A Paramount Chronology
It’s a bit of a phenomena how some classic luxury cars have earned the distinction of being referred to as lowrider icons. Let's take for example, classic American luxury cars made by GM and Ford. While Ford made pleasant looking luxury coupes and sedans, it was GM that genuinely appealed to the lowrider culture as a whole.
GM divisions such as Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Chevy and Pontiac succeeded in designing luxury cars that would eventually age to become popular lowriders.
The third generation Chevy 2 door Impala (61-64), is undeniably the most popular classic lowrider of all time. The Impala, named after the southern African antelope, was designed with an eye-catching stainless steel front and rear end. The beautiful full-size car also came equip with striking chrome moldings, trim and emblems, a quality many lowrider builders want.
Even though Cadillac, Buick, Olds and Pontiac created some very elegant looking luxury cars during the 60’s, consumer demand for these cars was short, thus cutting supply.
The Impala on other hand were manufactured in the millions and were reasonably priced. Today, aftermarket parts for Impala 63-65 are readily available, and in turn make Impala restoration fairly uncomplicated.
Chevy Impala preceded with demanding good looks up until it's fifth generation of 1971–1976 when some believe Impala lost its edge in luxury style and design.
Impala’s decline in style may have come as a result of Chevy’s focus on its new creation, the 1970 Monte Carlo.
The 70 – 77 Monte Carlo were impressive looking cars with nice proportions ideal for lowriding.
A redesigned Monte Carlo was introduced in 1973. The car looked great with its long hood and large, curvy bumper.
Unfortunately Monte Carlo’s heyday would come to end in 1978 when Chevy, along with Oldsmobile, and Buick decided to downsize these fine cars. The second generation 78 Monte looked ordinary with its new G-body frame, along with Buick Regal and Cutlass Supreme.
At about the same time Chevy’s Monte Carlo lost its appeal; Cadillac emerged with a classy new face-lift. The 1977 - 1984 Cadillac Coupe Deville looked excellent with its slim, vertical tail lamps, prominent stainless steel rocker panels and elegant looking built-in side marker lamps.
Cadillac downsized its Deville in 1984, converting the model into front wheel drive. The smaller Cadillac didn’t sit well with hydraulics, nor did its short body benefit as a lowrider.
In 1981, Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Chevy Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix all learned to adjust well with their new g-body frames and surpass the ordinary design of their cars during 78-80. All 4 coupés (81–87), appeared much sleeker with a more attractive body design.
Regal Limited and Cutlass Supreme were two of the more popular and prestigious lowriders of the 80’s.
The Buick Regal Limited in particular seemed to have received preferential treatment among the 4, with Cutlass Supreme ranking in 2nd, Monte Carlo 3rd and Grand Prix last.
The 81–87 Buick Regal was factory designed with a small wheel well, ideal for 13 inch wire wheels. It looked incredibly sleek as a lowrider and preformed great with hydraulics due to its light V6 engine. The Regal Limited shouted out elegance with a clean vinyl top, chrome plated plastic trim and stainless steel rocker panel moldings.
Sadly, Buick Regal and Oldsmobile's 81-87 models are slowly becoming extinct due to the difficulty of restoring these fine looking cars. Unlike cars of the 60's and 70's whose grilles, bezels and moldings were all made of weather resistant stainless steel, cars of the 80's used fragile chrome plated plastic on many of their emblems and moldings. Years of weather related elements have caused these parts to fade, crack and peal, eliminating the option of polish or re-plating. There is no aftermarket alternative for Buick or Oldsmobile , so Regal and Cutlass owners rely on a very limited supply of extremely rare and expensive New Old Stock products when restoring their cars.
In 1988 GM ditched the G-Body and down sized the Regal, Cutlass Supreme, Monte Carlo and Grand Prix into more fuel-efficient 4 door family sedans. This was a hard pill to swallow for g-body enthusiasts. This would leave the doors open for Cadillac and Lincoln.
The sleek 90–99 Cadillac Deville and Fleetwood, along with the smooth Lincoln Continental and Town car looked extraordinary with low profile wire wheels. Cadillac would make a comeback and prove to be the modern lowrider of choice, followed by Lincoln.
2000 and Beyond
It appears GM has abandoned its traditional American design and adopted the European look. Long gone is the American tradition of hood ornaments, stainless steel rocker panels and chrome moldings. Delicate fiberglass and massive alloy wheels have become influential in American auto design, leaving many in the lowrider community to wonder what will become of modern lowriders of the future.