The classic car world can be a fairly stuffy place at times. I’m sure we’ve all been at a car show only to have an armchair anorak sidle up to tell us that our car’s indicator lenses are incorrect for the year, or that aftermarket accessories and wheels look out of place. It can also be difficult if you like your car to reflect your personality, rather than sticking rigidly to its factory build sheet. Whitewall tyres on an E-type? How very dare you…
Which is why I found it so refreshing that the Petersen Automotive Museum has embraced the unique by putting on a special exhibition of lowriders – yank tanks slammed to the deck and painted in extravagant liveries. Enthusiasts in the UK will probably only have seen them in action in hip-hop music videos, but lowriders have been deeply ingrained in Chicano culture since first coming to the fore in the post-war years in Los Angeles. They’re low, slow and brightly coloured, and many are fitted with outlandish hydraulic suspension systems that allow them to be raised and lowered at the flick of the switch – a product of anti-lowrider legislation from the late 1950s that dictated vehicle ride height.
Following the success of the exhibition, the foyer of the Petersen will house some of the scene’s most famous vehicles, such as Cleto Sanchez’ 1963 Chevrolet Impala Convertible ‘Slippin’ into Darkness’ and the 1972 Monte Carlo ‘Fatal Attraction’ by Jose Alvarez. The three-times Lowrider of the Year 1958 Chevrolet Impala ‘Final Score’ by Chris Roark will even represent the museum at the LA Auto Show.
The world of classic cars is a broad church, and it’s great to see a mainstream museum give centre stage to such interesting and culturally important cars. And who knows, it might make people that little bit more understanding of those of us who choose to stray from the path of the concours restoration.