Music filled the streets, and the revving of engines turned heads between Mission and 24th streets when lowriders flooded the Mission with vintage vehicles on
The San Francisco Lowrider Council celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, where an exhibit displaying memorabilia documenting the city’s lowriding history, on Saturday.
The gallery opened on Sept. 7, but held its reception on Saturday. San Francisco city officials, including Mayor London Breed and Sups. Matt Haney and Ahsha Safai came to show their support for the event, where lowriders blared music and cruised down Mission and 24th streets.
The council formed in 1981 as a coalition to unite car clubs and solo lowriders and to promote the art of lowriding. The unification followed decades of persecution from police after the 1959 enactment of Section 24008 of the California Vehicle Code, which made it unlawful to operate any modified vehicle with less clearance between the surface of a level roadway than the lowest part of its rim. The section, though amended in 1984, remains in the California Vehicle Code.
Cecilia Peña-Gova, aka “La Doña,” brought her newest car, a cherry red ’77 Chevy Impala, to Saturday’s event. She had purchased it three days earlier, and Peña-Gova looks forward to learning more about her car and taking care of it. Peña-Gova has rooted ties to the lowriding community.
“In the ’80’s, my mother was a lawyer for the Lowrider Council when they were getting persecuted for lowriding in the city,” Peña-Gova said.
Lowriding is significant to Chicano culture, with its roots begining back to the ’40s. The Lowrider Council’s gallery, which features archival footage of San Francisco and its rich car culture and celebrates several decades of Lowriding culture, spans back to the ’40s.
Vintage Impalas from the ’70s, Cadillacs and Chevrolets were displayed with colors ranging from gold, chrome-plated, sage green to cherry red. Other cars were adorned with creative designs; a standout was a Chevrolet DeLuxe with the Mexican Coat of arms painted on, a symbol that recalls the Aztecs finding an eagle eating a snake perched on a cactus which marked where to build their homeland.
The event stretched to 26th Street with cars parked along the two streets. Lowcreations, a car club on exhibit and also featured in the gallery, had 11 of its cars on display. Member Chuck White, a San Francisco native, said that he got into lowriders over 30 years ago. White was drawn by the hydraulics at first and now owns three cars: two Cadillac Fleetwoods (an ’82 and a ’94) and an ’85 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
Fellow member Fernando Perfecto has been working alongside White since shop class. Perfecto recalled when he first saw a lowrider and said that it was what he wanted. Many lowriders see their work as art and a way of expressing themselves and form of representation.
“You incorporate everything you learn, and you start practicing on your cars, and you start putting everything together, and then you start that bond,” Perfecto said. “It’s then friends that become family. And then the next person gets influenced and then the next.”
The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts will hold the gallery until Sept. 29.