20 Cars That Make Awesome Lowriders

Any enthusiast will be well aware that cars can be much more than simply a mode of transport. New York's MoMA held its first exhibition of automobiles in 1951, showcasing eight models that the museum's curators thought best displayed the relationship between America's rapidly evolving car culture and the art world. The exhibition focused on unmodified cars, but in doing so, it overlooked two key movements emerging on the other side of the country at the time: hot rods and lowriders. Devotees of the former focused on making their cars faster and more powerful, whereas the latter was all about forging an identity and making a statement.

Lowrider culture emerged in Los Angeles in the late '40s, with Mexican Americans buying and then modifying cars using money they'd earned during the Second World War. Unlike hot rodders, who focused on power, lowriders preferred to cruise "low and slow," with most modifications being centered around visual appeal rather than performance. Over the decades, these cars became increasingly elaborate, with vibrant paintwork, intricate murals, and hydraulic suspension.

Automobiles that started off as simple family haulers became rolling artworks, and fittingly, some of the most famous examples have since been shown in institutions like the Petersen Museum. Most, however, remain in the hands of those who made them or passed down through families. Many American classics can be made into lowriders, but these models stand out as top choices for anyone looking to build their own.

Chevrolet Fleetmaster '48

The Chevy Fleetmaster was produced for only a few years between 1946 and 1948 but proved popular throughout its short lifespan. Designed as an affordable, readily available model to cater to American veterans returning after World War II, more than 200,000 examples were sold during its final production year. Cars like the Fleetmaster became the first lowriders, as Mexican Americans used their mechanical skill — some of which had been gleaned from wartime service — to create cars unique to their community.

In modern lowrider culture, these early cars are referred to as "bombs." Most bombs kept their stock engines, which in the '48 Fleetmaster's case was a standard 216 cubic inch straight-six. It produced 90 horsepower from the factory and was mated to a three-speed automatic transmission. Other bombs, including some contemporary '48 Fleetmaster builds, feature a 235 cubic inch engine. Despite being more than three-quarters of a century old, the Fleetmaster's place as one of the originating models of lowrider culture ensures that there are still plenty of examples around today.