With their candy-colored paint, intricate designs and hydraulic bounce, lowriders stand out in North Texas. But the cars can attract negative attention, too. An organization of lowrider enthusiasts in Dallas-Fort Worth is working to combat the stereotypes associated with the thriving culture.
Challenging the stereotypes
Jimmy Lopez is behind the wheel of his restored 1972 Buick Riviera, hitting the ground to get low and to go slow. It’s sleek and shiny and orange. A chandelier sways as he drives through a park in Oak Cliff.
Lowrider cars tend to get a bad rap. Just ask the owners. Sofia Barron, Michael Bush and Sonia Lopez are part of the United Lowriders Association. They say people who drive the cars are stereotyped as “gangsters,” “lowlifes,” “gang members” or just plain trouble.
The Dallas-Fort Worth association has about 20 car clubs in the area. It was formed 15 years ago to create a supportive community. It was also created to challenge common lowrider stereotypes — like those you’d see in movies and television shows.
For Sofia Barron, lowrider culture is about more than just the cars.
“It’s about family. It’s about being together, showing our children what the car club is about. It’s really an art. It’s an art form; a way to express and de-stress,” Barron says.
During the week, she’s a nurse, and on the weekends, Barron cruises her sporty, bright red Impala. She’s loved hot rods ever since she was a kid. For Barron, her car is her identity.
“It represents you and who you are: your personality, your history, your story,” Barron says.
A family-oriented culture
And the history is passed down. Before they can even drive, kids are welcomed into the lowrider culture. They start with lowrider bicycles — customized bikes inspired by the cars.
This is what Jimmy Lopez started with. He’s the leader of the United Lowriders Association. For him, the lowrider culture created his love story. It’s how he met his wife, Sonia, when they were in high school.
“Well, I had my lowrider bike, and I was trying to get with her and see her. I didn’t have a car then. She had to hold her knees up; they were barely touching the concrete. But we made it,” he says.
They also made a family, and they raised their son, Jimmy Lopez IV, in the lowrider world. He drives a 1985 Monte Carlo convertible with a special message in the interior.
“Since [age] 2 or 3, I’ve been riding in his backseat — until I grew up and got my own,” Lopez IV says. “If you look at my backseat, it says ‘My family comes first.’ I got that embroidered in my seat.”
For the Lopez family, the lowriders association is a family.