A U-Haul full of Christmas toys and clothing to donate sits in the parking lot next to members of San Antonio car, truck, and motorcycle clubs.
Clothes and toys donated during the car show were loaded up in a box truck for the procession downtown. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The long line of vehicles cruising down Commerce Street came in every shape and style – low-riders hopping and hoisting themselves in crazy positions, hot rods decked out in colorful paint and pinstripes, and high-performance cars revving their powerful engines.

Near the front of the procession was a less flashy ride, but maybe the most important: a rented white box truck packed full of Christmas toys and clothing.

Members of San Antonio car, truck, and motorcycle clubs gathered the donated goods at a car show they held Sunday at Comanche Park called “Santa’s Cruisers.” For 14 years, the clubs have been organizing annual charity drives for groups that help families in need.

This year, the gifts will go to organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4700, which will distribute them to needy families. Toys going to Bexar County Young Tejano Democrats will be distributed to refugee families in San Antonio, said organizer Carlos Martinez, a member of the Mystic Knights club.

Martinez, 40, had his purple 1989 Chevrolet Blazer on 13-inch spoke rims parked near the donation area at Comanche Park on Sunday. He explained how the clubs started off their first year donating only to two small church groups.

Now, their gifts help roughly 1,000 families each year, he said.

“We’ve expanded to helping more of the community, more neighborhoods,” he said. “Every year, it’s more and more.”

With a father who was also into car culture, Martinez said he’s been going to events like Sunday’s “show-n’-shine” all his life. He said it’s a lifestyle that often gives people a “positive outlook.”

“A lot of car clubs are going the upper level, doing it community-based, family-oriented,” Martinez said. “Whereas back in the day it was more, ‘Let’s go pick up some girls, let’s go cruise around,’ now it’s more about families. Instead of just a cruising culture, it’s a family culture now.”

Click through the gallery below to see more images from the event.

Joseph Miller, 35, had a similar view. A member of the Swift Car Club, which has members all over the country, Miller compared it to joining a fraternity. He joined after moving to San Antonio from Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a civilian job with the Air Force.

“You’re always connected with somebody in the car culture,” Miller said. “I’m a family man myself, so it’s always important … to be connected no matter where you’re at.”

Miller’s son, Shane, 3, played inside of Miller’s 2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo as he talked. Shane always wants to be around his dad when he works on his car, so Miller bought him a set of plastic tools.

“He used to try to get in my tools, and he’ll start banging on stuff,” Miller said. “But I don’t want him to mess up the paint or break anything.”

Victor Stewart, 61, gave a car to his son Stacy years ago as a high school graduation present. After $150,000 worth of work, the car is now gleaming orange with intricate details right down to the window glass etched in floral patterns.

Both father and son are members of the 1st Impressions, a San Antonio car club that dates to 1979.

“Get the young ones involved, get them into it,” Stewart said. “Then when they grow up, they can do their own.”

Brian Sauseda, 18, had one of the most impressive trucks at the show, a white Tahoe ambitiously modified with 32-inch wheels, scissor doors, a tilt hood, rear suicide doors, a convertible top, an all-red interior, and a center console with TVs and speakers.

He did all the upgrades in only a year, paying for it with money he earned doing construction and concrete work with his dad when he wasn’t in school.

“This is a good hobby; it keeps you out of trouble or doing bad things,” Sauseda said. “This is just … something to look forward to putting your money into, your time, and just having a good time.”

Brian Sauseda, 18, opens the doors of his Tahoe.
Brian Sauseda, 18, opens the doors of his Tahoe Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He serves as the assistant manager of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance.