Classic Cars in Mexico
by Gustavo Garcia
If your idea of heaven involves passing idle hours rummaging through junk
yards, then this Guadalajara, Jalisco "crazy group of rust-lovers" will be
right up your ally. The Automóvil Guadalajara Club is one of city's
largest associations of antique car collectors, boasting some 700 vintage
vehicles. Club member Luis Veytia was kind enough to take us on a spin
down memory lane recently, explaining some of the passion that drives this
particular group of aficionados.
A big part of the attraction with these cars is that they remind us of
when we were kids. Who doesn't remember watching dad tinker with the
Cadillac or grandpa driving his Buick, notes Veytia. The fondness starts
there. Once people join the club they often narrow their focus, becoming
more specialized in a particular period or vehicle model.
Started in 1984 by Luis Arredondo Castellanos, Jose Hernandez Montes,
Javier Gonzalez Batiz and Felipe Barba, among others, the club's members
were bonded by nothing more than a love of vintage automobiles. Many
weren't even classic car owners. Preparing for their first rally back
then, held in Guadalajara's Los Colomos park, Hernandez and Arredondo
realized they only had five or six vintage vehicles lined up for the
assembly. The pair ended up scouring the city, literally going from garage
to garage, looking for vehicles and their owners to participate in the
coming rally. They managed to find 70 willing partakers, the show's
history has been a success ever since.
Enrique Ramirez, one of the "grandfathers" of antique autos collecting in
Mexico, realized the timeless attraction of these vintage beauties. Better
known in the collectors circle as "Don Henry," he was one of the first to
introduce car collecting to Guadalajara residents, and Mexico in general,
during the 1960s. Ramirez loved sharing his passion for collecting with
others, adds Veytia. "He passed away recently, we're going to miss him."
Classic automobiles are a faithful testimony of steadfast technology and
by-gone lifestyles. When climbing behind the wheel or peering through
those enormous vintage windshields, one almost gets the feeling that time
is looking back through the rear-view mirror.
Collectors, be they of old cars or any other specialty, are an observant
bunch who can often find additions to their collections in places many
wouldn't even think of looking. What appears to be a hunk of rusting scrap
metal in a vacant lot may in fact be a treasured fender off a classic 65
By definition, all classic cars are considered antiques, but not all
antique autos are considered classics. For those left scratching their
heads over this ambiguous explanation, most experts maintain that vehicles
built before the Second World War can be safely pegged as antiques.
However, the 1948 Lincoln, for example, made shortly after the war, is
considered a classic, as is Ford's Milestone Mustang, with its innovative
use of design and technology.
Among Mexican collectors, Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler are the most
popular makes, mainly due to the simple fact that parts are more readily
available. Packard and Cadillac are also highly sought, though parts are
harder to find. Pre-WWII European-made vehicles are pretty much across the
board considered classics. Not commonly imported into this country, they
are a real collector's find, in pretty much any condition, throughout the
Americas. Included on many "want lists" are cars produced by MG, Alfa
Romero, Mercedez Benz and Jaguar. Vintage luxury American-made autos like
Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac and Lincoln are still considered opulent
purchases as replacement parts and expert body work is costly.
Most collectors agree that one is better off buying a classic car in the
best condition they can afford rather than looking for a steal. The
"cheap" roadster will usually end up costing a lot more in not only money,
but also time and aggravation. After all, half the fun of owning it is the
ability to take it out for a Sunday spin.
What's it Worth?
Veytia explains that putting a book value on vintage automobiles can be
tricky. Besides the vehicle's condition, age, manufacturer, and model
type, historical value also plays a major role in setting the sticker
price. A car owned by a popular cultural or historical icon can easily
double or triple the value simply because it was driven by someone famous.
The website www.hemmings.com gives a good range of market values for a
variety of classic cars. For example, in today's market a 1932 Packard
Light Eight convertible will run anywhere from $35,000 to $90,000,
depending on condition. A professionally restored, CCCA First Place winner
was sold at auction in January 2000 for a record breaking $96,000, but
experts say that an average condition model will cost around $50,000.
Quite a difference from the original factory price of $1,795.
For a real luxury ride, we recommend the 1930-31 Cadillac V-16 sedan. In
fully restored condition, an open V-16 runs in the neighborhood of
$250,000. Or how about the more reasonable Madame X style closed V-16 for
$150,000? Base, out-of-pocket price in 1931: $5,350.
For collectors on a tighter budget, the 1959 Ford Skyline with electric
fold-down hardtop is an excellent option. Experts place this car's current
value at between $4000 for a fix-it-upper to $28,000 for one in excellent
Back in Depression era 1932, the Chevrolet Confederate Roadster was
perhaps the most economical vehicle on the market. With a starting price
of $445, it was a popular pick with police officers, public safety
officials and motorcade drivers. Even entertainer Al Jolson lauded its
excellent quality and low price on his night-time radio programs. Today
one of these sports roadsters can bring anywhere from $15,000 to $42,000.
Aficionados not afraid of making a statement might consider the 1959
Imperial Custom Four-Door hardtop. With its distinctive big fins and
fantastic mechanical track-record, this U.S. luxury car is a real bargain.
Current average market value is about $7,500.
If longevity is you're cup of tea, there's nothing like the 1920-1931
Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost. Mechanically complex even by today's
standards (Henry Royce is rumored to have once said, "Never use one bolt
when ten will do"), these cars were built to last. A good condition
original commands around $60,000. Connoisseurs wanting a fully restored
vintage Springfield Ghost can expect to pay in the ballpark of $150,000.
If you're wondering how much that old clunker rusting in the back yard
might be worth, Luis Veytia suggests a few guidelines to help one
determine whether or not the vehicle should be considered an antique. The
automobile must have been built before 1967 and should be at least 90%
original. If the car is in good condition, he recommends contacting a
local vintage automobile club to determine if the vehicle is a
collectible. Tapatio residents should visit the Automóvil Guadalajara Club
on Av. Lopez Mateos Sur 773-A in the state's principal city, or the
Automóvil Antiguo de Jalisco association. In other areas, check the local
telephone directory for nearby "rust-lovers" clubs.
by Lorena Sanchez Macias
Alejandro Julian Nuñez? No doubt diligent readers are thinking, "Oh, the fellow with the Huichol-motif, hand-embroidered clothing. Yes, we've seen his ads." Just a friendly word of warning before jumping to conclusions: What you're about to read is not interesting article on the textile industry. In fact, we've attempted to avoid subject altogether. During those precious moments called free time', this talented entrepreneur focuses his creativity in an entirely different direction.
Sitting face-to-face with an artist, trying to understand the essence of his thoughts, is not an easy task. By their very nature artist are generally introverted, living in a world that is different from ours. Absorbed in observing the ambience around them rather than interacting with it, they represent the opposite one's typical perception business man Trying to tie together the "me, the artist" and the "me the executive" in Alejandro Julian was going to be challenge.
Our interview didn't unfold in a gallery or studio, but rather in the entrepreneur's office. His secretary received me, offering a glass of water before ushering me to chair in front of Julian's desk, the desk where business transactions are handled. After cordial introductions. I opened the discourse with an ambiguous question.
"So how is everything?"
"Really well," he responded. "Business is expanding and we're excited about exploring some new markets. We've been focusing on introducing more designs for our women's line of clothing, which has been really successful".
As my goal with this vague question had not been to talk about clothing, I cleared my throat and continued. "Usually, when I look at work of art I feel uneasy about understanding what's behind the piece. I wonder about the hands which created it, what the artist was thinking, where his inspiration came from. When I don't find the answers, which is most of the time. I'll often invent some extraordinary interpretation about the work. Right now I have the unique opportunity of speaking with one these creative minds and expressing my uncertainties before knowing his art."
"Ah& we're talking about art," Julian commented, somewhat thrown off guard.
"That's right and to be honest with you, my assignment is to probe the mind of an artist. Do you started experimenting with visual arts?
"Well, my first encounter was as boy. My brothers always doing it. (Clarification: "It" being creating art. Julian wasn't completely convinced that was the direction the interview should be heading.) I'm the youngest of eight. Someone was always working, painting and that, you know? So it's logical I picked it up."
Contrary to what you are probably thinking, Julian didn't formally begin creating until the age of thirty. "I was a late bloomer. It wasn't until 1987 or 88 that I finally decided to take a stab at art. I guess I felt like hasn't found anything that was my own up until then."
"How did you start and when did you start and when did you discover your style?"
"I started out dabbling with a few watercolors, but a friend, Manuel Ramirez, whom I consider to be my instigator, was definitely a big influence. I accompanied him on a trip to the Otomi region, where he was going to pick up a bunch of amate for his art. We ended up staying three or four days extra. He said to me, Do something! ' Well, I haven't stopped since." The passion let loose in his voice-so, Julian could talk about art after all.
"So you set the paint brushes aside?"
"Let's be honest. The truth is that I never was much of an illustrator. I tried. My brothers were good, but I never really picked it up. Then I started experimenting with textures and, wow!, it was great. I discovered a whole new world."
"What came next?"
"Before I even realized it, I'd started collecting different soils, sticks, twigs, everything that caught my attention. I started working in mixing the textures and materials I'd picked up to use painting or sepulture. You'd be surprised to see the collection of different colored soil I have. I'm able to create with them whit out ever having to use a drop of paint!"
"So, you became a nature lover?"
"I already was but now even more so. Every time I go I look for the essence of what surrounds me, to use in the creation of something." At that moment Julian pulled out a sketch pad. Showing me a mosaic comprised of primarily dark tones, some splashes of color, and definitely a lot texture, he continued, "I did this the other day, when I went out my family, bought rubber cement and tried to capture what I saw on paper."
"What is it?" I was worried about offending him by the question, but he seemed to understand my unease.
"These are ashes and dirt that I spread across the page with a piece of bone." Ok, at least he'd dispelled my thoughts about an animal pelt which seemed to appear in the painting.
Moving on to the next level, which meant looking at more examples of his work, I found some surprising aspects. He seemed to express his feelings and restlessness in a very unique way trough the use natural objects. His subject matter bonded with both his technique and materials used. Roots, minerals, sand and soil harmonized info forms and colors, resulting in an interesting interpretation of nature which was created from nature itself. Julian's distinctive style is genuinely admirable. He has mounted various individual and collective exhibits in Mexico, all of which have received favorable reviews.
"What sets you exhibits apart form others?"
"Honestly, I think I give people chance to come up with their own interpretations. Most of my pieces aren't tilled, so the viewer's perspective is what they wish it to be. The fact I work with natural elements draws a lot attention but, after is all said and done, I'm tying to express the essence of who we are.
"This is mine, this is what I really love!" Enthusiasm burst from him like a sapling sprouting out of the ground as he showed off his sculptures.
"I don't look for inspiration, I left it flow through me. I like to work in peace, and that's when I find tranquility, I hope one day to be able to dedicate myself 100% to my art, and that family will remember me fondly when I'm no longer here."
After seeing the artist's passion and the businessman's latest designs, I personally consider Julian to be a real work of art himself.
He's a surprising combination of entrepreneur and artisan, a man who has found a way to keep his creative dreams whole while giving form to his inspiration. His aura, art, business and hand-women, embroidered line of fashion appear to be tied together naturally. Only two small words of warning When slip into one of Alejandro Julian's comfortable garments you will more than likely feel as though you are wearing a genuine piece of Mexican art; perhaps you shouldn't be scolding the kids for playing in the mud-it could be that they are creative genius' in the making.