Home » Watching A Lowrider Hop With Mad Mike In A Small Space Is A Sublime Experience

Watching A Lowrider Hop With Mad Mike In A Small Space Is A Sublime Experience

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You know what is, I think at least, one of the most under-appreciated automotive subcultures in America? Lowrider culture. The cars that fall under the category of “lowriders” have a pretty amazing breadth: there’s one side of the spectrum that includes cars built with such intense and deep attention to detail and craftsmanship that they almost become like mobile, motorized cathedrals; and then there’s the other extreme, where big American land yachts are modified to leap into the air like 4,000 pound jackrabbits and come crashing back down to the ground, with all the exuberant violence of physics. We got to witness, up close, the latter part of the Lowrider spectrum, at the Galpin Car Show, in a surprisingly compact arena considering there were Lincolns and Monte Carlos hopping around. This is the Lowrider Hop.

A Lowrider hop is a pretty simple sort of competition, really: you get a bunch of lowriders in one place, and have them jump and hop as high as they can. As the legendary Mad Mike explained to me, you measure the height of the jump at the base of the front wheels. Before the jump, the rear suspension raises the car as high as possible, and then the suspension is chained to the frame of the car to, basically, keep the whole body from flying off, and the rear axle tends to get moved rearward, at least a bit, to push the fulcrum of the lever that the car becomes further back. This is technically cheating. You can watch the video here: (click WATCH MORE to see it on YouTube):

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The frames are reinforced, and there’s hydraulic pumps in the car that provide the jumping force to get the thing off the ground. The power for these pumps comes from batteries that are packed as far rearward as possible, to act as a counterweight to get the front as high as it can possibly go.

And that’s where a bit of a conundrum happens: I call it the Overhang Conundrum, because the cars overhang – the body rearward of the rear axle – you want to be as long as possible, to get the heavy batteries (and fake, slightly cheaty 500lb rear bumpers) out as far as you can, for maximum leverage. But, when you have a long overhang, at some point it’s going to smash into the ground, reducing the height the front end can achieve.

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Overhangconundrum

Now, there are classes that allow the rear axle to go way, way, way back, not remotely stock at all, and in that case, you can just move that fulcrum way to the rear and get the best effect. But if you have a remotely stock-type lowrider, this is just a tradeoff you have to deal with.

It’s an incredible display, and the kind that it’s probably best you don’t think too much about while you’re there, right next to these jumping cars. One guy at the event did his hops “from the door,” meaning he did not have control boxes on long wires to actuate the solenoids that make the car jump, instead just standing in the open door of the car, hitting switches on the dash, while the whole car hops around him. It’s bonkers.

There’s really no other car competion quite like this one, as most tend to operate on the horizontal axis, while a Lowrider Hop is unashamedly vertical. It’s fun and nervy and loud and somewhat destructive-seeming, but a hell of a lot of fun, and you have to admire the engineering that goes into making these cars do things that the bean counters at GM never, ever intended.

So watch that video. It’s a blast, and you’ll learn what “potato chipping” is, too.

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Lowrider Cruising Is Finally Legal In California Again And It’s About Damn Time

Lowrider Car Culture Is Totally Underrated And The Incredible Automotive ‘Cathedrals’ At The LA Auto Show Prove It

 

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Myk El
Myk El
7 months ago

Potato chipping in bicycle slang is decidedly not good either, but not as bad as a taco.

LTDScott
LTDScott
7 months ago

I chuckled at the look you gave each other after Mike announced “Autotopian.”

Grey alien in a beige sedan
Grey alien in a beige sedan
7 months ago

why not just use a tiny little three door shitbox? I’m thinking like a very early 90s geo metro here… it weighs next to nothing, you could have the whole car get a 90″ vertical… keeping one axle on the ground seems meh.

SYKO Simmons
SYKO Simmons
7 months ago

The suspension ratio doesn’t work well for hopping, plus they measure from the bottom of the front tire… A metro wouldn’t get half the hight of a town car

Yes I Drive A 240
Yes I Drive A 240
7 months ago

Lowrider culture isn’t underappreciated. Not only is it still massive in California, it’s spread to Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and even Russia.

Donks culture is probably the most underappreciated subculture that’s actually known.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago

I dont know that lowriders are really underappreciated, maybe just underappreciated by white people.

Yes I Drive A 240
Yes I Drive A 240
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

maybe just underappreciated by white people.

Tell me you haven’t spent time in SoCal without telling me you haven’t…

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
7 months ago

Absolutely true. In Idaho at least white people don’t appreciate lowriders.

Yes I Drive A 240
Yes I Drive A 240
7 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Lol all good. It’s still huge here, I can’t go a day without seeing one or two and they’re almost exclusively driven by white guys acting like a cholo..

Bradillac
Bradillac
7 months ago

ah man, what a great article and video. This harkens me back to my So Cal youth and the many, many low riders that abounded in the day. I do miss that. And, the palm trees.

SYKO Simmons
SYKO Simmons
7 months ago

I LOVE lowriders and the culture, while I’m more into the KUSTOMS side of auto culture, lowriders were breed from the kustom culture and even hydraulics a mainstay if lowriders came from Kustoms as well. My current car has juice on it, but is unable to hop as I made it that way, it is however able to go thousands of miles and do so comfortably and isn’t full of batteries as it’s my own custom setup only running 12 volt supplied by the car. However that doesn’t mean I know nothing of the lowrider portion, I built in the early 2000s a monster Lincoln town car with 5 pumps and 16 batteries… Yes it could hop, ad yes I did use it to make money by hopping. It was a fun time in my life and thoroughly enjoyed it, also lowrider culture is often easier to get along with more so then others that view themselves as too good.

Glad to see more and more things about other car cultures under them the boring ol humdrum purists and classic car snobs ( I own many classics but the least snobbish of anyone concerning them ).

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
7 months ago

Love to hear Huibert’s take on the forces involved here, pros & cons of different designs, etc.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
7 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

It seems like a big whale’s tail wing at the back made of lead/depleted uranium would really work well since it would increase leverage as the front goes up. Done right, you could probably get the car to stand on its rear.

Barry Allen
Barry Allen
7 months ago

Wasn’t there a fad for four wheel hops for a while? That would eliminate a lot of the cheats, but it would also be more dangerous

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago

Time to rewatch the Roadkill episode featuring a Lowrider

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
7 months ago

Man I was just watching Pimp My Ride yesterday and now Mad Mike is on my Autopian TV? What a weekend.

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
7 months ago

Very cool. I love the amount of work that goes into lowriders. They are a work of art.

Also, seeing Mad Mike with a grey beard makes me feel old. Crazy to think Pimp My Ride is almost 20 years old now.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
7 months ago

I would love hear about the engineering involved with lowriders and how they achieve the hop, and what modifications are needed to achieve that action. Wild what amateurs achieve with competition motivation, even likely before it was sanctioned.

SYKO Simmons
SYKO Simmons
7 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Really quite easy…. Pumps are essentially based of gate pumps, or older aircraft pesco pumps. They are generally 12 volt, so supplying the pump with more voltage obviously increases speed at which the pump pressurizes the cylinders…the faster the pressure the harder the force pushing away at the suspension. Add in heavier weight springs, larger and stronger gears, chain limiters and you can have a perfect storm of power to creat lift! Also the fact that most suspension doesn’t lift at a 1:1 ratio helps as well.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago

Mark Twain would be thrilled.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
7 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I actually spent a year in Costa Mesa in 1975 and they were some fricken unreal low riders then. Even doing the chain and strap deal back then.
But this freaked me out here (article) because of the dude who didn’t have remote control on the system? In 2023? WTF?
Not to be blunt but there were a shit load of dead vatos from being squashed or hit by their own car even then. Like a pilot getting whacked by his own plane.
No remote control? No brains likely.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Yeah, I was both cringing and yelling at that guy. Even reckless 17yo me wouldn’t ignored the danger there.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
7 months ago

I appreciate how all the effort to create one of these does remind us that contrary to what we’ve seen our entire lives on tv & in the movies, cars do not come from the factory ready to jump successfully, even a little bit.

Though portrayals do seem to have gotten a little more realistic since the ’80s/’90s golden years of cars jumping, landing, and keeping going at high rates of speed in otherwise serious (i.e., not the F&F fantasies) genre setups…

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
7 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

You’re telling me that a 60s Charger or a 70s Trans-Am can’t take a 20 foot drop at 60mph and just keep going after landing with no visible damage? That The Bandit and the Duke boys lied to me?

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
7 months ago

In high school, I worked with a guy whose father owned a Mexican restaurant that was a local institution. He had a couple of cars, one of which was a Lincoln Mark IV lowrider. It was one of the most beautiful cars I’d ever seen. It looked like it had been nut and bolt restores, then turned into a lowrider. Razor straight body lines, not a speck of orange peel to the paint, and perfect wire knock-off wheels and Vogue tires.

Lowriders are not my thing, but man, that was an incredible car. And it was one of his daily drivers!

The Dude
The Dude
7 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Agreed, I’m not big into the lowriders myself, but I love the effort put into making these cars unique. Especially the intricate pin striping and other paint details I see on many of them.

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