For the record, when lowriders start doing the cha-cha on souped-up hydraulics or airbags, they hop -- they don't jump. That's the word from Lowrider Magazine spokesman Marco Patiño, a well-educated young L.A. talker who says his father, a custom-car buff himself, impressed upon the son early the importance of having an income before sinking bucks into a cherried-out custom job designed to blow away the competition. School's over for Patiño, and he's now been molding his own work-in-progress for two years -- a candy green '65 Buick Riviera with seventeen-inch chrome wire wheels and an airbag system providing the bounce. A firm believer that less is more, he says he's going for a subtle -- and even practical -- effect rather than a crazy theme: "It'll be a driver, not a trailer queen," Patiño guarantees. "If you build it, you gotta drive it." And what could be more natural in sunny Los Angeles, where, he explains, the fad began "back in the forties, when the war was over and there was nothin' to do"?
You'll see lowrider cars of all types -- and there are many, including the classic hot-rod "bombs"; "traditionals," which tend to be built from '50s-era Chevys; Honda "Euros"; and the newest trend, modern luxury SUVs souped up with full multimedia systems, brightly colored leather interiors and oversized tires -- this Sunday when the Lowrider Boulevard Tour 2000 sparkles, gleams and hops like mad at the Denver Coliseum, providing an arena for friendly, if somewhat intense, competition. "The shows kind of provide a stage for them," Patiño notes of the competitors. "A lot of places don't allow cruising anymore, though it's not necessarily the fault of the lowriders that they get shut down. A lot of the time, it's the people on the streets causing the trouble -- a typical lowrider will not mess around in his car. They see the car as an investment and also as a part of the family."
Wayne Maestas, vice president of the local chapter of Rollerz Only, an international lowrider organization boasting sister divisions in California, Texas and...Tokyo, exemplifies that profile: He'll be there Sunday, showing off his pride and joy, Lady Death -- a '94 Geo Tracker with cut doors, a pearl-blue pattern on a white background and an oriental-blue frame -- on a turntable designed to show off her entire chassis. "Oooh, she's the top truck in Denver," he boasts, and it's no wonder: The 31-year-old says he's probably invested $65,000 to date on Lady Death's fine appointments, which have gotten her featured in Lowrider's pages. "It took me three years to finish and I'm still making changes. You've got to keep up with the people who try to catch you." As it is for many aficionados of the lifestyle, lowriding is a family affair for Maestas. "I got my kids doing it now," he says. "My daughter has her own lowrider bike, and my son will, too."
Lowrider Boulevard Tour 2000
Denver Coliseum, 4600 Humboldt Street
11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 23
$20 (children ten and under free with paying adult)
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As with any multigenerational vogue, lowriding takes many roads: "The older guys want to preserve the past," Patiño says. "These days, every car looks like a lima bean. But back then, they had all the chrome, the curves, the lines, the engines." On the other hand, he notes, "the younger guys think it started with Lowrider Magazine and TV. They want to cruise around and impress the women, and also there's that 'my-stuff-is-better-than-yours' kind of competition, too." But under the bravado, they're all united by a link as tenacious as blood. "Lowriders will be here as long as there are cars," Patiño affirms. And given the variety involved, he can't fairly name a favorite lowrider, though he's seen scores. He's drawn in, personally, by the singular stories behind each one. Every car is unique, he notes, like your crazy Uncle Joe. "They're like folklore on four wheels," he says. "Or two wheels, when they're hopping."