TOM GOMEZ February 15, 2023 All Feature Vehicles
Over the years we have photographed and written stories about incredible custom cars, trucks, and bikes, and the stories behind these vehicles are sometimes more incredible than the car itself. This is one of those stories.
Juana M. Martin of Oxnard California falls into this category. She tells us the M is for Montaño after her grandfather Juan Montaño to keep the family name alive. Juana was born in Mexico City and is the oldest of five children. We sat down with Juana and her husband Roberto and their three sons, Eddie, Hector and Adrian. There was an old TV show called “My Three Sons.” that depicted the solid family life of the early ’60s Well, this is the Latino version.
As we were finishing up the photoshoot of Juana’s car, the sweet smell of carne asada and grilled chicken wafted through the air causing us to stop dead in our tracks to cherish the moment. Yum.
Yup, Robert was manning the grill while Juana was preparing beans, rice, tortillas, and of course homemade chile.Tasty!
Juana’s first memory of helping her dad with cars was on a rainy day when the family car was stuck in a muddy puddle. Juana was five years old at the time and her dad had the confidence that she could steer the car while he pushed from behind. She was hooked! Her dad was always working on cars and Juana was right there listening, watching, and handing tools to her father. He taught her how to use an engine block stethoscope to listen for problems within the engine.
Evidently, Juana spent so much time helping her father work on cars that they bought her a fresh pair of coveralls to keep her school clothes from getting dirty. She was 12. With these new coveralls, it was “ON!”. She began changing tires, oil, and minor tune-ups. At 14, Juana was driving anything she could get her hands on. At the time the family owned a 1968 Chevy station wagon. Anytime the family needed something from the store Juana volunteered to drive to get it.
To make extra money Juana and her mom would go to swap meets in L.A. with Juana behind the wheel. They drove an old van that had no power steering and when loaded down with merchandise it had to be a struggle to steer. Talk about seat time behind the wheel. Over-the-road truckers would be jealous of this ambitious teenager.
Oh, it didn’t stop there. Juana wanted to learn to drive a stick shift. Her dad taught her to drive a 1970 Fiat and she mastered the clutch, brake, gas, shifting gears configuration in minutes. Good job Juana!
Her mom was a car enthusiast too and in 1980 bought a brand new Ford Thunderbird. Guess who got to drive it off the dealer’s lot? Yeah, you guessed it. Juana’s love for cars just increased as she got older. She wanted to take Piano lessons and was told by a teacher she couldn’t because they lived in an apartment and they would never get a Piano. Discouraged, Juana went back to her passion for cars and enrolled in auto mechanics class, and started to perfect her craft in wrenching on cars and helping her dad.
This multi-talented woman’s craving for learning new things led her to attend nursing school and you gotta have transportation to get to class. So Juana was on a quest for her first real car that she had been saving her money for. You would think that a young girl looking for a car to drive from home to nursing school would pick a compact economical car? Wrong… Juana bought a 1978 Corvette StingRay with T-Tops. Yes, sir, you gotta roll hard when you’re attending nursing school.
As we listened to Juana’s stories of cars, life, and her boyfriend Roberto who is now her husband of 30 years, we had to tell this part of her story which we thought was hilarious. When Juana was a teenager, her mom had her sister chaperone on her dates with Roberto. One day their mom asked her sister, “What does Juana do on these dates?” The sister replied, “All they do is look at dirty magazines.” The mom was horrified and said what kind of dirty magazines? Her sister innocently said you know, the kind with all the cars in it. Turns out Juana and Roberto spent hours looking at Auto Trader and the ink from the pages would get all over their fingers from turning the pages. Hence, “Dirty Magazines.”
Let’s jump to the present day and Juana never ceases to amaze us in her accomplishments. Today Juana is married to Roberto and they have three sons, Eddie, Hector, and Adrian who all have classic cars in different stages of getting built. A ‘58 Chevy Impala, ‘67 Impala convertible, and a ‘69 Chevelle 396 SS just to name a few, and let’s not forget Roberto who not only wrenches with the family but he too found time to go to college and is now a teacher in Oxnard California.
You’re probably wondering if Juana finished nursing school? Yes, she did and has been an LVN for the past 32 years.
Just as we think Juana is done telling her story she says oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about the name of the car.
According to urban legend, La Catrina’s roots come from Aztec death goddess Mictecacihuatl. In the legend, the goddess served the same purpose as La Catrina does today: to honor and protect those who have passed and to symbolize the relationship Mexicans have with loved ones who have passed on.
With a strong passion for remembering loved ones like her father, mother, uncles and brothers who were instrumental in helping Juana become the caring mother, wife and custom car builder she is today, La Catrina rolls on today.
Wait…There’s more! Just as we’re leaving Juana says I have tattoos of my car, you wanna see them? Hell yeah, we do.
She pulls up her pant leg and there’s a tattoo of La Catrina Dia De Los Muertos style and on her other leg is a Betty Boop Nurse that reads….wait for it. “Juana Shot?”
Who knew that looking at dirty magazines would lead to having your ride in a magazine with non smear ink.
We had to tell Juana’s story first so that you can appreciate that this is truly a garage-built car by a family that lives the custom car lifestyle. Prior to the ‘46, Juana had a 1936 Chevy coupe, but the ‘46 was the dream car she wanted to build. Both cars have allowed Juana to be an active member of Old Memories Car Club Oxnard California chapter.
The car is about as original as can be and with some additional luxuries that were actually available during that time such as a pipe holder that attaches to the sunvisor, steering column mounted flashlight for those late night excursions and back-up lights.
Stock 216 inline 6 cylinder that’s been converted to a Pertonix 12 volt system. Transmission is a Vacuum Assist 3-speed / Stock
As we mentioned before Juana likes to drive and the suspension in these cars were well, not the best. The 46 got new life in the form of a Mustang Coliover kit with a 4-inch drop and disc brakes. A rack and pinion set-up makes steering this large car a breeze. This also allowed her to keep the Banjo style steering wheel to keep that OG look.
Wheels / Tires
The Fleetline rolls Firestone 5.60×15 tires mounted on 15-inch Artillery style wheels and factory hubcaps. Hat’s off to Juana for keeping it real and staying with the classic look of these fine rides.
The interior is all classic. Back in the day these cars had true craftsmanship. No plastic dashes seen here Stock seats are covered in a Cream velvet with matching headliner and door panels. The wood dash is just beautiful. Not much to say other than to say we would want to drive the car just so we could stare at the dash all day.
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