From Skylines To Lowriders: <br />Welcome To Cholo’s
Lowriding Around the World

Last week I put together a story on the presence of lowriders at the Grand National Roadster Show, and now I thought it’d be a good time to follow that up with another lowrider-themed story. This time though we are traveling from California across the Pacific Ocean to Japan, which is easily one of the best places in the world to experience lowrider culture.


Last year’s Speedhunting expedition in the Nagoya area took me to a number of destinations, each dedicated to a different corner of the custom car scene. We’ve already seen hot rods, lead sleds and ’60s customs, so now it’s time to check out the place that might be Japan’s best known lowrider shop.


I’m talking about Cholo’s Custom in Aichi’s Ama City. This is a shop not just known by the locals, but by lowrider enthusiasts from across Japan, and it’s responsible for some of the coolest lowrider builds on the country’s shores – from daily drivers to full-on show machines. I recently did a feature on Next Movie – a ’62 Impala built at Cholo’s – but that car hardly scratches the surface of the shop’s abilities and accomplishments.


When you roll up to Cholo’s it’s clear that West Coast style lowriders are the specialty around here. Outside the garage sits a variety of full-size American cars and even the odd Japanese minitruck, all built in a California-influenced style.


Hisashi Ushida founded the shop back in 2003, and prior to that he’d spent many years building and working on lowriders in his spare time. But how exactly did he get started on the path to riding low and cruising slow?


This is actually one of the most interesting things about the Japanese lowrider scene to me. Here in the US, a lot of lowrider builders grew up around the culture, being inspired by a father, an uncle or another elder who go them into the hobby back in the day. In Japan, the seasoned veterans like Hisashi or Junichi from Paradise Road still represent the first generation of lowrider builders. It’s not like they got their tastes from their dads – so where did they get it?


It turns out that many of them started off as youngsters building, modifying and racing domestic vehicles. Both Hisashi and Junichi grew up as typical car-obsessed Japanese youth driving lowered Skylines and Fairlady Zs.


Knowing that I’ve got a thing for old Japanese cars, Hisashi even sent me a few photos of cars he had when he was younger, including an S30 Fairlady and a C210 Skyline sedan.


But during the ’80s and ’90s, many of the young guys in Nagoya began to take an interest in cars and styles from overseas – namely lowriders and American customs. Hisashi and his buddies were among them.


In many ways these lowriders employed many of the same modification techniques they were familiar with, including dropped suspension, wide wheels and stretched tires. But at the same time they also made for a fresh and exotic take on the automotive hobby.


And so many of these guys moved into the world of American lowriders. Some adopted lowriders as their hobby while others like Hisashi went a step further, building their careers around the scene. Some in Japan might tell you that the lowrider boom ended many years ago, but you certainly wouldn’t know by visiting Cholo’s.

Low Works

Set amongst businesses and homes in suburban Ama City, Cholo’s is not a flashy place by any means, but the aura is as strong as you’ll find anywhere. As is typical when I visit a shop, I took a peek around the yard before I headed inside.


There was a row of cars known ‘Cholo’s Junkyard’ stacked with Lincolns, Oldsmobiles, and Chevys awaiting either a trip to to the scrapper or a possible lowrider rebirth.


I also found the shop truck – this Datsun 720 with wire wheels. Domestic minitrucks have always been a big part of the Japanese lowrider scene thanks to their smaller size and greater availability of parts when compared to their imported counterparts.


I soon spotted a candy-painted ’79 Thunderbird – a fully-detailed machine which hints at the high level of work that Cholo’s puts out.


Once inside the shop, I was met by the usual array of spare parts and customer cars in various states of completion.


In one corner sat a four-door ’50 Buick that looked completely stock, with the exception of a slammed, frame-scraping ride height. I can’t imagine it will stay looking like this for long.


In another corner a 1980 Monte Carlo was up on the lift undergoing some basic maintenance – something that Hisashi handles in addition to taking on ground-up builds.


But not surprisingly, my eye was drawn to the car sitting in the center of the shop. This Lincoln Continental Mark IV is a show car masterpiece in every sense of the world.


Just as I mentioned in my GNRS lowrider story, there isn’t a huge market for these ’70s American land yachts, but when given the full lowrider treatment – as Cholo’s has done with this car – the Lincoln takes on an entirely different personality.


Even the the plush velour interior with twin captain’s chairs and a chain steering wheel is perfectly suited to the over-the-top lowrider look. I can’t help but smile when I see it.


More than that, the Contintental showcases the wide variety of work undertaken at Cholo’s Custom – everything from chassis and body work to custom paint and interior.


Aside from the stacks of spare parts everywhere, the walls are lined with collectables and artifacts from Hisashi’s many years of lowriding.


From old photographs and records, to custom artwork – these are the sorts of things that help tell the story of a builder just as much as the cars themselves.

Born To Cruise

But before I even had time to study all the artifacts, Hisashi led me to another building where he keeps his pride and joy – a 1954 Chevrolet known as Sphinx.


While we were wandering around inside, another member of the Cholo’s family showed up in a radical looking ’82 El Camino.


Hisashi asked if I wanted to take the two Chevys down the street to get some better photos, and I was quick to say yes. It’s hard to turn down the chance to ride in cool cars in new places.


The Sphinx is a stunning piece of work, combining elements from ’40s and ’50s ‘Bomb’ lowriders along with a radical paint job and striping design.


No matter where you are or what type of cars you are dealing with, every builder will have one car that means the most to them. For Hisashi, the Chevy has been there since before he opened the shop, and I imagine he’ll never sell it. Over the years he’s refined the car into a show-quality machine that still sees a ton of street use.


The El Camino is equally impressive to look at, and it almost seems like a lowrider version of a sleeper – if such thing exists. As far as lowriders go its exterior is fairly subdued, but once you look inside everything changes.


The cabin is completely custom, with no instruments to be found, and there’s elaborate upholstery throughout including a custom center console that houses the controls for the hydraulics.


It gets even better when you open up the bed cover and find a setup that would put many show car interiors to shame. There’s custom paint on the tanks and the same upholstery from the cabin has been carried right through to the area that was originally designed for hauling cargo.


After spending some time with Hisashi and the gang, I think it’s safe to say that the lowriders built at Cholo’s Custom can easily rival those built in the US or anywhere else.


And given the vast differences between American and Japan in terms geography, economy and language – this is nothing short of incredible.


But then again, as I’ve found through my many years of Speedhunting, the passion for cars is something that can overcome even the biggest barriers, and discovering unique stories like Hisashi’s is something that we live for.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike

Cutting Room Floor


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great article mike!!! Quick question to the speed hunters crew could you guys possibly do a rx7 FB story for a feature car? I tried to find archive for but had no luck and the last story for one was in 2012. Other than that Awesome content and personally I love all the ford coverage Keep it up GUYS!!!


I know this isn't going to go over well, but seriously, you guys have more lowrider (an American creation) posts from Japan than the US. The US coverage is seriously lacking and it'd be nice to see a bit more variety.


Option13 Agreed. I assumed the scene had moved on from the 80s-style mirrored, painted ribboned and Dralon-lined showboats popular in Japan, to the more sophisticated 30/40s resto bombs so popular in the States for the last few years? Always a lot of love for true Lowriders but would appreciate more homegrown iron SH?


Exactly for a site called speedhunter there are way to many features of cars handle worse and slower than the stock car they were built on.


Awesome insight/Pics on one of the coolest shops in JP!


Option13 Sigh......why are people so hung up on this site being called SPEEDhunters, it's really just a name, move along. 
After all, it really should be renamed Japanhunters.....but I'm not complaining about that at all, because the Japanese do everything well.


What is meant by BOMB in reference to lowriders....I see it often, but don't get what it means? Sorry for n00b question.


this is the shit


I dont know why
but the cars and moreover their interiors look like they're owned by pimps :3


Spaghetti Bombs are referred to the 50s era lowrider cars.


Spaghetti Option13 Yeah, there's tons of good stuff in Japan. But There's more to automotive culture than Japan, England, and Gatebil/Scandinavia. It'd be nice to see more coverage of different countries than the same ones constantly.


Ha weird. I've seen one other car with a similar interior that had no gauges and figured he just forgot or something. Never occurred to me it might be desired. 
That T bird has some wild paint. The marbling effect is only second to the water droplet effect in terms of mind blowing-ness in my mind.
Nice post.



Superb skill/craftsmanship/details aside, I can't get past the "Cholos" name. Would it be fair to cover a US-based shop called "Japs"? 
Maybe "Yakuza's"?


Option13 other countries don't offer much and SH is limited to the personnel who cover different regions. North America, Asia, Europe produce the majority of great content for automotive culture. If other countries need some coverage, make some suggestions.


@SW1 Japs is a deragatory term and "cholo" is slang term from Latino-Americans. The Japanese become obessed with a sub culture if they show interest. The "cholo" name is pay homage to lowrider culture. Yakuza is a crime syndicate and their automotive choice greatly reflects in Japanese Bippu/VIP culture.


I'm telling you boys your getting schooled by the Japanese.  They honestly have "it."  Their work is straight up awesome and their style is right on.  Great right up.


donkyyyyyy Well, there are plenty of extremely high level lowriders builds in the states, but the added difficulty of doing this in Japan makes for some exciting stuff.


DaveT Thank you Dave!


Iz_Haider_K Don't think that's entirely accidental haha.


Spaghetti Yep a term used to describe lowriders from the 40s and early 50s, many of which have the profile of bombs,


ra64freddy! Thanks bud!


ra64freddy! Thanks bud!


overfenderedhatchback Option13 Hmm. Did you guys not see the Pomona lowrider story and GNRS coverage last week?


overfenderedhatchback Option13 Hmm. Did you guys not see the Pomona lowrider story and GNRS coverage last week?


tooslow Option13 Gonna have to disagree with you there sir. If I look at the site right now, this and the GNRS lowrider story are the ONLY ones about cars that aren't "performance" oriented.


tooslow Option13 Gonna have to disagree with you there sir. If I look at the site right now, this and the GNRS lowrider story are the ONLY ones about cars that aren't "performance" oriented.


JacobHerman1 Thanks! Will keep an eye out for some early RX-7s for sure.


JacobHerman1 Thanks! Will keep an eye out for some early RX-7s for sure.


Option13 Spaghetti We try to travel as much as we can, and we feel like there's been a fairly good spread of coverage from around the world recently... drifting in China, hill climb coverage from Switzerland and coverage of the Rally De España, and we've got a few Dubai travel stories coming up soon too. Is there anything in particular you'd like to see more of?


uKENinam,,,,,, the list goes on and on...I guess the
rest of the world didn't get the memo.


apex_DNA they didn't get the memo because those companies aren't owned by Japanese Americans who were the only ones that experienced those labels. I've known those companies for a long time and I can't blame them because they don't know US history.


apex_DNA they didn't get the memo because those companies aren't owned by Japanese Americans who were the only ones that experienced those labels. I've known those companies for a long time and I can't blame them because they don't know US history.


@SW1 I think 'Cholo's' is more of a play on words with the Japanese cho-low (超ロー) meaning 'very low.'  I doubt they have any idea about the nuances that go with 'Cholo' in the US.


Mike Garrett donkyyyyyy  And the fact that they (Japan) really get it.  Their level of painting and graphics is off the wall.  I'd put them up against just about anybody here in the states.  And they often use body styles we disregard.  The brown lowrider Camaro I saw a few years back was just slick as whale snot.  So cool.


I'm from Scotland, so obviously this kind of customising is practically unheard of (as bad-ass as it is!) but whats the deal with the El Camino with no gauges? is that legal over there? or are they just hidden somewhere? 

Forgive my ignorance, but the car modification scene here is pretty conservative by comparison, MOT tests here mean we can't get away with shit.


JonnyFez even if it isnt legal, i doubt the Japanese would care......


Looking at these photos reminds me of when i was young and taking so many trips across the states to go to car shows in my dads 57 chevy bel air. While its not a low rider, but more of a hot rod the sentiment is the same.


Speedhunters Option13 Spaghetti

Rally racing, hill climb racing.



I had no idea low rider culture exsisted in Japan.. These cars look to be an excellent mash-up of Claifornia Low rider culture mixed with immpecable Japanase detail.. Those two shop cars (especiall the Camino - my taste preference) are striking.. Would hold it's own or take home the trophy at any of the California low rider shows.. 

Jet lagged in my hotel, and loving the low rider articles i'm catching up on Mike.. You rock!


I was wondering why you didn't include a picture of the shop's owner and his friends?