Best in Low Explores the Community, Culture, and Craftsmanship of Lowriders

Brandan Gillogly

Although it has spread around the world, the culture surrounding highly customized and personalized lowriders began in Southern California. It’s only fitting that the Petersen Automotive Museum, the premier automotive museum in Los Angeles, pays homage to the vivid paint, ornate engraving, and luxurious interiors of lowriders. Best in Low: Lowrider Icons of the Street and Show, a wonderfully curated exhibit, takes up most of the museum’s ground floor as it spills into the lobby and into the parking structure. Bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, and more than a dozen cars were selected to showcase the spectrum of lowrider customization, and each of the vehicles is a brilliant representative.

“The lowrider displays are always a fan favorite, and we are excited to open the most comprehensive lowrider exhibit in the museum’s history,” said Petersen Automotive Museum executive director Terry L. Karges. “This exhibit celebrates the rich history of lowriders and will give visitors the opportunity to learn about their impact on the automotive world, the culture at large, and the history of car customization.”

Best in Low Petersen Museum Gypsy Rose Impala lowrider
Gypsy Rose, one of the most famous lowriders ever built, was inducted into the National Historic Vehicle Register in 2017.Brandan Gillogly

This is not the first time the Petersen has highlighted lowriders, as several examples of the genre could be found in past exhibits celebrating a variety of custom styles, and the Vault also seemed always to have at least one piece of lowrider eye candy to explore. This current exhibit, however, is the first of its kind since the Petersen’s total renovation and reopening in December 2015. The scale of the exhibit, combined with the artwork and the information provided, makes for a stunning and intriguing display.

“This lowrider exhibit will be a new chapter exploring the craftsmanship of lowriders and the impact of this culture on the customization scene,” said Dr. Denise Sandoval, guest curator at the Petersen Automotive Museum. “We will also highlight the diversity of the culture through the region for the first time, including cars and motorcycles from Northern California, New Mexico, Texas, and Japan, as well as feature cars owned and worked on by women.”

The exhibit space is filled with the aforementioned cars, which each deserve several minutes of inspection to discover the extent of the craftsmanship, but it also includes information on the history of lowriders. At several points in the exhibit, videos go into detail to show how the various aspects of lowriders are created, including intricate engraving. Several artists contributed painted and airbrushed panels for Best in Low, and other lowrider art is spread throughout the displays.

Ever-changing, the Petersen Automotive Museum always offers a fresh experience, and this vibrant, ambitious new exhibit seems to be a hit already. Best in Low will be open through March 2025, and we highly encourage anyone in the Los Angeles area to visit the Miracle Mile and stop by the Petersen to take it all in.

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Comments

    I’ve made a similar comment before: not-my-cup-of-tea, exactly, but I really do admire the engineering and creativity put into lowriders. It’s not real big in this area, but there are a few. When I get the chance, I like to look at how the builders figure out geometries and structural challenges. And then the paint – oh gosh, the paint! In my day, panel paint, lace paint, all of that was popular, but the sort of jobs I see nowadays blow away what I saw in the late ’60s and into the ’70s. Like I said, not what I’d drive, but I do enjoy looking at them and talking to owners about how they work. Some real genius in some of them.
    I agree about the Petersen being the premium auto museum in L.A. – but really, it stands in the top five that I’ve seen ANYWHERE in the states. It just curates outstanding examples and put on stellar displays. It’s on my list anytime I’m in SoCal.

    Lots of hard work goes into those detailed paint jobs. They are fantastic. It’s not my style of car but I totally respect it and welcome it.

    Lowriders with their “over-the-top” paint jobs are not for me, but they are better than the rusty, dented rat rods (crap rods).

    Notice how most hot rodders seek out early Fords, and most low riders seek out 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Chevys? I’ve never seen so much chrome, custom paint, custom upholstery and hydraulic ingenuity, as when I’ve attended low rider car shows. I can only imagine the investment of time and money that goes into these fine machines. There’s just something about the sound of a Blue Flame 6-cylinder and a 3-speed stick that gets the old heart pumping. Kudos to this culture!

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