Iconic Lowriders Cleared for Cruising

A 36-Year Prohibition Dissolves, Revitalizing Styled-Up San Jose Streets

There’s a quote out there about enjoying well-maintained classics on the palm-lined streets of the Golden State: “The pride a car lover feels at any show comes with the club logo that is repped on the shirt, dangling from your necklace, or situated in your back window.” On a sunny June day this summer, hundreds of people lined Santa Clara Street with some of the very finest lowriders in the nation. They were showing off culturally legendary and eye-popping models such as immaculate Impalas and bad-to-the-bone Bel Airs.

Iconic Lowriders Cleared For Cruising

Car clubs from the area happily brandished their uniquely styled rides and gathered around for photos. Council member Raul Peralez was showing off his 1941 Chevy Special Deluxe, while also getting ready to do something else he had been anticipating for quite some time. Signifying what he deemed as a memorable step forward for the entire community. He removed the last remaining “NO CRUISING” sign. In 1986 amidst rising violence, the city put a stop to the many cruisers who felt as if they were then enduring a form of discrimination.

A vibrant and visually stunning scene emerges

The lowrider culture saw its initial birth in the mid-1940s. Mexican American communities enjoying Los Angeles had access to cars that rode low and focused less on high power. Coming home after enlisting in the war, the lowrider culture was a means of chiseling out a sovereign identity in a nation that still did not provide a welcoming atmosphere. The characteristic hydraulics stoked a sense of amazement and raw domination.

The appeal of lowriders during the beginnings of the boom:

San Jose was blessed with a creative and innovative hive in the form of Lowrider, Streetlow, and Teen Angels magazines. By the early ‘70s, San Jose had become a distinguished and constantly decked-out staple of the scene. Classics such as Monte Carlos boasting wires wrapped around the steering wheel cruised down the streets, and a sense of comradery not existent in any other scene thrived. Some of the most priceless facial expressions are etched on faces the first time they see one. It can seem like an expertly applied tattoo intersecting with something as rad as the ocean itself!

A tried-and-true backbone of community and support:

Many Latinos who have become empty nesters have discovered a burgeoning amount of moral support and family within the lowrider scene. Coming to someone’s aid immediately when they need it is a true anchor during troubled times, which California and the entire nation have suffered from as of late. Lowriders had no problem attracting police in the ‘80s and ‘90s, yet still were known for wholesome activities such as volunteering and stepping up to assist when anyone fell upon hard times.

Frequent good deeds don’t necessarily cancel out an incessantly watching eye.  It wasn’t just lowriders who were noticing. Eventually, citizens from all walks of life realized that it had now been more than two decades since the police had actually issued a citation for cruising. The ban itself was an outdated excuse to profile and pull individuals over. After multiple meetings via Zoom, various clubs came up with ways to appeal to officials. It was time to let the culture thrive again at full steam.

New pioneers with undying focus and vision:

When any car lover sets foot in a parking lot full of low riders, it’s tough to not be overwhelmed! Huge engines, lifted suspensions, and unique superchargers along with very plush seats are a few characteristics that the new breed will never want to abandon. After a year of lockdowns and masked up, newcomers have a desire to express themselves.

Telltale tools of the trade:

One amazing example of preserved lowrider excellence is the 1950 Mercury Eight. It’s got unique wheel flares leading to the doors, emulating a very fast and smooth profile. The Impala is seen as the quintessential lowrider, with an abundance of three decades to pick a favorite from. The Buick Riviera is ideal for those who love the Impala’s looks, but also would like to flaunt upscale status. 1950s Chevy trucks offer an ideal playground for customization. Not to mention, unique front angles and curves that are charming and memorable.

Lincoln Continentals are a popular choice. Despite when all the visual and audible stops are pulled out: the size alone is a huge appeal. After it is lowered it appears even longer, and many distinguished and outright wild color choices are up for grabs. The Chevy Monte Carlo features a very smoothed-out body and integrated bumpers. The Monte Carlo is also an excellent choice for those who excel at the duty of highlighting their wheels.

Which lowrider vehicles have caught your eye over the years? Let us know in the comments below, or check out this other article from the Headlights team about how to customize your car without looking tacky.

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