Chevy is vehicle of choice for Lowriders, and they’re not alone

1968 Chevrolet Impala 'El MuertoRider' by Artemio Rodriguez and John Jota Leanos | Petersen museum photos by Ted7
1968 Chevrolet Impala ‘El MuertoRider’ by Artemio Rodriguez and John Jota Leanos | Petersen museum photos by Ted7

There is a theory that Lowriders tend to favor Chevrolets because of the X-frame chassis General Motors introduced in the late 1950s, an undercarriage design that left room to accommodate the hydraulic suspension systems that enable these highly customized cars to live up to their goal of being driven low and slow.

And with even more modern technology, they not only can cruise low and slow, but can be made to bow, to bounce, and even to spin and to dance.

But from the very beginning, the Lowriders’ vehicles of choice have been Chevrolets, even in the days before such technology could be applied, back when they were cutting sections out of coil suspension springs and using sandbags to lower their rides.

1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe 'Gangster Squad Car' by Mister Cartoon
1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe ‘Gangster Squad Car’ by Mister Cartoon

And as Prof. Denise Sandoval, guest curator of the Petersen Automobile Museum’s new Lowrider exhibit, The High Art of Riding Low: Ranfalas, Corazon e Inspiracion, points out from the earliest of times, the Lowrider’s favored vehicle has been a Chevy. All five Lowriders that are part of the new exhibit are, indeed, Chevrolets.

“Many lowriding purists believe that classic Chevrolets are the only cars that, once properly customized, can carry the lowrider label,” she has written in one of her essays on the subject.

You might speculate that since hot-rodders were customizing early ’30s Ford coupes and convertibles, Lowriders migrated to Chevys. But Sandoval said that the reality is that the Lowrider community has always been family oriented and many of the young men finally old enough to own and modify their own cars had grown up in Chevys simply because Chevy dealers in Los Angeles would offers car loans to people with brown or black skin when many other dealerships would not.

Gypsy Rose goes from HVA display to Petersen lobby | HVA photo
Gypsy Rose goes from DC to Petersen lobby | HVA photo

Plus, she said, the design of Chevrolet bodies, whether those gangster-looking cars from the late ’30s or the long, long models from the late ’60s, ’70s or even more recent, provide the sort of canvas Lowriders want for their automotive and artistic displays.

Detail: 1963 Chevy Impala 'El Rey' by Albert De Alba Sr.
Detail: 1963 Chevy Impala ‘El Rey’ by Albert De Alba Sr.

Mid-’60s Chevrolet Impalas are among the most popular cars for lowrider conversion. We checked the searches for such cars on ClassicCars.com just for the month of May and found that more than 12,000 people searched for 1963 Impalas and nearly 16,000 searched to see what ’64 Impalas were available for purchase on the site.

And those figures do not include the ’67 Impala, the favorite of fans of the television series Supernatural.

Overall for the month, nearly 200,000 searches were conducted by those interested in Impalas, ranking it third among all Chevy searches behind only the Corvette and Camaro. By the way, Chevrolet was the most-searched brand on the website, 1.6 million compared with 1 million for Ford.

'Our Family Car,' 1950 Chevy sedan by Gilbert 'Magu' Lujan
‘Our Family Car,’ 1950 Chevy sedan by Gilbert ‘Magu’ Lujan

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