The ‘Dukes' car club is one of the longest running clubs that tie into Chicano history. In the 1950s the influence of cars was first introduced, but it wasn’t until 1962 that a few neighborhood kids made this influence into a passionate organization. During the years the organization grew and created several chapters throughout
I remember growing up and hearing of the ‘Dukes- So Cal’ and how they stood out from the rest. I got to meet the men behind the car club at the annual car show held at Point Fermin in San Pedro, CA.
I started the day looking forward to meeting new clubs and by the end of the day, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a charcoal grey 1947 Fleetline and the beauty hypnotized me. This car belonged to The Dukes.
When I first saw the ‘Dukes’, I must admit, it was pretty intimidating; the stoic faces and tattooed covered arms made me feel as though I would be walking into an unfriendly crowd- this was not the case when I approached them.
I first met Jason Fernando Ruelas who stood proudly with his pastel yellow ’38 Buick Special. Not only was he friendly at first approach, but the passion he expressed as a ‘Duke’ made me want to sign up and become a member (obviously it’s not that easy to join). Jason was exposed to the creativity at an early age when his father, the late Fernando Ruelas, had taken the time to show Jason the hard work it took to build pedal cars. It was then that Jason’s talent sparked for classic cars.
“Watching my father work on cars made me want to be hands on”
...and that is exactly the talent that showed with his favorite car, the ‘ 38 Buick Special.
Jason’s knowledge of auto mechanics helped him with a career as a long shore man mechanic and he wisely advised,
“Get a good education, but if that’s not what you want to do, get a good trade.”
The ‘Dukes So Cal’ are locally and internationally known. With 32 chapters, 2 chapters in Japan, 1 in Australia, and 1 in Sweden, its no wonder the ‘Dukes’ stand out from the rest.
Jesse Gonzalez, an original member since 1976, represented the ‘Dukes’ by showing me his 1950 Chevy Deluxe, “Style Line 4 Door” that wore the “registered design of the ‘Dukes’ hat and cane” on the back of his car. He informed me that his “favorite car is the 2 door ’47 Fleetline”- a classy car for a classy man.
Joe Rodriguez, President of the Riverside chapter, was the character of the bunch. He and his wife, Becky Rodriguez, shared jokes and stories on not only the love they had for cars, but also for each other. Joe has 25 years total in the car scene and 20 of those years are with the ‘Dukes’ and his loyalty stands out with his '41 Chevy Special Deluxe.
“Cars are my life. I always wanted to be a Duke. Not only did it better me in life, but it showed me the true value of family.”
Some car clubs have the potential to be GREATER than the rest and this has been true for the, ‘Dukes- So Cal’.
by Ryan Cash