After 42 years, Lowrider magazine is nearing its last ride as the publication will cease printing at the end of this year. For many Chicanos living in Southern California in the 1980s, the magazine became a cultural icon when it came to content on everything from cool cars to flashy tires. Beyond just the world of cars, Lowrider gave insight on political and cultural issues that were focused on Chicano identity. In some ways, the magazine played a role in bringing lowrider and Chicano culture to the mainstream in a way that no publication had before.
That’s why when news broke on Dec. 6 that TEN Publishing, the publisher behind multiple car enthusiast magazines, would be shutting down print operations for 19 of its 22 titles next year, including Lowrider, it marked an end of an era. As of now, it’s not yet clear if the iconic magazine will continue online or even rescued by another publication. One thing is for certain though, some readers are being left behind in the dark.
There is no denying the influence and impact that Lowrider had on not only on car culture but Chicanos as a whole.
Lowrider got its start in 1977 after it was founded by San Jose State students David Nuñez, Larry Gonzalez, and Sonny Madrid, who initially started the magazine as a DIY zine on lowrider culture. The trio would invest money to get roughly 1,000 copies printed and begin publication. The magazine wasn’t an instant hit from the start. Sales lagged behind expectations and it took until Lowrider began placing more women models on its covers in 1979, that things began to pick up.
“You wanted to see what was the hottest car, who was selling what, what tires were the best, and who was doing good interior. … Back then there weren’t [smart]phones so you had to get information from magazines,” Jerry Navarro, 45, a technician who works at a car shop in East L.A., told the LA Times.
Navarro, along with countless others, grew up on the magazine and looked forward to its monthly coverage on the latest in car and Chicano culture. Its magazine covers became just as famous as its content, from famous Latinos like Cheech and Chong to rappers Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill’s B-Real, all gracing the front. The magazine would also see expansion into music, sponsoring car shows nationally and the creation of a merchandise division. Its influence was seen in city streets across Southern California, particularly in places like East L.A., where lowriding became a cultural fixture.
“Lowrider inspired so many youngsters who would go on and ignore the prevalent gang lifestyle of the ’90s in lieu of working on their vehicles. The magazine was much, much more than just pin-up models and cars.” Noe Adame, a correspondent for L.A. Taco, told the news site.
While it’s not clear if Lowrider will continue being published online, its legacy will certainly live on.
While it’s not clear why TEN Publishing will cease publication of Lowrider, it follows a trend in recent years where magazine sales have dipped and in return have stopped printing altogether.
“Simply put, we need to be where our audience is,” Alex Wellen, president-general manager of the MotorTrend Group, which is licensed by TEN Publishing, said in a memo. “Tens of millions of fans visit MotorTrend’s digital properties every month, with the vast majority of our consumption on mobile, and 3 out of every 4 of our visitors favoring digital content over print. We remain committed to providing our fans and advertisers quality automotive storytelling and journalism across all of our content platforms.”
While Lowrider saw sales decline over the last few years, it was once one of the most popular magazines in the country. According to the LA Times, “by 2000, it was among the bestselling newsstand automotive periodicals in the country, with an average monthly circulation of about 210,000 copies.”
“At its heart, it’s been a key tool to keeping alive Chicanismo and Chicano identity,” Denise Sandoval, a lowrider expert and professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at Cal State Northridge, told the LA Times. “I’ve met so many people who are not Chicano, that because they’re part of the lowrider community, they learn about Chicano history through that magazine.” Lowrider also challenged negative, stereotypical perceptions of lowriders as tough thugs and gang members.
When news that Lowrider printing will cease, some took to social media to acknowledge the impact the magazine has had on their lives.
If there was ever a testament to Lowrider’s impact, just look to social media where many longtime readers voiced their disappointment to the magazine’s end. Some reflected on growing up looking at cool cars while others showed off their massive issue collections.
It is indeed an end of an era but don’t tell that to the countless aficionados who are still keeping lowrider culture and community going strong today. To put in the simplest car terms, this is just a mere pit-stop.