Chrome glistened in the sun and car hopping was taken to new heights at this year’s King of the Streets Lowrider Car Show and Hopping Contest. The annual event was held Saturday at Piers 30-32 on the Embarcadero. This was the ninth year for the event, which is put on by the San Francisco Lowrider Council.
Lowrider classic cars were in the spotlight, but custom lowrider bicycles and hydraulics also were on display. The event, which in recent years has taken place at the Cow Palace and Fort Mason, also featured food vendors, arts and crafts stalls and a DJ. As always, a cruise followed in the Mission District.
Cars on display in the pit before the hopping contest. | Photo: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline
Roberto Hernández, Founder & President of San Francisco Lowrider Council, considers lowriding an artform.
“When you create a lowrider,” he explained, “it’s coming from your heart, your soul, your mind. It’s your creation. You’re creating an art piece. And so, I call it the art of lowriding. And it’s great to see us all come together.”
People can spend years on their cars’ creation and then bring it to King of the Streets to debut it. “Just to see that,” he said, “and be together to experience that … It’s fun and it’s exciting.”
“We come every year, but this is my first year to bring this out. It’s been under construction for a couple of years. Today’s the debut," said Ashley Palomo of her 1966 Impala, 'Peach Sunset'. | Photo: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline
There are awards given out for Best in Show for cars and bicycles, and, of course, for hopping. Hopping is when hydraulics are used to make a car hop or bounce. In the contest they measure the bottom of the tires on how high the car can jump in the air. Hernández says that when hopping started out they used 12” rulers. Now the measuring device goes past 120 inches. And where there used to be just one battery in the car for hopping, they can now have up to 14 batteries that are custom-made specifically for hoppers.
A car participates in the hopping contest. | Photo: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline
What’s so beautiful about lowriding now, Hernández said, is that although it started with the Chicano or Latino culture, it now brings in people from many ethnicities and backgrounds. In fact, lowriding culture now can be found all over the world, from Japan to Brazil, with people taking on not just the cars, but the clothing, style and aesthetics as well.
“I would have never imagined,” he told us, “never ever, when I started lowriding that it would become international.”
It’s easy to understand why Hernández would have found it impossible to imagine lowriding would one day become international. When the San Francisco Lowrider Council first organized 41 years ago, they were fighting for the right to cruise and not be harassed by the police in the city. They took that fight to the courts and won. He said that advocacy and the social justice consciousness of the lowrider movement has led them to be involved in everything from fighting gentrification in the Mission to fundraising for John O'Connell Technical High School each year and doing the annual Santa toy drive. The Council also was a part of starting the Mission Food Hub during the start of the pandemic.
Still, the cars, cruises, and this once-a-year car show allow them to celebrate each other and their artform.
Eric Lopez brought his 1948 Chevy Fleetline Aerosedan to the event. A member of Frisco’s Finest Car Club, Lopez said there are a lot of misconceptions and negative stereotypes about lowriders, but lowriding is really about expression and culture.
“It’s in our blood,” he explained, “it’s in our culture. It’s all about the cars and culture. It’s what we do. We put our pride into our cars. It’s something that’s appealed to me since I was a kid. And we’ve been doing it since I was a teenager. And it’s how we express ourselves.”
Door detail on Eric Lopez's 1948 Chevy Fleetline Aerosedan. | Photo: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline
Lopez has been coming to King of the Streets for years, bringing this Fleetline with him for the last few. But for him it’s still a work in progress. “Next year I’ll be back,” he said, “and it’s going to be different. I still got visions; I’m going to do more things with it.”
Here are more scenes from Saturday's show:
Award winner, Northstar, owned and built by Abel Rueda.
A black Impala competes in the hopping contest.
Phillip Dominguez IV and his 1962 gold Impala. “I want to say [to] people out there building their cars, trust the process. It took me 2 ½ years to get me where I am today.” And he says it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his father and father’s friends.
Lowrider bicycles on display.
Roberto Hernández prepares incense and candles before the opening blessing of the hopping contest, which was dedicated "Young Hogg", a member who passes away.
Another Impala takes part in the hopping contest.
Attendees view the hopping contest.
Lowrider bicycle award winner, Pretty in Pink, owned by Andrea Salcedo and built by Charley Fabiani.
Toy lowriders in the pit before the contest began.
All photos by Cheryl Guerrero.