It’s hard to believe that one of the most recognized cars in the lowrider game has never been featured in Lowrider magazine—that is until now. The car we’re talking about is a 1973 Ford Thunderbird that earned the moniker “Star Car,” and it was one of the highlights at the Petersen Automotive Museum in 2000 for good reason. The car pays homage to the King of Pop. It’s a Michael Jackson-themed lowrider owned by Daniel Padilla.

The car was purchased in 1977 as a lease return. It was in immaculate condition and, interestingly enough, the transformation did not begin until 1984. While envisioning his dream, the goal was to create a car with mass appeal. Daniel wanted his lowrider to be more than just a visual spectacle. He wanted it to be an experience, a marker in time, and a vehicle of delivery that would not only bring smiles but educate. At the time of the build, there was no bigger artist than the King of Pop himself, so he decided to use his likeness to become the central theme of the build.

To accomplish that he had the help of two incredible artisans, Frank Cordova, aka Old Man Frank (a hydraulic legend), and master painter Art Fullington, aka Crazy Art. Unfortunately, both have since died but their work remains an integral part of this build as well as lowrider history. The paintjob features a multicolor candy paint featuring over 150 images of Jackson infused into the paint. He used a process that was far advanced for its time (and still undisclosed) and it’s a historic time capsule of that caliber that draws plenty of stares and admiration.

In all, over $80,000 has been invested into the car and after its showcase at the Petersen Museum it was involved in a collision, which kept it out of public view. Now that Star Car has been restored, Daniel and the Star Car continue the mission it was once on. He’s definitely created an experience that has to be seen in person to truly appreciate it.

1973 Ford Thunderbird

Star Car

Daniel Padilla

La Puente, CA


Factory 460ci with a few chrome parts

Shaved port hole windows, emblems, and insignias; PPG multicolor paintjob with candy yellow, black, fuchsia, lipstick red, cobalt blue, and orange

Two old-school tailgate pumps, candlestick dumps, Reds cylinders, and four Interstate batteries

Multicolor velour

Audio Vox with four Cricket Classic 6×9-inch speakers

14×7 Zenith with Low Rider Series Premium Sport 5.20s

Old Man Frank, Crazy Art, Doc’s Auto Upholstery, Frank Cordova, Ernie Pedregon, Rudy Gonzalez, New Way Plating, Homies Hydraulics, Shell Happy, and his family, Mando, Frank Jr., Teddy, David, Josette, and wife Sarah