Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Lowriders: Connecting to Community

October 12, 2021 Archive Insight
Long, low maroon and gold car with pinstriping in decorative pattern along side
Inside front cover detail from Technical Low Rider magazine, 1981, showing a 1976 Chevrolet  Caprice Classic. / THF206772


Some people customize their cars as a creative way of expressing cultural identity, as many lowrider builders do. Lowriding flourished in Southern California’s Mexican American working-class neighborhoods after World War II. Members of this community transformed older-model, family-size cars into stylish rides with street-scraping suspensions and ornamental paint jobs. Lowriders use style to show pride in cultural identity and to stand out from mainstream American culture.

Lowrider customizers prefer American automobiles—especially Chevrolets. The 1940s Chevy Fleetline below appeared in Technical Low Rider in 1981. 

Woman sits on fender of large, bulbous white car with gray top
Page 57, Technical Low Rider Magazine, 1981. / THF104132

Customizers often lavish as much creativity and as many resources inside their lowriders as outside.

Car interior upholstered entirely in thick, mustard-yellow tufted velvet; a chandelier hangs from ceiling
Detail from page 23, Technical Low Rider Magazine, 1981. / THF104134

The late-1970s lowrider shown below has a hidden hydraulic system to lower the car—or quickly raise it to legal ride height to avoid being ticketed. 

Page with text and two views of long, blue car with decorative painting on sides and trunk
Page 55, Technical Low Rider Magazine, 1981. / THF104133

Contests let lowrider owners show off the hydraulic technology that makes their cars “hop” and “dance.” The remote-controlled model shown below is based on a 1964 Chevrolet Impala lowrider. It’s equipped with a height-adjustable suspension that makes the car appear to "dance" up and down as it travels.

Green toy car attached to black rod-like control, along with box with text, image of same car, and black and purple pattern of lightning bolts
Dancin' 1964 Chevy Impala Model, circa 1999. / THF151539

Lowriders traditionally cruise for anniversaries, weddings, and quinceañera celebrations—a 15th-birthday observance in Hispanic culture.

Magazine cover with text and several photos of cars and people in formal dress
Low Rider Magazine, Wedding/Quinceanera Issue, October 1979. / THF104135

Lowrider enthusiasts often form clubs and enjoy cruising together. These collectible toys are models of some of the everyday vehicles they have transformed into stylish showstoppers.

GIF cycling through three images of toy cars, all with decorative detailing
1964 Chevrolet Impala, 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and 1984 Cadillac de Ville lowrider collectibles, 2000–2003. / THF150054, THF150052, and THF150053


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

popular culture, toys and games, making, Hispanic and Latino history, cars

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