Contrary to the popular lowrider is the donk, box or bubble car. They are all generically referred to as hi-risers. While originally confined to 70’s model Chevrolet Impalas (donk), the trend spread to other General Motors cars Like the 80’s Chevrolet Caprice (box) and 90’s Pontiacs (bubble). A Hi-Riser is a cross between a lifted truck and a lowrider. The car is lifted so that large diameter rims can be put under the car with sizes such as 24”, 26”, 28”, much like a 4×4 truck. However, the rims are the highlight of the vehicle. They are painted, chromed and even jewel encrusted. The body of the car is much like a lowrider. They will usually have a colorful paintjob and elaborate interiors. Hi-Risers are said to have originated with the Dirty South rap scene in Atlanta. These days you can find hi-risers in most large urban cities. The trend is slowly spreading out to the suburbs. Lifting a vehicle can be challenge. One of the safer ways is to lift the body from the frame and place spacers in between the body and frame to create more space in the wheel well allowing the car to keep its geometry and still flex with road conditions. One of the less expensive ways to get height is to stretch the springs and weld in spacers to keep the spring stiff and extended or to weld solid pipes to the axle and frame. Both of these methods can be much harder on your butt, as it takes away the cars natural flexibility. These methods also make the car much harder to steer and drive at higher speeds, so you won’t see a lot of hi-risers on your local freeway. A subset of this trend is the themed hi-riser. Owners paint their cars in a theme that matches their favorite everyday products. Themes reflect fast food restaurants, soft drinks, sports teams, breakfast cereals, candy bars, and most junk food favorites. Imagine if Willy Wonka was a gangster rapper, he would drive a donk.
5: Matte Paint
While driving a car in primer is probably something we have all seen. The idea of primer is that eventually you are going to paint your car. Most of us will agree that the car culture scene started in the 50’s. The 50’s style traditional rods have had a resurgence over the last 10 years. These new rods are hobbled together in garages by guys sporting greasy hair and tattoos, just like their predecessors did. Over the last ten years the traditional car scene has jumped into the main stream with a lot of help from reality television. Big name builders are now making traditional rods with high end price tags. While it’s hard for me to fathom a traditional rod worth more than the sum of its parts, it has become the norm these days. Big name auction houses are auctioning off traditional rods, with the emphasis on originality and patina. Whether built by a kid in his garage or a big name builder with his own reality show, all of these cars have one thing in common, matte paint. It can be called suede, satin or flat. Matte paint is a non-glossy finish on the paint. The traditionalist may prefer black, but any color can be made matte, even metallics. Once confined to 50’s or 60’s hot rods, it has now been adopted by 4 wheelers, tuners, racers and even motorcycles. It used to be a rare to see a matte car at a high end car show. These days it’s a rarity to see a shiny finish. While this trend may not be the newest, what is new is where it’s gone. Ferrari, Mercedes and BMW are all offering a matte paint option, usually at a premium. Yes, you can buy a brand new car with a paint job that looks old for more money than a shiny car. When big name companies like these start offering matte paint, you can rest assured that the rest of the auto industry will follow suit. It won’t be long before you can buy a matte black Prius. Matte paint is the acid washed jeans of automobiles. Let’s hope the trend lasts as long as the jeans did.
4: Slammed Trucks
Lowering a car is nothing new. Lowering has its roots in Southern California as early as the 40’s. Back then, the easiest way to lower a car was to put sand bags or cinder blocks in your trunk. Lowered cars were the exact opposite of the “Hopped Up” cars. Low and slow became the motto of the low rider. Many other tricks to lower a car surfaced. Heating springs to compress them, cutting springs, and removing leafs. In the 70’s, hydraulic systems were introduced. This gave the lowrider more flexibility with the option to control each wheel’s height, and to allow movement of the wheel while driving. Driving on three wheels and hopping became popular in this era. Cars with hydraulics have complicated plumbing and require hydraulic fluid tanks to be mounted in the car. In the late 90’s, some one realized they could take air suspension from a semi truck or bus and modify a car with it. A flexible rubber air bladder (also called “air bags” or “bags”) replaces the cars shocks and springs. A car with air suspension can be raised and lowered much like a car with hydraulics, but replaces the complicated plumbing and messy hydraulic tanks with air hoses and a compressor tank. Air bags give you the ability to cruise low, but raise the height for obstacles or more comfortable long drives. The slammed (also called “bodied” or “bagged”) truck takes low to the absolute extreme. Trucks are ideal candidates for slamming based on their availability and due to the fact that they have less body parts to modify. The trucks are built around the idea of the body sitting on the ground with large diameter wheels. Slammed trucks are heavily modified. The suspension and drive train are all modified to sit higher than the frame, so that the underside is as flat as possible. In most cases, the frame is completely custom made. The front inner wheel wells are removed so the entire wheel will fit in the engine compartment. The truck bed floors are removed as well, so the rear tire will fit entirely in the bed. Most slammed trucks will have a bed cover to hide the open bed. While initially started with later model mini trucks, the trend is reaching full size trucks as well as vintage trucks. One reminder though, don’t ask your friend with a slammed truck to help you move.
Short for “Plastic Dip” this trend of “dipping” your car covers your car in a layer of plastic that can be peeled off when you are bored of it. We know that kids today have way too many choices and their attention spans are comparable to fish. It used to be a long and thought out process of picking a color to paint your car. People would sort through swatches and spend hours making test panels to compare to each other. After all, with a good paint job costing upwards of 5-7k, you are going to have to commit to that color probably for the life of the car. Most people will only paint a car once in its lifetime. Enter Plastidip. Plastidip is the equivalent of changing your iPhone case or getting a new skin for your laptop. Plastidip is a paint product that can be sprayed on your car relatively easily with a hardware store style paint sprayer. It will give you a better look than a rattle can and save you money on building a professional paint booth in your garage. Because it is malleable after being sprayed, it can be removed very easily from places that you don’t want it. It takes the tricky paint masking process out of the loop. It can be sprayed on all types of plastic and metals including exhaust tips and wheels. It’s available in lots of colors and finishes. You can have a flat black car one week and a glossy red car the next week. The process to dip your car can be done in one day by one person in your driveway, which makes it a better alternative to vinyl wrapping. It will not affect the existing paint. If you are stuck driving your Mom’s old Camry, you can give it a little style knowing it won’t affect resale value down the road. It’s durable and washable once cured and will supposedly last as long as you want it too. It does remind me of the criminals you see on TV or movies that are escaping from the police. They drive through a car wash and their car comes out a different color. I just checked with Plastidip and “Evading the Police” is not one of its recommended uses.
2: Super Camber.
If you have ever raced a car on a track or have been around race cars, you will quickly realize that your car can be adjusted in ways you never knew. If you are looking at the driver’s side of your car and the wheel looks turned in, the wheel is toed in. If it looks like it is turned out, the wheel is toed out. If the top of the wheel looks like it is leaning out, it has a positive camber. If the top of the wheel looks like it is leaning in, the car has a negative camber. There is a third adjustment called caster, but we won’t go into that now. There are a lot ways to set up your camber/caster/toe, but the main reason is to provide the maximum amount of traction for the particular track you are on. Yes, this is something that race crews do. It is not necessary for daily driving. Back in the 80’s, VW owners had very few options for lowering their rear engine mounted cars. It was not uncommon to see a lowered bug that had negative cambered rear wheels to get the car lower. The Japanese car scene has introduced us to “super camber” which has taken negative camber to its limit. You will mostly see super camber on Japanese tuner cars. As the trend has spread to the U.S., it is starting to jump to other tuner and street cars. The first time you look at a super camber car you ask yourself, “does that car have broken axels?” or maybe you wonder if Godzilla went on a rampage and crushed somebody’s beloved tuner car. Well, unfortunately the answer is neither. People are purposely doing this to their cars. You can buy super camber kits. People brag about their negative camber size in degrees, just like weight lifters talk about their biceps in inches. The super camber trend is all about big rims and as little tire as possible. I have to laugh when I see them because I keep seeing the giant Monty Python foot stomping the car into the ground.
If you are in Texas or Louisiana you probably have seen swangas in person and most likely avoiding them so your car is not damaged or your leg is not severed. Swangas, also called “gorilla elbows,” are custom wire wheels with the wires coming out in a cone connecting to a large spinner cap. The length of the wheel can protrude anywhere from 5 to 18 inches past the wheel wells. Having a set of 18 inch swangas on your car would make it 3 feet wider. Parking and trying to keep your car in your lane becomes much harder. I guess the bonus is striking fear in pedestrians and cyclists. Swangas are a tribute to the wire wheels that were standard on the 1983 and 84 Cadillac, but drastically accentuated to add that custom look. While initially installed on 83 and 84 Cadillacs, the swanga trend is now appearing on all sorts of makes and models. The more traditional look includes smaller rims and vogue tires with matching swanga continental kits on the trunk and rear bumper as well as chrome trunk straps. The more custom swanga look includes just the larger diameter swanga wheels. The swanga look has been mainly appearing in Texas and Louisiana. Louisiana has recently pushed to ban the wheels for fear of the safety hazards they present. Texas has reported a large increase in swanga related crime. Theft and assaults due to the limited availability and the high cost of rims have made the owners targets of criminals looking for their own swangas or looking to make a quick buck. This trend reminds me of the climactic car race between the T-Birds and the Scorpions in the movie “Grease.” The Scorpions’ car had protruding spinners that cut into the side of the T-Birds car. Sadly, the swanga trend comes without Olivia Newton John in spandex and with much crappier music.