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A lowrider or low rider is a customized car with a lowered body. [1] These customized vehicles are generally individually painted with intricate, colorful designs, rolling on wire-spoke wheels with whitewall tires. Lowrider rims are generally smaller than the original wheels, ranging down to 13 inches (330 mm). They are also fitted with hydraulic [2] or air bag systems that allow height adjustable suspension, where the vehicle is raised or lowered at the owner's command. [3] Given these specific characteristics, while a lowrider is always a lowered car, a lowered car is not always a lowrider. The term is used to describe a class of vehicle, not simply the height from ground to chassis.


The term lowrider can also refer to the driver of the car.

Origin and purpose

Solo s 48 Fleetline.jpg
1940s Chevrolet Fleetline lowrider bomb
Test of a 1964 Chevrolet Impala hydraulic system
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Cadillac in low position
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Nissan Lowrider pickup in Piketon, Ohio 2008 with suspension in low position
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A lowrider showing off during the Fiestas Patrias Parade, South Park, Seattle, Washington

The lowrider car serves no practical purpose. Lowrider car culture began in Los Angeles, California in the mid-to-late 1940s and during the post-war prosperity of the 1950s. Initially, some Mexican-American youths lowered blocks, cut spring coils, z'ed the frames and dropped spindles. The aim of the lowriders is to cruise as slowly as possible, "Low and Slow" being their motto. By redesigning these cars in ways that go against their intended purposes and in painting their cars so that they reflect and hold meanings from Mexican-American culture, lowriders create cultural and political statements that go against the more prevalent Anglo culture. [4] However, this resulted in a backlash: the enactment of Section 24008 of the California Vehicle Code on January 1, 1958, which made it illegal to operate any car modified so that any part was lower than the bottoms of its wheel rims.

Adding height adjustable suspension

In 1959, a customizer named Ron Aguirre developed a way of bypassing the law with the use of hydraulic Pesco pumps and valves that allowed him to change ride height at the flick of a switch. [5]

Role of Chevrolet Impala

The preceding year, 1958 saw the emergence of the Chevrolet Impala, which featured an X-shaped frame that was perfectly suited for lowering and modification with hydraulics. [6] On this car, the standard perimeter-type frame was abandoned, replaced by a unit with rails laid out in the form of an elongated "X." Chevrolet claimed that the new frame offered increased torsional rigidity and allowed for a lower placement of the passenger compartment. This was a transitional step between traditional perimeter frame construction and the later fully unitized body/chassis, the body structure was strengthened in the rocker panels and firewall. This frame was not as effective in protecting the interior structure in a side impact crash, as a traditional perimeter frame. [7]

Lowrider culture

Between 1960 and 1975, customizers adapted and refined GM X-frames, hydraulics, and airbrushing techniques to create the modern lowrider style. [8]

At first, lowriders were only seen in places like Los Angeles, especially in the 1970s on Whittier Boulevard when lowriding came to its peak. Whittier was a wide commercial street that cut through the barrio of the city in Los Angeles, California. On Saturday nights, young Chicanos went cruising along Whittier blvd in their lowriders.

Expanded audience in U.S.

In the 1990s, lowriders became strongly associated with West Coast Hip hop and G-Funk culture. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Game, Warren G, South Central Cartel, Eazy-E and Above the Law among others featured lowriders prominently in their music videos.[ citation needed ]

Today, the lowriding scene is diverse with many different participating cultures, vehicle makes, and visual styles. Lowriders today can be seen all over the country, but recently they have been spreading to other places around the world as well.

Expanded audience in Japan

Lowriding culture has also spread to Japan. [9] [10] [11]

Junichi Shimordaira continues to import and sell these cars through his business, Paradise Road. [12] The spread of lowrider culture and the fame of Paradise Road even raised the attention of Ed Roth, who is famous for creating custom cars such as hot rods and a prominent figure in Kustom Kulture. [13] Since the introduction of lowriders in Japan and the rise of lowriders in Japan in 2001, it is estimated that there are still 200 car clubs that are related to the lowrider scene that are still active to this day. [14]


See also

Related Research Articles

Chicano Subculture, chosen identity of some Mexican Americans in the United States

Chicano or Chicana is a chosen identity for many Mexican Americans in the United States. The label Chicano is sometimes used interchangeably with Mexican American, although the terms have different meanings. While Mexican American identity emerged to encourage assimilation into White American society and separate the community from African-American political struggle, Chicano identity emerged among anti-assimilationist youth, some of whom belonged to the Pachuco subculture, who reclaimed the term. Chicano was widely reclaimed in the 1960s and 1970s to express political empowerment, ethnic solidarity, and pride in being of Indigenous descent, diverging from the more assimilationist Mexican American identity. Chicano Movement leaders were influenced by and collaborated with Black Power leaders and activists. Chicano youth in barrios rejected cultural assimilation into whiteness and embraced their identity and worldview as a form of empowerment and resistance.

Art car

An art car is a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. Art cars are often driven and owned by their creators, who are sometimes referred to as "Cartists".

King & Story, San Jose Neighborhood of San Jose in Santa Clara, California, United States

The King & Story neighborhood of San Jose, California is located in East San Jose, centered on the intersection of King and Story roads. King & Story is one of San Jose's most notable and historic Chicano/Mexican-American neighborhoods.

Auto show

An auto show, also known as a motor show or car show, is a public exhibition of current automobile models, debuts, concept cars, or out-of-production classics. It is attended by automotive industry representatives, dealers, auto journalists and car enthusiasts. Most auto shows occur once or twice a year. They are important to car manufacturers and local dealers as a public relations exercise, as they advertise new products and promote auto brands. The five most prestigious auto shows, sometimes called the "Big Five", are generally considered to be held in Frankfurt, Geneva, Detroit, Paris and Tokyo. Car enthusiast communities along the historic U.S. Route 66 are credited with general popularization of car meets, including ethnic groups such as the Hispanos of New Mexico, Chicanos, and Mexican-Americans of the Southwestern United States; lowrider, high technology, electric vehicle, and other enthusiast show, are popular in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, San Francisco, and Chicago for this reason.

Custom car Passenger vehicle that has been substantially altered in its appearance

A custom car is a passenger vehicle that has been either substantially altered to improve its performance, often by altering or replacing the engine and transmission; made into a personal "styling" statement, using paint work and aftermarket accessories to make the car look unlike any car as delivered from the factory; or some combination of both. A desire among some automotive enthusiasts in the United States is to push "styling and performance a step beyond the showroom floor - to truly craft an automobile of one's own." A custom car in British according to Collins English Dictionary is built to the buyer's own specifications.

Cruising (driving)

Cruising is a social activity that primarily consists of driving a car. Cruising can be an expression of the freedom of possessing a driver's license. Cruising is distinguished from regular driving by the social and recreational nature of the activity, which is characterized by an impulsively random, often aimless course. A popular route is often the focus of cruising. "Cruise nights" are evenings during which cars drive slowly. A cruise can be a meeting of car enthusiasts at a predetermined location, organised predominantly through the internet but also largely through mobile phone, word of mouth or simply by a cruise being established enough that it becomes a regular event.

The spinner on automobile wheels historically refers to knock-off hub nuts or center caps. They may be the actual, or intended to simulate, the design used on antique vehicles or vintage sports cars. A "spinner wheel" in contemporary usage is a type of hubcap or inner wheel ornament, that spins independently inside of a wheel itself when the vehicle is in motion, and continues to spin once the vehicle has come to a stop.

A pimpmobile is a large luxury vehicle, usually a 1960s, '70s or '80s-model Lincoln, Cadillac, Buick or Chrysler vehicle, that has been customized in a garish, extravagant and kitsch or campy style. The style is largely an American phenomenon.

Lowrider bicycle Customized bicycle

A lowrider bicycle is a highly customized bicycle with styling inspired by lowrider cars. These bikes often feature a long, curved banana seat with a sissy bar and very tall upward-swept ape hanger handlebars. A lot of chrome, velvet, and overspoked wheels are common accessories to these custom bicycles.

<i>Lowrider</i> (magazine)

Lowrider was an American automobile magazine, focusing almost exclusively on the style known as a lowrider. It first appeared in 1977, produced out of San Jose, California, by a trio of San Jose State students. In 2007, it was published out of Anaheim, California, and part of the Motor Trend Group. The magazine was closed in December 2019.

Height adjustable suspension Automobile suspension systems

Height adjustable suspension is a feature of certain automobile suspension systems that allow the motorist to vary the ride height or ground clearance. This can be done for various reasons including giving better ground clearance over rough terrain, a lower ground clearance to improve performance and fuel economy at high speed, or for stylistic reasons. Such a feature requires fairly sophisticated engineering.

Cal looker

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Hi-risers, also known as quan-cars, are a type of heavily-customized automobile, typically a full-size, body-on-frame, rear-wheel drive American sedan modified by significantly increasing the vehicle's ground clearance and adding large-diameter wheels with low-profile tires. Depending on the model and style of body, autos customized in this manner can be labeled," "box," or "bubble."

A Lowrider Club (C.C.) is an organized car club of lowriders who follow a series of traditional rules for participation, including a group of elected officers; a probationary period for new members and the wearing of a specific club patch or shirt. Also, there is a measure of privacy about their internal structure, bylaws, and membership; and some level of sworn allegiance to other members of the club. Estilo De Antes is the 1st Car Club in San Diego.

Chicano art movement

The Chicano Art Movement represents groundbreaking movements by Mexican-American artists to establish a unique artistic identity in the United States. Much of the art and the artists creating Chicano Art were heavily influenced by Chicano Movement which began in the 1960s. Chicano art was influenced by post-Mexican Revolution ideologies, pre-Columbian art, European painting techniques and Mexican-American social, political and cultural issues. The movement worked to resist and challenge dominant social norms and stereotypes for cultural autonomy and self-determination. Some issues the movement focused on were awareness of collective history and culture, restoration of land grants, and equal opportunity for social mobility. Throughout the movement and beyond, Chicanos have used art to express their cultural values, as protest or for aesthetic value. The art has evolved over time to not only illustrate current struggles and social issues, but also to continue to inform Chicano youth and unify around their culture and histories. Chicano art is not just Mexican-American artwork: it is a public forum that emphasizes otherwise "invisible" histories and people in a unique form of American art.

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Cal-Style VW

A Cal-Style VW is a lowrider influenced vintage Volkswagen, that for style and cruising was lowered to the extreme in the manner called "dumped" "slammed" or "laid out". The Cal-Style VW originated in the streets of Los Angeles in the late 1970s, when the first generation of teens from Latino neighborhoods veered away from the Low Riders that at the time were associated with gangs and criminal activity, and instead customized their economical VWs into lowriders for the cruising and teen subculture.

History of Mexican Americans in Los Angeles

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Car hydraulics are equipment installed in an automobile that allows for a dynamic adjustment in height of the vehicle. These suspension modifications are often placed in a lowrider, i.e., a vehicle modified to lower its ground clearance below that of its original design. With these modifications, the body of the car can be raised by remote control. The amount and kind of hydraulic pumps being used and the different specifications of the subject vehicle will affect the impact of such systems on the height and orientation of the vehicle. With sufficient pumps, an automobile can jump and hop upwards of six feet off the ground. Enthusiasts hold car jumping contests nationwide, which are judged on how high an automobile is able to bounce.

Cholo (subculture)

A cholo or chola is a member of a Chicano and Latino subculture or lifestyle associated with a particular set of dress, behavior, and worldview which originated in Los Angeles. A veterano or veterana is an older member of the same subculture. Cholo was first reclaimed by Chicano youth in the 1960s and emerged as a popular identification in the late 1970s. The subculture has historical roots in the Pachuco subculture, which is embraced by both Chicanos and Cholos. Cholo/a youth endure hyper-criminalization because they are stereotyped and equated with anti-social behavior, criminal behavior and gang activity, even though this is not a necessary precondition of being a cholo/a.


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  2. Stavans, I.; Augenbraum, H. (2005). Encyclopedia Latina: history, culture, and society in the United States . Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, and Society in the United States. Grolier Academic Reference. p.  51. ISBN   978-0-7172-5818-5 . Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  3. Lowride Magazine; Lowrider Editorial Staff (2002). The Lowrider's Handbook. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated. p. 69. ISBN   978-1-55788-383-4 . Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  4. Sturken & Cartwright, Marita & Lisa (2009). Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford University Press. p. 80. ISBN   978-0-19-531440-3.
  5. "Cruising into History under the Law's Nose". Michigan State University. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  6. "Going "Low and Slow" in East Los Angeles". The Golden State Company. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  7. Niedermeyer, Paul (19 January 2012). "Automotive History: An X-Ray Look At GM's X Frame (1957 – 1970)". Curb Side Classic. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  8. Rong, Blake (16 July 2016). ""Ghetto Famous" Lowriders Reach For The Sky In Odessa, Texas". Road & Track Magazine. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  9. DELGADILLO , NATALIE. "Meet the Chicanos of Japan." Google, Google, 2 Feb. 2017, www.google.com/amp/s/www.citylab.com/amp/article/515388/.
  10. Frost, Bob. "History of Lowriders". www.historyaccess.com.
  11. Lowrider History; convictedartist.com; retrieved on 2010-11-25.
  12. Lirones, Brett. "Here's Why You'll Find American-Styled Lowriders Roaming Around the Streets of Japan". Hagerty. Hagerty. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  13. Mendoza, Beto. "Paradise Road - Shop Stop & Talk". Lowrider. Lowrider. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  14. Donoghue, JJ. "The Elaborate Customized Cars of Japan's 'Lowriding' Subculture". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 5 May 2019.

Further reading