What are Lowriders? How does car hopping work?

As Lowrider or Jumpcar are cars, mostly sedans or convertibles, in which by means of electrically operated hydraulic or pneumatic pump, the car body can be lifted on the front wheels, and each wheel suspension individually. Lowrider hopping competitions often take place in America. The principle is simple: whose car jumps the highest wins. Measurements are taken on the wheels on the front axle.

Ford Galaxy, built in 1960

General information about the Lowrider

With a suitable control, it is possible for the car to hop individually with the front axle, the rear axle or each wheel (hence the name bouncer). Cars from the 1960s and 1970s are popular with fans, mostly Chevrolets or Cadillacs. Especially Chevrolet Impalas from the 60’s are popular, the 1964 Impala in lowrider community is considered “true Lowrider”.


Depending on the basic concept of the lowrider, different jump systems are used. The classic lowrider works by means of hydraulic pumps that work similarly to the hydropneumatics of the Citroën DS. In the trunk there are several electric motors and pumps, which generate the oil pressure with which the hydraulic cylinders are retracted or extended. The electric motors are controlled via switches and relays, causing the car to jump and dance. The electrically driven pumps require a large amount of energy, which is supplied by numerous batteries, most of which are also located in the trunk. It is often a whole bundle of batteries to ensure adequate power supply. The more power available, the faster the movements of the car can be. Another advantage of several batteries is their high weight, which makes figures such as “three wheel motion” possible. The weight in the trunk also has a significant influence on the jump height on the front axle. Some “hoppers” can easily be lifted by one person on the front axle. The battery pack voltage ranges from 12 V to 96 V. In addition to these components, the springs on which the cylinders press are crucial for the movement sequences. The mobility of a lowrider is strongly influenced by the hardness of the springs and their length. However, the possibilities are often limited by the design of the vehicle, so that compromises have to be made.

Lowrider meeting in Santa Monica


The low riders are divided into five categories.

Fat Dancer

All (theoretically) fully drivable vehicles weighing 1400 kg or more are considered fat dancers. Most fat dancers are American-made vehicles with total weights up to 2.8 tons. But there have also been various conversions based on the “German full-size” vehicles, such as the Mercedes S-Class, or the legendary “big three” from Opel. Depending on the basic concept, they master a wide variety of characters. Some of these lowriders are only capable of sluggish movements and dancing, others are spectacular.

Chevrolet Impala Bj. 1964 at the “Three-Wheel”


All fully mobile vehicles weighing up to 1400 kg are considered to be dancers. Since there are naturally few vehicles in this weight class, conversions based on Opel Rekord and Monza, Ford Taunus and Granada, VW Golf and Beetles, as well as Trabant and Mercedes / 8 have become established in Germany. Depending on the basic concept, they master a wide variety of characters like the Fat Dancer. Some of these lowriders are only capable of sluggish movements and dancing, others are spectacular.

Lowrider Golf 1 GTi Dancer in a “back” jump


These types of lowriders are capable of particularly “radical” movements. The basis is the lightest possible vehicle, whose engines, gearboxes and interior fittings are omitted in favor of hydraulics and batteries to save weight and space. The winner of shows is the one who shows the most spectacular movements with the vehicle. Extra points and spectator sympathy are earned by those who put their lowrider on the roof during the show or destroy it completely. Basically, however, these vehicles are more models because they are usually no longer ready to drive.

Lowrider Golf 1 GTi Dancer in a “front” jump

Show and Shine

This category includes vehicles of all weight classes. These lowriders are also fully mobile. However, they are prepared with love and care and are mainly presented motionless. They impress with unusual paintwork and a noble interior. These lowriders are usually transported on the trailer to the meetings or shows, because on the one hand they are too good to drive, on the other hand they are not approved for road use in with a few exceptions. Therefore, they are often referred to as “Trailer Queens”.

Lowrider Golf 1 GTi Dancer doing a “bunny hop” jump


Hopper refers to vehicles that are capable of extremely high jumps on the front axle.

Lowrider in Germany

A lowrider scene has developed in Germany since the late 1990s. The size of the German and European fan base cannot be compared with the American one, but the quality of the conversions easily reaches that of the Americans.

In addition to the classic German automobile brands Opel, VW, Audi and Mercedes, vehicles from other manufacturers such as Honda, Fiat, Renault are also a popular base for converting to a lowrider. The so-called “Euros” (even if they are, for example, Japanese vehicles) offer the advantage that they are cheaper to obtain and maintain in Europe than American vehicles. The American faction within the scene is therefore not smaller. Vehicles from Chevrolet, Buick, Lincoln, Cadillac and others are represented here.

For some years now, it has not been a problem to buy the necessary hydraulic parts directly in Germany. Various well-known American manufacturers have base dealers where parts can be purchased at any time. It is also possible to have a lowrider built there, but this is frowned upon by most lowrider owners. The goal is to build a lowrider that works reliably in operation.

Lowrider in public

A development that went hand in hand with the emergence of the scene was the discovery of the Lowriders as a show object. The GLCA ( German Lowrider Challenge Association ) from Herten has a special share in this. In addition to appearances at automobile meetings and trade fairs, pure lowrider shows based on the American model are also held. At these events, the lowrider drivers face the assessment of an expert jury and the public. Similar to figure skating, the owners run a show with their lowrider in which they let the cars “dance”. The jury rates the movements with grades, and the audience applauds the success of the respective show act. The winners of these competitions, staggered according to the categories, then represent the “Lowrider Master” of the current year.

Lowriders are also a widely used prop in American and European hip-hop and rap videos. You can also meet a lowrider in public in the areas of product presentation, company events and wedding trips.

Author: Nabeel K
Email: nabeel@wheelsjoint.com


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