Photographer Nathanael Turner moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles a couple of years ago. Shortly after arriving, Businessweek contracted the newcomer to document an event he saw as quintessentially Californian — the Torres Family Empire Lowrider Convention.
A “lowrider” is a vehicle that’s been modified so it rides lower to the ground than originally specified in an effort to improve performance and aesthetics. The practice originated with Mexican-Americans in California during the 1950s and has since become an important part of the culture for many.
The Businessweek assignment ended up getting canceled, but Turner, who is fascinated with West Coast culture, went to the lowrider convention anyway. Once there, he witnessed an event marked by two conflicting parts of Southern California’s Latino culture: strong family bonds and gang culture.
“I was surprised at how family-oriented it was,” Turner told Business Insider. “…There are definitely gang affiliations, but they all leave the gang stuff at home and just celebrate the car culture.”
Turner shared some of the photos with us here, but you can see the rest at his website.
The Torres Family Empire Lowrider Convention occurs every July in Los Angeles. This year, it will be held at the L.A. Convention Center.
The Convention advertises that 10,000 people come out to check out the cars. When Turner attended, he said it was more likely in the hundreds.
Inside the convention center, car clubs show off their tricked-out lowriders.
For most of the car clubs, showing off their customised rides is a way to advertise their services to enthusiasts.
“I can’t imagine how much money was put into each car,” Turner said. “Every single detail was incredibly ornate.”
According to Turner, even components under the hood, like the engine and axles, were customised.
Most of the cars have elaborately painted murals. Most are either portraits of family or commemorate lost loved ones.
Turner says that everyone at the convention was very friendly and excited to show him their cars.
The attendees are predominantly Hispanic, but they come from all over the West Coast, including neighbouring states like Nevada and Arizona.
The convention celebrates different aspects of Latino culture.
The biggest event of the day is a car-hopping competition. Everyone comes out to watch.
During the competition, contestants test their cars to see how high they can make them bounce. The cars achieve the bounce through the activation of a remote-control hydraulic suspension.
Activating the hydraulics is tricky. Failing to time the activation of the hydraulics properly could lead to the car either not bouncing that high or to come crashing to the ground.
At the end of the day, the car clubs compete for who has the best lowrider. It’s always a heated competition.
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