What Drives You: Gettin’ Low in Houston

Car Owner: Pierre Suranto

The Car: 1959 Chevrolet Impala

Deep-rooted and enthusiastic family involvement is the most common reason a car guy becomes a car guy. Whether it’s working on cars in Dad’s shop, Mom’s garage or Grandpa’s driveway, when the car bug bites, it can bite hard. Pierre Suranto knows the feeling. He credits his father, who always kept his cars pristine.

“I remember as a kid back in 1985, my dad had a souped-up Opel Ascona loaded with rims, custom interior, a stereo system and much more,” Suranto said. “I bought my first car with my dad’s help, and had the interior redone and a system installed. I’ve never been able to keep cars stock since.”

As a teenager, Suranto fell in love with the lowriders featured in movies and on MTV, and he had a watchful eye for Impalas. In the early 1990s, he and his family moved from Germany to Houston, where he could finally get his hands on an Impala of his very own – a 1959 with a 348-cid big-block that he bought for only $450. It was at that moment Suranto officially caught the lowrider bug. The car taught him plenty – particularly the virtues of regular maintenance. “I blew up every moving part in one way or another,” he said. “It was a learning experience.”

But because 1963 and ’64 Impalas were the more sought-after cars at the time, and he had always wanted a 1963, Suranto decided to sell the 1959. “I immediately regretted the decision,” he said.

Over the next 15 years, Suranto built several lowriders, including 1961, ’63, ’66 and ’69 Impalas. He also threw a couple Buick Regals and Cadillacs into the mix. “They were really nice cars,” Suranto said. “But they never quite satisfied me like my first Impala.”

For years he watched car shows and attended meets to see if a similar 1959 would turn up – something his wife of 15 years noticed. She gave her blessing to buy another; “Just go for it,” she told him. With that additional shot of support, Suranto finally located an original 1959 Impala with a 348 big-block, which he now calls “Jazzy. “ Through painstaking restoration and customization, Suranto recreated his first love, and the car has been proudly featured in Lowrider and Lowrider Scene magazines.

Suranto made the most of his second chance to build that first Impala, and this time it was for keeps. “I always regretted letting my first one go, and finding another made me feel whole again,” he confessed. Not to mention, there isn’t much out there that can compete with the skillfully pronounced lines and voluptuous curves of a ’59.

Suranto said he never could have accomplished all that he has without the support of his family, which is also active in the hobby. “My wife is my backbone. She is there at the shows to offer her support and help with the detailing, and my kids love to help wash Jazzy. When Jazzy was first completed, we attended all of the Heat Wave shows and WEGO tour stops together.”

Jazzy beat the biggest competitors at a 2009 Heat Wave event, winning Best of Show. The best part, Suranto said, was watching his “kiddos” accept the trophy. And that never gets old.

Although Suranto’s love for lowriders transpired from television, he has concerns about how pop culture portrays the people who own them. Creating a positive lowrider image is very important to him and his peers – they want the general public to know that owners of lowriders are honest, hardworking people who are very passionate about the hobby.  Suranto regularly exhibits that passion – he’s passionate about his car, passionate about the lowrider community and especially passionate about the emphasis on family.

“In my opinion, lowrider enthusiasts are some of the most creative minds out there,” Suranto said.  “Most of them are strongly involved in the community and very family oriented. They’re just a very special group of people.”

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