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What is a Lowrider?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

A lowrider refers to a specific style of custom vehicle. The lowrider was created and made popular in the late 1960s. Born in the West Coast of the United States, the lowrider has expanded and spread to all parts of the world. The lowered stance and the addition of hydraulic cylinders and air bags to raise and lower the vehicle created a lucrative industry worldwide.

While nearly any vehicle can be turned into a lowrider, the vehicle of choice is typically an early 1960s automobile. The long lines and wide stance of these cars lend themselves to the look. Paint schemes, interior treatment as well as stereo and exhaust systems are also customized on these vehicles. Often, the paint job on one of these cars cost as much or more than the cost of a new vehicle.


Chrome plating and even 24-karat gold plating has found its way onto these vehicles. Candy paint, metal or even gold-flake paint is the finish of choice for many lowrider owners and creators. Murals and pin striping are fixtures seen on most of the vehicles. Many owners and builders even go as far as naming their lowrider. In many cases, the vehicle becomes a rolling tribute or monument to a fallen family member or friend, or some other important part of life.

Hydraulics are a staple of the industry and no true lowrider would be complete without them. While cruising or parked, the driver has the ability to raise or lower the front and rear of the vehicle. Many of the vehicles are capable of lifting all four corners of the vehicle independently of one another. Hopping contests are a main attraction at a lowrider event or show.

Building one of these vehicles involves much more than just applying a paint job. Many of these creations require years of work to complete. When involving hydraulics, the entire vehicle chassis must be reinforced and often rebuilt completely from scratch. The body has to be removed from the chassis and thousands of hours go into customization and preparation of the exterior body panels. In many instances, the paint job is completed in layers, with murals sandwiched in between paint layers.

Air bag technology is slowly replacing the hydraulic systems in many vehicles. The ease of installation and cost of components are the driving force. Many car clubs are returning to the hydraulic-only status in an attempt to return to their roots. Glorified in song, picture and film, it is a custom fad that may live forever.

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