestics lowrider club in La Mirada, California.
The Caprice caught a lot of attention in Sweden at the time, and according to the story in Colorod, people were paralyzed when Lelle laid the Caprice on the ground by the push of a button. When the Caprice was featured in Colorod, it was currently for sale, and Lelle's phone number was posted in the story. The radical paint job had reportedly cost 3.750 USD.
Where is it Now?
Around 2009 - 2010 Jacob Bergström met the current owner of the car at Wheels Nats, a Swedish American car show. The old lowrider was then located in the Jönköping area. It had been abused as a raggar cruiser for quite some time, and it was in need of a restoration. The incredible paint job, upholstery and accessories from the Colorod story were all gone. A hydraulic cylinder in the trunk of the car was all that was left from the old lowrider days.
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