21Country: Lowrider club turns passion into purpose

Car enthusiasts use niche interest to raise money for local children
Updated: Sep. 15, 2022 at 5:30 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Most acknowledge, there’s a bad reputation when it comes to lowriding. Stylized, custom cars with hydraulics wheels pack enough power to ‘hop’ the car several inches, or even feet into the air. And in movies, they’re often associated with gangbangers and other troublemakers. But the Hop Spot Crew is defying that stereotype in an inspiring way. For club president Marcus Lonsberry, it started more than two decades ago.

“About 1998, I lived in Villa Capri Apartments,” he shared. “A guy named Troy came through here — he had a car he was building, and I thought it was really cool. I was getting into trouble, and my mom was like, ‘you better find a hobby!’”

“So lowriding became my hobby, and it’s been like that ever since,” Lonsberry continued. “I don’t have time to get into trouble.” Since then, he’s owned over a dozen lowriders. Currently he has several he’s working on. Hundreds of hours go into building the cars. After reinforcing some parts of the frame with extra metal, hydraulics are installed on the wheels, which are usually around 13-14 inches. Batteries in the trunk determine how high the car can hop. They can range from just a couple, to fourteen! “It’s kind of like therapy for me. I’ll put in some good old music and just jump in the car,” he told us. “I like the way it rides and feels… it glides. I can’t explain the feeling. I just love it.”

“Cadillac, Chevy, Buick… You’ve got a lot of choice,” Sherwin Underwood said. The father met with ABC21, shortly after picking up his daughter in his lowrider car. As one can imagine, it draws a lot of eyes. “She loves it,” he smiled. “She acts like she doesn’t like it, but she does love it.” Underwood has been active in the club for 15 years. He too got interested in lowriding as a teen. Nearly every surface, interior, even engine, are customized. “I’ve been building this car for five years,” Underwood explained. “This car is redone from every part of the car you could imagine that could be done. From the mirror, to the door handles, the markers in the front, the grill, the gold emblems, the rim, the motor… I put a lot of upgrades in.”

“It’s not really a hobby for us — it’s really a way of life,” he added. “I would like people to admire the car for what it is, and understand we put so much time to get the cars the way they are. We put a lot of money, a lot of man hours underneath the car. Grinding, welding, turning a wrench. Getting this, getting that. Wiring this, wiring that — we put a lot of time into this.”

“This is Bigg Sexxy,” Angie Soto said proudly, of her 1995 Chevy Caprice. “She has got the full hydraulic system. She is pink and patterned. All the artwork you see on it, somebody recently just did this. About a year ago, I invested in a material interior for the seats. I went with an old school Mexican blanket serape material its called — and I’ve got spoked rims on her. That’s where she’s at right now.” The fact that Soto is a female lowrider, attracts almost as much of attention as her car. The hobby has been in her family. She grew up in her uncle’s shop. “I was exposed to it at a young age. Four or five years ago, started hanging out with a couple of friends who had lowriders and came up with the idea to start building my own.”

But Soto had her eye on turning the Hop Spot Crew’s collective passion, into purpose. “The biggest thing that Hop Spot Crew has been doing, is working to change the mindset of what the typical lowrider owner is,” she explained. “Whether it’s a gangbanger, troublemaker, a bad influence in the community — we are parents, employees, fundraiser people — it’s just a cool hobby we have. So we’re just trying to let them see that we, the Hop Spot Crew and other clubs in town, are trying to be positive and do good in the area.”

And they’re doing just that. In 2021, the group raised and donated over $9,000 to Camp Whatcha Wanna Do. They’ve also focused on using their cars to connect with kids going through difficult times. “We felt like it was really important to give back to causes using something that’s not normal,” Soto said. “Because it’s a niche, a lot of people want to get involved and help out.”

Their latest event and fundraiser is planned for Saturday. The 4th annual Hop Spot Crew Festival is September 17. In addition to a lowrider car show, there will be challenges with cash prizes, live music, raffles, and food. It starts at 11 a.m. at The Plex North, and continues until 8 p.m. Money raised, will go back into helping local children.

“People affiliate, or associate lowriding with different things because they see it in movies,” Underwood told us. “We’re trying to bring back a positive light to lowriding in the community.”