On June 22, Sonny Madrid, co-founder of Lowrider Magazine, died of prostate cancer in San Jose. He was 70 years old. 

In 1977, Madrid (along with Larry Gonzalez and David Nunez) pitched in $1,500 each to piece together the inaugural edition of Lowrider. They produced 1,000 issues with a low-cost printing press and a stapler, which were then given out by hand with the help of Madrid's '54 Chevy truck. The humble beginnings continued early on with the team selling their magazines from their own trunks at local parties, car shows, and by utilizing Mexican-American businesses within their community.

While it'd be easy to write off Lowrider as a magazine purely intended for car buffs, the publication featured much more. As the New York Times put it, the magazine featured:

"(...) articles about media representation of Mexican-Americans, prisoner rights and police abuse and misconduct."

While the magazine struggled early (which most every magazine does) the team got the brilliant idea to feature bikini-clad models on the cover. This practice began with their November 1979 issue and featured some seriously eye-grabbing imagery that become a staple for their covers, including this:

And this...

And this...

We assume you get the point.

These, of course, were vastly different than the cover of the first issue:

In 1985 the magazine ceased production, but aforementioned co-founder Larry Gonzalez (alongside brothers Alberto and Lonnie Lopez) revived it. Alberto had worked alongside Sonny during the magazine's first run and was quick to give credit for the relaunch, saying "Sonny set the template, we just made it bigger."

In the nineties, Lowrider made it about as big as it anybody could when they temporarily became the top-selling automotive mag on newsstands. This was due in large part to the blueprint laid out by Madrid, but at that point he had left the company and moved to the Central California city of Visalia. That's where Madrid mainly lived up until his death last week.

He leaves behind two sons (Mario and Lennon), as well as five sisters (Sylvia Rodriguez, Irene Morales, Eleanor Barraza, Evelyn Aguilar and Gloria Flores), and his partner Linda Camargo.

[via New York Times]

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