He has a tattoo of a squirrel running up one leg and coming back down the other with two nuts in its mouth. That's what he says, anyway. You'll have to ask someone else if it's true—although the word “Martha” with a red “Void” stamped over it is displayed prominently on his upper arm.
He's 5-foot nothing if you don't count his backwards baseball cap or (sometimes) fedora with a long feather in it. His glasses are rimmed in diamonds. His lighter is covered with diamonds. His fingers are covered in diamond rings. Heavy gold chains hang from his neck.
This is Louie "Squirrel" Montoya, the granddaddy of lowriding in this town. “They call me the Dick Clark of Albuquerque,” he says shyly. “A lot of the guys like to make fun of me.” His vehicular claim to fame is a three-wheel lowrider Harley called "Squirrel's Trike."
He got his name in 1963 at Albuquerque High. Back then, a person started high school as a sophomore, and the student body would meet at lunchtime to initiate the new kids. “They would make you sing 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' or something, maybe give you pink bellies or make you eat hot green chile peppers. It was just for fun. Now they shoot you,” he says, half joking.
But anyway, “to make a long story longer,” he says, he was walking with a friend when some jock seniors called out to them. “They said, 'Hey, you squirrels! Come over here!” We took off running.” For whatever reason, the name stuck to Montoya. “I've been Squirrel ever since. Everybody calls me Squirrel, my mom, friends, business people, my lawyers, my bankers.”
He's been around lowriders and car culture since he was a kid in South Broadway Albuquerque in the ’50s. He moved to San Jose, Calif., in the ’70s and went to the first lowrider show held by Lowrider Magazine. He came back to the 505 in 1981 and started a business called Mr. Latin Style T-Shirts, which also sold everything you could find associated with lowriders. The magazine sent a scout, Johnny Lozoya, to find out about the scene in this town. All sources pointed to Squirrel.
Montoya became a distributor, and each month he drove a short route through the North Valley, the Westside, Bernalillo, Belen and Española selling Lowrider Magazine. He tore off the covers of magazines he didn't sell, and when bad blood between the magazine's founders forced the publication into a slump in 1985, Squirrel kept his district’s interest up by selling those coverless back issues for a buck apiece. “I remind them of that sometimes,” he laughs.
Squirrel and Lozoya started putting on lowrider shows together. “We were street dogs putting flyers on poles until four in the morning.” In 1983, he put together the biggest lowriding show New Mexico had ever seen, according to the hardback book Lowrider, put out by the magazine. More than 10,000 people, 20 car clubs and a handful of bicycle clubs came out. Today, his name alone brings people to a show. When you're talking about Squirrel, you're talking about the guy who knows lowriding. "I don't like to brag, but lowriding? I loved it all my life."