Sometimes you get an offer you can't refuse

Story: Jay Villa | Photos: Daniel J. & Jay Villa

Arman Utudzhyan, better known as “Smiley,” to the lowrider community, has been a fixture of the lifestyle for over 30 years. Best known for his 1984 Cadillac Fleetwood called “Undertaker,” he’s an entrepreneur, a longtime member of Majestics car club, and car show judge for Sic Productions. He’s a familiar face in the lowrider circuit, and his tirades have made him equally famous – referencing the time he smashed a 2ndPlace trophy at a Lowrider Show.

But love him or hate him; he’s here to stay. Lowriding is his passion; it’s what he lives for. It also happens to be a lifestyle that almost killed him. Back in 1990 he was shot twice during an attempted carjacking for his Dayton wire wheels.

Now he’s back (well, sort of) with this 1960 Impala.  

As the co-owner of Pit Stop, a So Cal junkyard famous among Mitsubishi enthusiasts, Smiley spends most weekdays slanging parts with weekends reserved for car show judging and life’s duties. Because of that, his Impala was built during spare time, and took four years to complete. 

Since it was a frame-off project, it sports a super clean underbelly and plenty of chrome. It’s also void of the traditional two-tone scheme found on most ’61 Impalas. He had the body painted one solid car by Area 51 in a eye-catching color called Verde Chiaro (light green), which is only available in the U.S. since being discontinued for use in Europe, where it is called Yeye Green.

He was given an offer he Couldn't refuse

The color-shifting properties of the paint make it a sight to see but a pain the ass to photograph since the colors change drastically under different lighting conditions. If you want proof, visit his IG page, which is  plastered with photos that look like they were shot with an Nextel.

Needless to say, we’re glad to have been able to photograph his car because he sold it just two weeks after our shoot. Interestingly enough, Smiley was offered $65,000 cash by passerby who saw the car during our shoot – an offer Smiley declined. He did end up sending a week later to a fellow club brother in Arizona. 

The Next Chapter

It’s been a few months since the Impala left So Cal but residents of Arizona will now get to enjoy it since it was sold to his club brother. But with this project out of the way, it’s time for Smiley to bust out his latest creation and we’ll be back to do a feature on that one as well. Painted in a similar color, Smiley’s latest entry into the game will be a ’58 hard top that’s been finished in a similar color. 

Unfiltered with Smiley

Shootin the Shit with

I’ve been judging lowrider shows for 15 years with Sic Productions. Our head judge is Rob “Bird” Rice from San Diego Majestics and we work alongside Top Notch from up North because we get along really good, and judge in the same style. We judge most of the shows including the bigger ones like Torres Empire, Rez Made, and Arizona Supershow which I happen to think is better than the Las Vegas Super Show. 

The most important thing is to build the car you want. Build it how you like it. If you do that, you will always be happy even if you lose a show. Do it for you.  It’s your money, It’s your build. 

Besides that, you gotta go with the details. Don’t just slap everything on the car thinking you’re going to get points off of it. Build your own car, the way you like it. Do it your style but, just don’t overdo it. 

Don’t build something you think someone else will like. Do what you want to do, but make it look nice. Too much engraving can be overkill. You have to be subtle and make it look right. Too much of anything is not nice and don’t try to build a car just for points.

I see people using dry wall screws to attach body parts and the chrome trim. Please don’t do that. Use the right screws or at least good ones.

The other thing I see is people getting incredible paint jobs with bad bodywork. If you’re going to spend time repainting your car you have to make sure your bodywork is good. Make sure it’s flat and if it’s not do it again.

Bad bodywork gets magnified when you throw on a really good paint job. You have to be patient and do it right. My Cadillac, “Undertaker” was painted 8 times before I was happy with it. It’s frustrating but it pays off.

It’s changed a lot. Back in the day people assumed you were a gangster if you drove a lowrider. Nowadays people smile and wave. Older ladies and even kids are happy when they see one. Sh*t, one cop even pulled me over on Van Nuys Blvd to get a better look and take pics because he said his father had one that was being built. So yeah, lowriding is much more accepted in the community now. It’s good to see that.

It’s also a lot safer to lowride. Back in the days wire wheels automatically labelled you as a gangster and now you can drive your car pretty much everywhere. Back then you also had to worry about cops and the people trying to steal your wheels – especially if you had Daytons. That’s why they called them “Killer Daytons.” I know. I got shot. 

Yeah. Back in 1990 when they tried to steal my Cadillac “Pink Panther.”

I had 13×7-inch Daytons on it and these two guys pulled up on me while I was with a girl at the Mobil station on Hollywood and Wiltern. They said, “Give me the car or I’ll shoot the b*tch.”

I had just met her and told them to shoot her, that’s when the girl got out and started yelling. But as I was handing them the keys, I think the guy was nervous or something and  the guy shot me, and as he took off running he turned around and shot me again. 

It’s crazy right now but it’s gonna go down once this pandemic finishes. Once all that loan money runs out it’s going to go down. I can see it. Just watch.

If you have a lowrider and want to make money, sell it now. 

Lowriding is a cool community with plenty of real good people that have passion for it. I love going to shows to talk to people. I love giving advice and I love getting it too. 

Bad? That’s easy. There’s a lot of haters but luckily there are way more good people than bad so that’s good. Besides, that’s just how life is. The haters actually make you appreciate the good ones ever more. 

I should be done with Undertaker 2 in about two years. It will have an LS motor and the same theme as the first version. I’ll have Abel Rocha doing all my murals too, and after that I’m done. Well, no I want a ’57 and then after that I think I’m done.