Lowriders Are a Perfect Mesh of Engineering and Craftsmanship

Maker News Metalworking Workshop
Lowriders Are a Perfect Mesh of Engineering and Craftsmanship
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One of the attractions that really draws me to Maker Faire Kansas City is the car show. I really love how they represent so many facets of making, but are often overlooked.

On any single car, you could easily have any, or even all of the following:

  • Custom painting – The paint jobs that you see at a car show aren’t just a nice coat of pretty paint. Often, they are multiple layers with hours upon hours of prep work in between. In some cases you’ll see airbrush work that is an absolute work of art. At this show, I was stunned by the “lace work” on some of the cars. That is where you lay lace on a car and spray over it, leaving the pattern behind when you remove the lace.
  • Hand stitching and embroidery – Inside the cars gets a lot of love as well. Each custom interior is a unique creation. Some are done professionally with nice sewing machines capable of punching through thick vinyl, some stitched by hand for just the right look. Custom hand embroidery is not uncommon.
  • Fiberglass forming and vacuum forming – Interior accents and audio can really look great if the interior is molded to fit them. These parts are hand fabricated to fit both the car and the audio equipment.
  • Automation – Voice activation is pretty cool, no matter where you put it!
  • Custom lighting – Custom undercarriage lighting, sound reactive party lights, shimmering displays to dazzle onlookers at shows. These are just a few examples where people are throwing photons from their automobiles.
  • Metal fabrication – When you lower a car beyond the existing limitations of the suspension, you have to modify the frame. If you want your doors to open in some funky way, you’ve got to reinforce your door frames. If you want your car to jump like the one in the video, there’s a lot of work to do, to get enough action out of your suspension.
  • Hydraulics – To get a massive hop like the video above, it takes a bit more than just tossing a hydraulic kit into a car. You’ve got to rip apart the suspension to get it to move far enough, and to survive the impacts when you land. There’s a considerable amount of math as well. You’ve got DC powered hydraulic pumps plugged into batteries with solenoid controlled dump valves.
  • Performance skill – Some people are better at making a car hop than others! The driver of the green car was pulled in to get some extra height on some other cars due to his impeccable timing on when to release the valves!

Its also pretty crazy how much they’re ok with their cars being damaged for the sake of the hop off. As you probably noticed in the video, the rear bumpers were taking some pretty extreme damage. One of the organizers showed me a cell phone video of a car ripping its own front wheels off, and in this clip you can see the headlight blowing out of that gorgeous green car as it was hopping! It is all just part of the show, no one seemed angry or even annoyed at the damage to their works of art.


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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. email me at hello (at) calebkraft.com

View more articles by Caleb Kraft


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