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A lowrider (sometimes low rider) is a class or style of customized vehicle. Distinct from a regular lowered vehicle, these customized vehicles are generally individually painted with intricate, colorful designs, rolling on wire-spoke wheels with whitewall tires. Lowrider rims range from 13"-20". They are also fitted with hydraulic or air bag systems that allow the vehicle to be raised or lowered at the owner's command. Given these specific characteristics, while a lowrider is always a lowered car, a lowered car is not always a lowrider. The term is used to describe a class of vehicle, not simply the height from ground to chassis.
The term lowrider can also refer to the driver of the car.
It began in Los Angeles, California in the mid-to-late 1940s and during the post-war prosperity of the 1950s. Initially, some Mexican-American barrio youths lowered blocks, cut spring coils, z’ed the frames and dropped spindles. The aim of the lowriders is to cruise as slowly as possible, "Low and Slow" being their motto. By redesigning these cars in ways that go against their intended purposes and in painting their cars so that they reflect and hold meanings from Mexican culture, lowriders create cultural and political statements that go against the more prevalent Anglo culture. The design of the cars encouraged a "bi-focal perspective-they are made to be watched but only after adjustments have been made to provide ironic and playful commentary on prevailing standard of automobile design." However, this resulted in a backlash: the enactment of Section 24008 of the California Vehicle Code in January 1, 1958, which made it illegal to operate any car modified so that any part was lower than the bottoms of its wheel rims.
In 1959, a customizer named Ron Aguirre developed a way of bypassing the law with the use of hydraulic Pesco pumps and valves that allowed him to change ride height at the flick of a switch. The following year saw the emergence of the Chevrolet Impala, which featured an X-shaped frame that was perfectly suited for lowering and modification with hydraulics. Between 1960 and 1975, customizers adapted and refined GM X-frames, hydraulics, and airbrushing techniques to create the modern lowrider style.
In the 1990s, lowriders became strongly associated with West Coast Hip hop and G-Funk culture. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, South Central Cartel, Eazy-E and Above the Law among others featured lowriders prominently in their music videos.
Today, the lowriding scene is diverse with many different participating cultures, vehicle makes, and visual styles. At first, lowriders were only seen in places like LA, especially back in the 1970s on Whittier Boulevard when lowriding came to its peak. Whittier was a wide commercial street that cut through the barrio of the city in Los Angeles, California. On Saturday nights, young Mexican Americans went cruising along Whittier in their lowriders. Lowriders nowadays have gotten fairly popular: lowriders can be seen all over the country from coast to coast, but recently they have been spreading to other places around the world. Lowriding culture has also spread to Japan.
- Cal Style VW (a latter day, "bomb lowrider" based on a Volkswagen Type 1, not to be confused with a Cal looker)
- Hi-Riser (automobile)
- VIP style
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