Insight Into The Lowrider Culture
Hydraulics “R” Us
It can be said that there’s been no other vehicle that has impacted social or ethnic culture more than the lowrider culture. This hydraulic customized vehicle has become a signature image of Mexican American culture and Los Angeles culture as well. As Lee’s Frame & Axle Body & Paint is a well-equipped auto shop whose goal is to provide excellent auto care in our Los Angeles community, we can say with pleasure that we have seen and worked on a prolific amount of varying vehicles. We are fascinated with the lowrider culture, its effect on car culture, and the story behind the idea. Get ready to learn more, motorheads.
History of It All
The beginning of the lowrider concept started in 1950s Southern California when a group of Chicanos created a new class of car styles when they added hydraulics to the suspension of their cars. Although lowering your car’s suspension wasn’t a new idea, adding a hydraulic system made it possible for people to bounce their vehicle up and down (“hopping”) with a push of a button. The original hydraulics were aircraft hydraulic systems where it was attached to the undercarriage of cars to make the adjustable suspension. Lowriders was also a welcome addition to the custom car craze scene of the 1960s.
Motto and Design
The mentality of driving lowriders is to cruise as slowly as possible. The motto of the lowrider culture has always been “Low and Slow”. Altering these cars against their intended purposes and painting the cars to pay homage to Latin culture was a cultural statement to go against the prevalent Anglo culture during the 50s. Lowriders was meant to be more than just a car, but a lifestyle.
Lowriders At Its’ Peak
By the 1970s, lowrider culture had hit it’s stride. The boom of popularity of the car can also be linked to the emerging Chicano civil rights movement. The root of this peak came from the popularity of car cruises, particularly on Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles. Young Chicanos gathered together to cruise through the Barrio of the city in their customized lowriders. This was their time to unite as an ethnic culture and share a common interest that they loved. Around the same time, lowriders began to seep into American pop culture. These cars were featured in everything from mega hit songs like War’s “Low Rider” to various Hollywood movies. This was also the time when lowriders would finally gain a more national presence outside of Los Angeles.
According to Ben Chappell, an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas, 1960s Chevys, especially Impalas were the original car of choice for lowriders. Their chassis offered an efficient base to attach hydraulics and their bodies were wide enough for painters. In the 1970s, Oldsmobile Cutlasses became popular to customize. However, in the end, General Motors models were the ultimate winner.
Like most influencing and popular trends, this car culture has met some huge backlash by some communities. These communities saw lowriders as a threat, blaming the cars for juvenile delinquency. A stereotype that lowriders and their owners gained was their association with gangs, violence, and drug use. This perception is largely misguided. According to Dr. Ben Chappell, an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas; many owners of lowriders aim to be a positive presence in their respected communities. Lowriding clubs had rules of no drinking or drugs and no gang related activity.
These clubs were formed to welcome car lovers, often working class people of Mexican American culture, to hang out with friends and family and simply cruise along in cars, participate in shows, and customize them. The ultimate goal was to keep youths in the lower income communities away from trouble.
Although Lowriders can be often associated with Mexican American culture, everyone has adapted the culture. Today, many different cultural groups have adopted the style to their own cars with their own modifications. We hope that you’re now more informed on the fascinating history and meaning of lowrider culture. At Lee’s Frame and Axle, we respect the culture of all cars and we have the right experience to properly take care of the vehicles in our community.
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