Lowrider History

(The Good Old Lowrider and Pachuco History Controversy)

By. David Arredondo


Just as historians have written that the pachuco may have originated in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, indicators tend to point in the same northern direction as far as the origination of lowriders is concerned.



Before I begin expressing my views on this touchy subject, allow me to remind readers that "history" is simply (HIS-STORY). Yes indeed, it's the story of another and sometimes "historians" tend to confuse facts with fiction.


May I first start with Tin-Tan, the so-called founder of the pachuco.

Some claim that Tin-Tan Valdez of Mexico City was the true godfather of the classic pachuco style, but if people look at photos taken of German Valdez years  before he was even known as "Tin-Tan" , they may be surprised to discover  that the Mexican actor, singer and comedian did not dress, nor appear anything close to a pachuco in his personal life.


Tin-Tan was simply an entertainer, an actor portraying a pachuco, a style conceived in Ciudad Juarez  where Tin-Tan became internationally known.  Immediately  after relocating to Juarez, German was offered the pachuco role by wealthy producers who intended to mock the habits of the Juarez /El Paso based pachuco and their unique borderland dialect.

As I previously mentioned, this is only my preception of "HIS-STORY". Nothing official since I, nor most "historians" writing books on the subject were neither born during the times of Tin-Tan. 




As for where lowriders originated, some argue that lowriders originally began in Los Angeles, California, but if this were true, what were young pachucos in Juarez driving long before southern California was introduced to the pachuco subculture, or even Tin-Tan?  They couldn't of been riding horses,  or could they have?

Photos taken of the streets of Juarez in the 1930's do proove that the city did have actual American and German cars. In fact there appears to be triple the amount of chevy and fords, than the majority German-made volkwagons popular in Mexico City. Some of these American cars appear to be riding low, either due to poor and worn-out suspension or as some claim, pachuco style sand-bags in the trunk.




Another questionable observation of the distinctive differences between Mexico City and Juarez is the cholo/pachuco style in general. Many Mexico City youths dress in cowboy boots and prep attire, while thousands in Juarez still embrace the pachuco/cholo look of the past. The calo dialect remains popular in Juarez while folks in Mexico City speak a more fluent and correct Spaniard Spanish, the spanish of the Mexican main stream media, the dialect of preps, yuppies and urban cowboys.


I did find after doing much research that Southern California did in fact play a huge part in promoting the lowrider movement, but lowriders in East L.A. did not emerge on Whittier Blvd until they were introduced by Mexican immigrants from Juarez and El Paso in the late 1940’s. Or did these immigrants enter the U.S. from Tijuana?  Nobody seems to know for sure, none other than Mauricio Herrera.
“I was born and raised in Juarez’s down town district and remember older pachuco’s sand bagging their cars as early as 1939. People thought the idea was insane.” Said 84 year old Mauricio Herrera of Boyal Heights, CA. “Then I moved to Los Angeles in 1942 and sand bagging didn’t come into L.A. until 1947” he said.




Lowriders first emerged in the barrios of Juarez in 1939 when young pachuco rebels lowered their rides by stuffing sand bags in the trunks of their cars. This practice was referred to as “tumbando la”, or “dropping it”.


Herrera claims that pachucos in Los Angeles then discovered that vehicles could also be lowered by simply removing the cars shock absorbers, and then heating up the rides springs with welding torches until the metal became loose and fatigue.




Articles written on Lowrider Magazine state that Mexican Americans in Los Angeles who owned body shops advanced in their auto suspension skills and were the first to include hydraulics to their cars. They figured if hydraulics were powerful enough to stop a 3 ton car, they could easily lift it. The lowrider scene in East L.A. became nationally known in the late 1970’s when Hollywood films such as Boulevard Nights and Cheech and Chong's classic, Up in Smoke, hit theaters.



The story goes that Lowriders entered the collage scene in the late 1960’s and that’s when San Jose College student Sonny Madrid decided to feature photos of beautiful lowriders on a magazine he would name “Lowrider”. 1,000 copies of the magazine were printed and distributed in barrios all across northern California.

The magazine was a hit and people began requesting more.  By 1979 Lowrider Magazine had become the most successful Chicano magazine in U.S. history. Lowrider aficionados were predominantly Mexican American until African Americans in Los Angeles began acquiring a taste for slammed automobiles.




 Rap artists of African descent began using the lowrider image on their music videos in the mid 1980's and white American youths who loved rap music adopted the lowrider style seen on their favorite rap videos.



Another interesting turn of events occured when major automobile companies such as GM, Ford and Toyota began utilizing the low profile look in the design of their modern cars.  Automobiles appeared to come out of the woodworks with lower profiles in the early 1980's.

In fact low profile vehicles are now in demand and car companies continue making millions selling cars and trucks only inches off the street.
The key question is, did lowriders inspire car manufacturers to reduce the profiles on modern vehicles, or was the cool low alteration made for the innovative purpose of improved wind dynamics and speed?  

This is an argument all in itself and may one day inspire writers and thinkers to express their own versions on this particular HIS-STORY.




Lowrider History