Automotive brands such as Ferrari and Mercedes have long been the ultimate symbols of success, but for many well-to-do Hispanics, it’s quite the opposite.
Very few could understand how a classic truck could overshadow an exotic car’s speed and sultry lines. Still, in the case of a growing number of wealthy Hispanic car collectors, trucks have silently remained at the pinnacle of their collections. But these aren’t just any old trucks. These are high-dollar restorations performed on Ford trucks from the ’60s and ’70s. In short, these trucks are capsules of sentimental value and metal canvases that pay homage to the struggle and success of their bloodline.
For the average person, the thought of spending upwards of $160,000 to restore a truck seems unimaginable. But these are not just any old trucks, and the devil truly is in the details. These high-dollar restorations are labor-intensive. Every single nut, bolt, washer, and fastener is removed and cataloged. From there, each piece of the truck is cleaned up from the debris, acid dipped, and either painted, zinc, or cadmium plated to keep them up to original factory standards.
So when a friend invited me to preview the build of a new restoration, I jumped at the opportunity, and it did not disappoint. Located in a nondescript warehouse nestled in Downtown Los Angeles, I’ll admit, it was not what I had expected. The air wreaked of urine that had baked in the summer heat, the walls were plastered with amateur graffiti, and entering the garage was no different – but it was by design. The owner, Mr. Torres, did not want his building to stand out, and it’s with good reason, as this was merely the outer casing of an automotive wonderland.
Upon entry, the garage’s interior (which was visible from the street) shared the same dilapidated demeanor. After formal introductions were complete, Mr. Torres slid back a rusted metal barn door that screeched murder. We then took a right, walked another 20 feet, and through a set of industrial metal doors, we entered an immaculate 18,000 sq. ft oasis filled with statuary, heirloom furniture, polished cherry wood floors, and 30′ tall ceilings flaunting an immaculately restored bowstring truss. Making our way to the back, we walked past a fleet of perfectly spaced cars, included in that line-up, a Bugatti, two vintage Ferraris, and a Lamborghini Miura. Interestingly enough, Mr. Torres made no mention of the cars; he didn’t even look at them and seemed too excited to show me his 1969 Ford F100, which sat under covers that looked more like satin sheets.
As he pulled back the cover, he pointed his lips to the cars we had passed and said, “Those are status symbols of my hard work. This truck here is different. It is symbolic of my family’s hard work. This means the world to me, it’s ‘Mi Corazon.'” As the cover hit the floor, his fingers began to caress the body lines of the tailgate when he said, “This truck is everything. This is my pride. This is not just an old Ford. This is my tradition, and for my friends and me, our trucks carry a deeper meaning that goes back to our roots, and John, we all know that frost never strikes the roots.”
For the next few hours, we threw back a few beers, listened to tracks from Vicente Fernandez, and plowed through photo albums that chronicled the entire rebuild process. Hired photographers documented every part of the restoration. With every turn of the page came a story about his father and uncles. He would speak on their sacrifice, shared stories about his upbringing, and his gratitude was clear. One binder contained receipts for the build, including spreadsheets (put together by his accountant) for labor which totaled 1,500 hrs charged at $70 an hour – easily adding to the total cost of the rebuild, which came out to be “$145,343.06.” In total, the restoration process took three years to complete partly because he wanted the truck to be restored inside his facility.
While staring at the total cost for the project, Mr. Torres leaned forward, tapped me firmly on the shoulder, and said, “Isn’t that something? In a prime market, this truck may sell for $80,000 if I’m lucky, but building this truck is not about monetary value. It’s about sentimental value, and that to me is priceless.” Minutes later, the roll-up doors from the other side of the warehouse opened up, where four of his friends pulled up with their own freshly restored classic Ford trucks. After another set of formal introductions, Mr. Torres looked over and smiled at his friends, who seemed to be equally proud, and said, “I was telling our friend here what these trucks mean to us. And I think I speak for all of us when I say, ‘These trucks carried more than bales of hay and thousands of pounds of dirt; these trucks carried the tools of hard work, little pay, and a lifetime of pain. In the end, these trucks are a reminder of what got us where we are today; it’s what gave my friends and me opportunity – and that was a high price to pay our parents to pay!’”
In proud agreement, his friends nodded and smiled, and the next few hours were spent eating and drinking. Each toast seemed to bring about a new story about the value of their trucks, along with memories of yesteryear. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least, and in the end, it’s safe to say that these were more than just trucks. They are time capsules that hold the soul of their existence. They are vehicular treasures to be passed on to the next generation, and as the clock rounded 1 am, Mr. Torres said, “Let us make one final toast. We will toast to our forefathers who drove these trucks. For they are the ones who taught us that trucks might not be the status symbols of America, but for us men here, they are, because we understand the value they bring because, without these trucks, there would be no manicured lawns and no foundations for anyone to build their castles – including our own.”
Wise words from a man who I later found out owned 70% of the properties on the block.