SAN DIEGO — Lowriding is an American pastime, born in the barrios of California. But it’s often misunderstood.
As FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade found it, lowriding is a lot more than cars and cruising. It’s about embracing a culture — and taking everyone else along for the ride.
“We like to cruise them low and slow, with the music going on inside the car. It just takes you into another world,” Marcos Arellano, or “Rabbit,” said.
It’s a world Rabbit has lived in for more than 40 years as a lowrider owner in San Diego.
“It’s not a hobby for us,” Rabbit said. Instead, he calls it a passion.
His wife Jovita, cofounder of the United Lowrider Coalition, goes a step further.
“The lowriding culture is in our hearts. That’s the heart of a Hispanic, the heart of the Chicano, is lowriding,” she said.
But they don’t just pour their hearts into it — they pour thousands of dollars into customizing their cars.
“For a paint job right now, right now as we speak, you’re looking at from $8,000 to $12,000,” Rabbit said.
Add in graphics or murals and it can exceed $30,000. Other signature features like new rims and tires run $2,000 to $8,000. And that’s just the outside. Rabbit says the interior, from the upholstery to the all-important stereo system, can add another $4,000 to $14,000.
When asked how the love affair between the Hispanic culture and the cars began, Rabbit said, “nobody can really say when it started. We can narrow it down to the 60s.”
For Rabbit and many like him, it began in childhood.
“As we were growing up, our parents didn’t have the money to afford to take the vehicles to the mechanics. So they had to learn from their uncles, from their brothers, from their own dads how to work on cars,” Rabbit said.
It’s a skillset that gets passed down through the generations. It’s also become a way for families to mark milestones.
“This Friday, we’re going to do a quinceañera caravan. And then on Saturday, we were asked by another family if we can take the bride and groom, pick up them up at their house,” Rabbit said.
You’ll also find lowriders at funerals, picnics, parades and car shows. They are part of the fabric of the Latino community — which is why Jovita says they’re fighting to lift the 30-year ban on cruise nights in National City.
“It’s important to us to bring back the cruising so that we can bring back the culture, make more memories,” Jovita said.
“This is more of a passion, this is more of a lifestyle for us,” Rabbit said. “We talk it, we live it … it’s just a big, big passion for us, this lowrider stuff.”
And to spot an authentic one, Rabbit says there are things to look for — like a clean paint job and chrome with no dents, no tinted windows to show off the interior, nice rims and smaller tires with a white wall on it.
“And of course, you have to have hydraulics on it,” Rabbit added.
And it has to be low to the ground.
“My car, I can bring it all the way and the frame will hit the floor, all the way to the floor,” Rabbit said. “You can’t even slip a dollar bill under there ’cause it’s so low.”
But the music is always turned up high. Because like cruising itself, it’s not about the destination — it’s about enjoying the ride.