Words: Jay Villa Photos: Jay Villa & Danny Jay
Lowriders cruising Whittier Blvd is more than just a good time. It’s an age-old tradition that started back in the ’60s. Whittier Blvd essentially gave birth to the culture of lowriding, and as men and women gathered for a good time, it’s safe to say that the same streets that gave birth to lifestyle gave birth to many of you reading this – ask your parents how they met.
Fast forward to 2021, and cruising Whittier Blvd is back like it never left. From streetcars to show cars, the Blvd is open, and custom car builders are ready to put on a show. While its reemergence started in the early 2000s, many are happy, and others concerned about County officials put a stop to it once again. But it comes with good reason. Whittier Blvd (and other Los Angeles cruise spots) have a history of getting shut down every few decades.
After a ban on cruising in 1977, and another in the late ’90s, the cruise scene dropped off, and it was for a good reason. The problem wasn’t the lowriders themselves but the gangs that brought trouble to the streets. The first ban on Whittier happened in ’77 after locals and businesses complained about the violence, noise, and littering. To address those concerns, the Sheriff’s department enacted a ban on cruising. It was a day many old-timers remember, and to be exact, it was March 23rd, 1979. That was the first night of the “Cruising Ban.”
The ban no doubt put a damper on lowriding, and that’s because “cruising” is a vital part of lowriding. Cruising is to lowriders, what salsa is for tacos. It’s the sauce. It’s an essential part of the flavor. And while it’s a small component, it’s an essential one that completes the recipe. But this still wasn’t enough to kill the culture as most attended smaller, private functions held at parks.
From the late ’80s through the ’90s, local purists made their way back to the Blvd, but their efforts would be eventually be met with opposition from the county. By the late ’90s, a measure aimed at car culture at large. They enacted measures to stop banning hot spots such as Whittier, Sunset, Crenshaw, Laurel Canyon, and Van Nuys Blvd.
Once again, cruising the Blvds became a thing of the past, but the cruise scene made yet another return that started in the 2000s. By 2016, cruising came back in full force, but this time around, it’s back with a peaceful vengeance. The cruise nights attract mass gatherings, and lowriders, mini trucks, and classics are back like they never left. There has even been a strong revival of many famed Cali Style V-Dubs and the trucks that defined the Mini-Trucking era.
The question now is for how long, and that’s an answer that relies partly on us. The only major problem we’ve seen is the amount of littering that goes on, and that’s on us as a culture. Aside from that, it’ll be up to the discretion of local businesses and community members to not call and complain, but then again, if we don’t give them a reason to, then we should be fine.
If you want to read a pretty detailed expose on the Los Angeles cruise scene, you can always visit Barrio Boychik. As a historian for The Studio for Southern California History and Board of Directors for the Boyle Heights Historical Society, he’s got an incredible write-up on The Cruising Culture of East Los Angeles.