This first article has been a long time coming. I just seem to get hung up on just about everything! Just to get the ball rolling for many more to come in the future, let me start with a brief bio to introduce myself and my roots of racing.
My name is Lisa Kubo, and I was born in Los Angeles, CA and I grew up in Monterey Park. My family were avid street racers (sorry but its the truth) and my father had his prized ’70 Plymouth Road Runner. As the story goes, the first night he was off active duty from the Vietnam war had cash in hand to buy this beaut! My mother had her oh so feminine ’74 Stingray Vette, and though she still has it all these years later, I still haven’t driven it! I guess my whole “racing” experience and love for cars started when I was two weeks old (its noted in my baby’s 1st book) when I saw my father win $20 bucks racing. I’m sure there was plenty more late night street racing adventures going on in my first years, but I’ll fast forward to when I can actually remember.
When I was 5 years old we used to hang out in Alhambra in a Zodies parking lot and have “hook up” races. On this particular night I refused to get out of the car when we got to our designated race street, and my mother being such a typical “mom,” was freaking out (and she still does to this day). My father took this 70′s inspired gold helmet with a Road Runner on the side (I still have this helmet), he plopped on my head and away we went! This went on until I was approx 8 years old, then I just stood and watched after that.
I wanted to drive race cars professionally since the first time I attended my first NHRA race when I was 11 years old. My Uncle Mike worked with Kenny Bernstein (he did the clutch), so I got to see pretty much everything. At this great age of 11 my sister and I were watching and there was a pink dragster with the words PAW on it, and behold it was a girl! We made a b line to that girls pit talking all the way about how bad ass this person was, and how a pink race car is so girly! If it had Hello Kitty plastered on it I think I would have had my adoption papers for her to sign! So when my sister Stephanie and I got there, the driver was sitting on a chair with a mile long line of fans. Being the typical kids Steph and I were, we had our autograph books, and when we got to the front of the line there she was. The great Shirley Muldowney was so beautiful and feminine, but boy she can spit nails.
She was so nice to me and Steph and made us smile as she signed our books. I knew right then this is what I wanted to do, even though it wasn’t about the whole “racing” a car that I was intrigued by. Though that was a part of it, it was more about making people happy, and feeling a connection with strangers who fueled a passion as strong as mine. At my age we didn’t have Junior Dragsters, so I was going to have to wait many more years until I could buy my own car. So year after year I attended the two NHRA races in Pomona, CA, and once I got to High School, my Mom and I carefully planned how I would ditch school Thursdays and Fridays when the races were in town.
Fast-forward seven years and I bought my very first car; a lowly 1988 VW Fox. The poor thing was slower then molasses but it was my “baybe” and the only female car I owned since all my race cars are boys! I fixed it up with all the bells and whistles I could afford on my restaurant job salary, since unlike what a lot of people thought, I didn’t have a rich family who bought me everything I wanted. With my Fox I now had the ability to go street racing with my own hooptie but I never raced anyone since I knew better. It was the start of the Honda era, and they were fast back then! I attended street races for many years, and stopped when I started racing professionally.
I was 20 years old when I met Gary. I raced his buddy in a juiced Nissan 240SX and annihilated the poor guy! From there Gary and I always hung out, and I saw his Civic taken all apart in his garage. I was not an “H” fan but that’s probably out of jealousy! He explained to me that this Civic in particular was the very first B series VTEC twin cam swap in the U.S. Myles Bautista had the first twin cam swap, and Myles sold Gary this B16 motor that had just came from Japan. We used to take this sleeper to the street races almost everyday except Monday! On the weekends Gary and my father would take it to terminal island in Long Beach, CA.
Gary and I married shortly after the car made its debut at Battle of The Imports, where he made history as the first 11sec full interior street car, and was the main face for Pro Motion Distribution. We were married in Las Vegas proudly wearing matching Battle Of The Imports shirts, jeans, and Vans!
On any given day you could see our Civic on the street, since I drove to and from work with it, but we never let anyone know anything about it. It wasn’t all lowered on rims, didn’t have a wing, nothing! Hell the intercooler was painted black and it rocked stock ride height with SI hubcaps! But believe me when some bad ass rolled up on me I didn’t hesitate to pop open the glove box and hit the High boost button on the EVC! I have some funny street racing stories about this car, but I think the best was at car shop we used to attend on Tuesday nights called Frisco’s in the City of Industry. Behind it was a very famous street called 4 lanes, and on this particular night the V8 clan was making fun of our car which was very typical back then. Gary, my Dad, and I decided I would be the best bait to seal this race because after all I was a girl what did I know about cars! I walked over and the V8 clan were grilling me about the Civic, what does it run, how quick, how fast, does it have NOS (they didn’t know about turbochargers, obviously). I played stupid said it ran “like” 15′s. I sealed Gary three races! Away we went to this street, all 4 cars lined up and I waited at the finish line with my Mom.
I heard and saw the three other cars ahead and was thinking man we lost, boy was I wrong! About half track the Civic was roaring! I could have sworn he passed them and spun them around! Needless to say we won the races, and had a huge laugh, since those guys couldn’t believe they were just smoked by a damn FWD Honda, or as we were commonly called Rice Rockets! They came over and had to know what the hell was with this car! They swore we used NOS but when we popped the hood and said uh oh turbo their jaws dropped, and I don’t think they messed with another import again!
I have so many stories to tell about my life in racing, and everyone who thought I had it easy or handed to me I’m going to be putting you in your place. It wasn’t all happy happy joy joy! I will be telling all because every person has great stories to tell how and why they are who they are. There’s only one story I will not tell and its because of the massive betrayal of family and I never got over it.
Until next time…