Too Late, Too Lowrider, Too Custom.

In the early 90’s, clubs of youngsters like the Shifters and the Choppers (then called the Chiselers) helped to bring 40’s and 50’s styled Hot Rods and Customs back to life. Not only that, but they inadvertently helped to shape the modern Traditional movement as we know it today. But there seemed to be a common and unspoken rule that anything built or styled after 1964 might as well have never happened. Regardless, there were small pockets of individuals who knew this to be wrong.

While mainstream Automotive publications all but stopped covering custom cars in the mid 60’s, the people that were living it will tell you that Customs were thriving on Boulevards all across the country, Southern California being the epicenter of the action. The mild Customs that were born in the South Bay area of Los Angeles during the late 50’s were evolving into something else. Custom paint, custom wheels, altered suspensions, mild body mods and more all added up to create a unique type of Custom car, ubiquitous to the region. These cars and their owners cruised their respective ‘hoods, scraping their way in and out of driveways everywhere they went. No blacktop was safe.


We like to think that the car that marked this shift in style as the first version of Larry Watson’s “Grapevine” finished in 1957. Featuring mild custom touches such as ’56 Olds headlight bezels, molded ’53 Chevy grill shell stuffed with 17 teeth, flipped front bumper, quarter panel scoops, ’56 Buick side trim, inverted ’54 Mercury tail lights, and of course a pre-requisite nose and deck. All pretty standard fare for a mild custom in those days. But what made Larry’s ’50 Chevy stand out and become such a milestone in Custom history was its rich purple metallic two-tone and just how ridiculously low the car was. Makes you wonder how many tickets Larry got with that stance. From Grapevine on, customs got lower and more colorful.

In the late 50’s, Detroit was offering new cars that might as well have been factory customs. Cars got lower, wider, flashier and significantly more powerful. Because new cars of the time already looked custom on the showroom floor, a shift in the approach towards building a custom was only natural. By the time the 60’s rolled around, the Custom scene was alive and well, even if it had moved underground. The idea of taking a relatively new car, slamming it and adding a nice set of wheels and maybe a paint job had become the Boulevard standard. By the early 70’s, this unique style of Custom would eventually evolve into what we now recognize as Lowriders. Cruising was alive and well and for those that lived it, this period was everything. The late 60’s was an important transition period between Customs and Lowriders. When the first issue of Lowrider magazine dropped in January of ’77, Lowriders were a well-established, stand-alone style and heralded the beginning of a new era.

Howard Gribble's Riveria

Fast forward to 2006, the Traditional Hot Rod and Custom revival was in full swing. But due to the commonly accepted cutoff year of 1964, 60’s and 70’s styled rides were absent from most clubs and shows. The Lowrider community wasn’t very understanding either, as the nostalgia for traditionally styled Lows still hadn’t hit yet. Wanting a place where this period was not only acceptable, but respected and recreated, a group of like-minded individuals banded together through the power of the Internet. With an emphasis on this nebulous style that began with the Grapevine in ’57 and culminated with the premier of Lowrider in ’77, Los Boulevardos had been born.

“Tradition didn’t end in 1964.” -Rasputin


2 thoughts

  1. I’m trying to contact one of your members, Mark Kawanos, about gaining permission to use one of his images. Could you please pass my contact info along, it will be worth his while.

    Thanks, and love what you do…


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