Mainstream American automotive enthusiasts have long been divided into two vibrant and primary cultures; Hot Rod and Lowrider. Though they are two very different religions, they both share a large population of worshipers who subscribe to their philosophies and beliefs regarding the perfect vehicle to use when tackling the open road or boulevard. High end customizations like chop tops, channeling, suicide-doors, paint jobs, luxury leather interiors, modern engines, and high tech suspensions fully dress these vehicles to identify their persona, as man and machine collide in these two very different worlds.
Both genres have come a long way since the popular movies, American Graffiti and Boulevard Knights hit the screens. Yet the hot rod world, which has been “souped up” since the 1930’s, was the first car phenomenon to branch off into other automotive sports and movements including the lead sleds, sports cars, lowriders, muscle cars, and the street rods. Although both cultures are essentially cut from the same cloth, there is a vast separation between our world and theirs, especially when it comes to design and detail. With that being said, lowriders have definitely grown in the last few decades, seeing changes in every aspect of building from form to function. Long gone are the days of rabbit ear antennas, wrought iron front grills, show pipes, and the stuffed animal fur in the back package tray with organ pipe speakers. We’ve completely stepped up our game in performance, undercarriages and interiors, all while maintaining our lead when it comes to exteriors. They’ve always looked to us for new colors, textures, and paint schemes. Words like “candy” and “flake” have always been distinctly ours, deep rooted in our culture. They know we’ve always dominated in paint, whether they like it or not! Unfortunately, when it comes to detail and design, we are still far, far behind, because while they have taken ideas from us and made them their own, we have been reluctant to do the same.
For instance, there was a time not too long ago when hot and street rods, would never lower their rides close to the ground. They wouldn’t even consider it. Remember, we were the ones who were “all show and no go.” Fast forward to 2009, and take a good look at who’s laying on the floor now! Though they use air bags instead of hydraulics, claiming that air bags are better and more comfortable, they have faced the reality that low is the only way to go. The same thing can be said about our wheel and tire philosophy. The lowrider tire size was born as a 14-inch or Volkswagen type because we were all about showing more of the chrome on the wheel than the rubber of the tire, whether its a Cragar style rim or a wire spoke design. Today’s hot rod style is a bigger wheel and smaller tire as well. Even though some of the rims themselves are a much bigger size than what we use, the school of thinking is the same; more rim and less tire. These are just two quick examples, but what we’re basically saying is that the lowrider culture is recognized and duplicated for its style, just as we check out the street rods to find new ideas.
We visited the National Roadster Show at the Pomona Fairplex to prove this point, as well as to see some of the differences between the two giant auto cultures. Here are the reasons why some of their vehicles have similar styles, designs or ideas that we need to look to for inspiration, perhaps allowing us to be even more creative and innovative. Now that’s what I call competition!
Of course anything goes in either world when it comes to modifications, but the best rides are always the cleanest, most detail-oriented that are tailored to the overall body style of the car itself. Not everything looks cool on every frame; you just gotta use your best taste and judgment, keeping in mind how functional it will actually be at the end of the day. Custom cars that are modified should open up with the flow of the design and not against the flare or grain of the vehicle’s body. You can, as I’ve said before, “chop top” a car if it improves the looks, but don’t do it for the sake of judging points. Tilting a hood is also cool depending on the style of lowrider you are building, but hoods should only open up one way, not three ways. The same goes for your doors and trunk lids; everything needs to flow uniformly. A Ferrari or Lambo is the baddest looking vehicle out there when it comes to design for a reason. Take a look at them when they are completely opened up, from the hood to the doors to the trunk, and you will see that they look a whole lot meaner. Detail is everything! Look at some of these rods and you will see custom body mods with suicide doors or slanted windshields, but the windows on them are still fully operational. You still need that functionality and practicality in your designs to truly make them successful. I mean, anybody can have a Hollywood top, but you need to complete the job with a working clamp fixtured roof to go back on as well.
In a nutshell, lowridering has more passion, guts and glory than any other automotive culture, but we need to take a step back and pay attention to detail before emptying our pockets. Wouldn’t it be cool to roll around in a semi- or full-custom lowrider, all molded the right way, tastefully speaking, with the windows cranked up and the air conditioner blasting? Check out our coverage and see the point we’re trying to make. And don’t be afraid to head on out to a hotrod show yourself, so you can see what the other guys are doing that might help you figure out what you can do better. It’s all about respect. The cover and centerfold cars that have been featured in Lowrider Magazine for the last couple of decades can, arguably, go toe to toe with the best from the other sport cultures. But now it’s time we step up our game in order to be seen not only as an automotive culture, but be recognized and respected as a quality automotive culture as well.