Story:  Val De Villa  | Photos: John Gary |  


The Las Vegas Lowrider Super Show is a highly coveted event that brings out the best from around the globe. It’s where competitors showcase their latest efforts, and last year, a new entry from an old and familiar family shook the Las Vegas Convention Center and broke the Net. The lowrider we’re talking about is this 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, and it’s owned by Gabriel Tovar.

The Tovar name has long been synonymous with lowriding excellence and remains a family best known for staying grounded – both in terms of stance and their humble personalities. To know them is to understand what true passion looks and sounds like, and now Gabriel has stepped to the plate to carry the legacy of his last name.


The trademark stance of a Tovar Restoration


Gabriel’s 1957 Chevy Bel Air is a visual masterpiece. Void of the pageantry, and ornate styling cues often found in lowriders, this minimalist build has been assembled with exacting precision and sports a ground-hugging stance that leaves no room for light to live.

The stock 265 V8 was replaced with a rebuilt 327 engine installed by Eddie Tovar and made to look stock.
Playing for Keeps

The Body drop made all the difference

To gain the ground-hugging stance required a body drop that his Uncle Eddie performed with surgical precision. In doing so, the floors had to be raised a few inches which also meant the seats had to be cut and the steering column and firewall modified. The body drop itself took a few months to complete,  and it’s a brilliant – albeit a costly solution – that’s well worth the time, effort and money. To help lay it to the floor,  a set of Hoppos pumps have been conveniently tucked behind the trunk’s beauty panels.  


A Legacy Family: (L-R) Donald Tovar, Gabriel Tovar, Eddie Tovar, Michael Tovar

To retain a clean, minimal look, Gabriel hid a set of JL Audio slim mount subwoofers and a pair of Hoppos hydraulic pumps behind the beauty panel. 


Clean, simple, and low-slung, Gabriel’s 1957 Bel Air is the quintessential example of a Tovar Restoration. It’s also Gabriel’s first attempt at representing his family lineage and a task he didn’t take lightly. “There was a lot of stress putting this together because of the family name but I had fun doing it” he says of his latest undertaking. 

This build is also testament to the old adage, “pressure makes diamonds.” To have a father who excels within his industry leaves big shoes to fill, but when your entire family shares the same pedigree, it becomes less of a reason, and more of a requirement. Gabriel is also quick to mention that lowriding was never forced on him. “I was always around custom cars and lowriders, and it influenced me to start like any other kid building Hot Wheels and model cars” he says. But with this car complete and now making its rounds, it’s only a matter of time before we see his next build at which point, he’ll face his biggest competitor – himself. 

With a build this sleek, it also creates additional pressure to see what Gabriel will come up with next, but since he’s got the Tovar last name, we could only imagine that it’ll be as captivating as this one here. 


Original Tru Spokes fitted with a set of original 1957 Bel Air Hubcap Spinners


“Thanks to the Tovar Family. My wife Brisa, my kids Sam and Gabriel. And of course, my dad, Donald, because if it wasn’t for him the car would still be sitting and waiting to be finished.” 

My original plan was to do a complete restoration and keep it all original, so I guess it changed up a lot.


I’ve been into lowriding for a while. I originally purchased the ’48 that my dad currently has. I was super young when I bought it and couldn’t keep up with the loan payments, so I told him to take it over. After that, I got a ’63 Impala and eventually traded it with my dad for this ’57 plus cash. That was back in 2007 or 2008.


The car sat for a few years while I saved money and collected parts. I bought what I could, but money does become an issue because parts for the Bel Air aren’t cheap. If I were to calculate how long it took from the time we actually started, it took around three years to complete.


My Uncle Michael told me that once I body dropped it, the roof would be sitting in my face, so he suggested I do a crazy flake or pattern to make it pop, and that’s when I contacted Danny D.


Honestly, that’s tough. I love every year from ’55-’59 but I’d have to say a ’59 because I used to cruise my dad’s 59 to shows and cruises. It will have to be a hardtop if I do it.


Save your money, keep it simple, and be patient. That’s the best advice I could give.