Race, Class, Culture In Cars- Automobile Lowrider

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Race, Class, Culture in Cars- Automobile Lowrider

Lowriders are cars customized and driven in U.S. cities mostly by Mexican Americans in the southwest. A major increase in the popularity of Lowriders can be traced back to the late 70s and was due to the merging of two distinct cultures. These were the California Car culture and the Mexican culture. However, Lowriders have actually been part of the Mexican-American heritage for far longer and it was only in the 60s when Lowriders were recognised as a car customising classification mainly due to customisers such as George Barris. As far back as the late 30's cars were being lowered either using heavy weights or by chopping the springs. (Chappell, 88)

In the 50s, the American economy was booming which led to the different styles of customisation that we see today. Each classification fulfilled a particular need. For example: Hot Rods enthusiasts removed wings and bonnets amongst other things to increase the power to weight ratio whereas those who owned Lowriders were far more concerned with comfort, class and style.The popular car to modify was a Chevrolet because it was comparatively cheap to repair and looked more stylish than its Ford counterparts. The modifications that were carried out on Lowriders were specifically chosen to be the opposite of those carried out by the mainstream culture. Rather than lowering the front and removing wings Lowriders would be lowered at the back and fitted with fender skirts. Other popular modifications performed on Lowriders were fitting twin side pipes, two spot lights, two aerials and a big red stop light at the back.

The Lowriders movement was not restricted to cars. Due to the expense of owning one of these vehicles people started to modify bikes as well. In 1964 George Barris modified a Schwinn cycle for use in the television series The Munsters. The Schwinn cycle resembled a dragster, perhaps due to the fact that the racing of these bikes was one of the top motoring sports of the time. Before long these bicycles became very popular and began to be modified in a similar way to Lowrider cars. They became heavily chrome plated and the forks were bent to lower them.

Many people look at the Lowrider today and do not understand its origins, meanings and values. Many people have adopted this distinctly Chicano invention and attempted to call it their own. The Lowrider. Truly one of the greatest and most beautiful recreations of a plainer and blander version of the automobile that in the eyes of one social group has lost its value and was cast off. Nevertheless, to truly appreciate the Lowrider, you have to understand its roots. To pay proper tribute to the whole concept you have to understand the history of the Lowrider. (Bright, 45-61)

In the early years of cars, most Mexican immigrants as well as Chicanos were poor farm workers at best and did not have the money to afford a vehicle. Naturally, as time went by, white middle class America began casting ...
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